Struggle Against Global Monopoly Rio Tinto
Join the battle against European-based global monopoly Rio Tinto and its attempt to wreck aluminum smelting in Quebec and lower all workers' standard of living
Canadians stand as one with the more than 800 members of the Alma Aluminum Workers' Union Local 9490 USW, the people of Alma and the region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean in their just struggle to defend their smelters and terms of employment.
The global monopoly Rio Tinto with a gross income of more than $60 billion in 2010 seized the aluminum smelters from Alcan in 2007 and is now using its monopoly power in an anti-social crusade to extort concessions. The global monopoly and its neoliberal allies are using their anti-people worldview and control of the world's aluminum smelting to justify what cannot be justified. The workers who produce the aluminum, and the people whose hydroelectric power makes the process extremely productive will not accept that more and more of the wealth they produce is siphoned away out of their communities and into the pockets of the international financial oligarchy.
The Rio Tinto oligarchs think the people are gullible fools who will roll over at the mere mention of "global competition" and threats to move production to other smelters in their worldwide empire. The people have faced these self-serving bogus arguments and threats before and emerged victorious and they will do it again on the basis of organization and resistance.
The workers and communities demand equilibrium based on their rights. The Alma workers have proposed equilibrium based on production of 430,000 tons of aluminum per year with a minimum 780 workers. Workers demand this ratio be maintained for the good of their members, community and economy. To achieve equilibrium in the short term the workers have proposed that if output increases the number of workers can remain at 780 and if production decreases during the contract, the present ratio can be maintained resulting in a reduction of the workforce. The workers also believe that contracting out work must be reduced to a minimum as this anti-worker practice directly reduces the overall claim of workers on their production of value through lower wages and benefits for unorganized contract workers.
For the global monopoly Rio Tinto to lock out workers who are willing to establish a just equilibrium of mutual benefit to workers and company owners and executives is unacceptable and a declaration of class war against the workers, region and country. People are rallying behind Local 9490 USW in ever growing numbers demanding equilibrium of mutual benefit and displaying their contempt for Rio Tinto executive managers, their flunkies and the destructive lockout.
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
All out to establish equilibrium in Alma based on the recognition of the rights of workers and their community!
Rally behind the members of Local 9490 USW and the region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and their just struggle to defend their rights!
(Reprinted from TML Weekly, January 7, 2012, cpcml.ca)
In late December a group of doctors and environmental groups in Salt Lake City, Utah, announced a lawsuit against the third-largest mining corporation in the world, Rio Tinto, for violating the Clean Air Act in Utah. This is likely the first time that physicians have sued industry for harming public health.
Air pollution causes between 1,000 and 2,000 premature deaths every year in Utah. (1)
Moreover, medical research in the last ten years has firmly established that air pollution causes the same broad array of diseases well known to result from first- and secondhand cigarette smoke — strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, virtually every kind of lung disease, neurologic diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, loss of intelligence, chromosomal damage, higher rates of diabetes, obesity, adverse birth outcomes, and various cancers such as lung cancer, breast cancer and leukemia. (2-12)
Most of Utah's cities are in violation of many of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) national air quality standards, and for several days during a typical winter, Utah is plagued by the worst air pollution in the country. The American Lung Association routinely gives Utah's largest cities an "F" for our air quality. Last February, Forbes Magazine, hardly a cheerleader for excessive environmental protection, rated Salt Lake City as the ninth most toxic city in the country, and the biggest contributor to that ranking was the mining and smelting operations at the Bingham Canyon mine, run by mining conglomerate Rio Tinto/Kennecott (RTK). (13)
This is the world's largest open-pit mine and has created the largest mining-related water pollution problem in the world. The mine is located on the western doorstep of Salt Lake City, home to 1.8 million people. There is no comparable juxtaposition of an enormous mining operation this close to such a large urban center. RTK's mine and smelter operations account for 30 percent of the particulate matter emitted into the atmosphere over Salt Lake County (14), making it by far the largest source of industrial pollution in the urban areas of Utah.
The smelting operations and fugitive dust from the 1,100-foot-high waste rock piles and tailings ponds are a constant source of highly toxic heavy metal contamination - lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium - to the air, water and soil of Utah's largest city. The mining industry watchdog Earthworks states that before the most recently approved expansion, RTK was releasing 695 million pounds of toxic material into the Salt Lake City environment every year. (15) Because heavy metals do not degrade, are not combustible and cannot be destroyed, that heavy metal toxicity steadily increases year after year, as it has for the over 100 years of the mine's operation. Despite this extreme burden on public health, predictably, the Utah Division of Air Quality recently issued a permit for RTK to expand their operations by 32 percent, which will make their pollution emissions even worse.
RTK is making record profits — $15 billion last year. In August, Chairman of the Board Jan du Plessis bragged, "Rio Tinto has produced another set of record-breaking results." Du Plessis apparently specializes in delivering pollution: he is also chairman of the board of British American Tobacco. Tom Albanese, Rio Tinto's CEO, who made almost $8.5 million in compensation last year, recently lamented, "[Rio Tinto must do] a better job at managing the curse of resource nationalism ... and the activism of stakeholder engagement." (16) Let me translate that for you: local people throughout the world are tired of being exploited for profit, they are starting to stand up for themselves and Rio Tinto does not like it. Utah citizens tired of RTK's pollution would be considered part of that "curse" to Rio Tinto executives.
This issue is simple: RTK can well afford to clean up, but they will not, and no one is making them. Their contribution to our pollution is hurting all the residents of Salt Lake City and adding to the premature death total mentioned above. For environmental and public health advocates, RTK pursuing and receiving an approval to expand was the last straw. […]
The Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment estimate that the mortality, health and environmental costs to the community from RTK pollution is between $2 billion and $4 billion, more than the value of the wages and taxes that they pay. Nonetheless, a massive public relations budget allows RTK to heavily advertise themselves as "job providers" and take virtually no responsibility for the various environmental and health consequences of their operations.
Frederick Douglass, the19th-century civil rights leader, said, "Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them." Let it be known that the people in Utah will no longer "quietly submit" to more pollution, more deaths, shortened life spans and poorer health to fatten the wallets in the boardroom of Rio Tinto. We are going to "take back" the air we breathe.
1. Calculation by the Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment using the formula published by the American Heart Association.
Brook R, Rajagopalan S, Pope CA, Brook J, Bhatnagar A, et al. AHA Scientific Statement: Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease; An Update to the Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2010;121:2331-2378.
2. Peters, A. Air Quality and Cardiovascular Health: Smoke and Pollution Matter. Circulation. 2009: 120:924-927
3. Eugenia E. Calle and Michael J. Thun C. Arden Pope, III, Richard T. Burnett, Daniel Krewski, Michael Jerrett, Yuanli Shi. Circulation. 2009;120:941-948. Cardiovascular Mortality and Exposure to Airbourne Fine Particulate Matter and Cigarette Smoke.
4. Bocskay K, Tang D, Orjuela M, et al. Chromosomal Aberrations in Cord Blood Are Associated with Prenatal Exposure to Carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. Cancer Epidem Biomarkers and Prev. Vol. 14, 506-511, Feb 2005
5. Perera F, Tang D, Tu Y, Biomarkers in Maternal and Newborn Blood Indicate Heightened Fetal Susceptibility to Procarcinogenic DNA Damage. Environ Health Persp Vol 112 Number 10 July 2004
6. Gauderman WJ, Gilliland GF, Vora H, et al. Association between Air Pollution and Lung Function Growth in Southern California Children: results from a second cohort. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2002;166:76-84.
7. Gauderman WJ, Gilliland GF, Vora H, et al. The effect of air pollution on lung development from 10 to 18 years of age. NEJM 2004;351:1057-67.
8. van den Hooven EH, de Kluizenaar Y, Pierik FH, Hofman A, van Ratingen SW, Zandveld PY, Mackenbach JP, Steegers EA, Miedema HM, Jaddoe VW. Air Pollution, Blood Pressure, and the Risk of Hypertensive Complications During Pregnancy: The Generation R Study. Hypertension. 2011 Jan 10. [Epub ahead of print]
9. Raaschou-Nielsen O, Andersen Z, Hvidberg M, Jensen SS, Ketzel M, Sørensen M, Loft S, Overvad K, Tjønneland A. Lung Cancer Incidence and Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution from Traffic. Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Jan 12. [Epub ahead of print]
10. Pearson J, Bachireddy C, Shyamprasad S, Goldfine A, Brownstein J. Association Between Fine Particulate Matter and Diabetes Prevalence in the U.S.Diabetes Care October 2010 33:2196-2201; published ahead of print July 13, 2010, doi:10.2337/dc10-0698
11. Crouse DL, Goldberg MS, Ross NA, Chen H, Labrèche F 2010. Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Is Associated with Exposure to Traffic-Related Air Pollution in Montreal, Canada: A Case–Control Study. Environ Health Perspect 118:1578-1583. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002221
12. Pearson RL, Wachtel H, Ebi KL. Distance-weighted traffic density in proximity to a home is a risk factor for leukemia and other childhood cancers. J Air Waste Manag Assoc 50(2):175-180.
13. http://www.forbes.com/2011/02/28/most-toxic-cities-personal-finance.html 
14. Calculations by the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment based on inventory
data at the Utah Division of Air Quality.
15. http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/toxics_release_inventory_what_is_it 
16. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-business/article-23934614-rio-tinto-boss-attacks-governments-for-interfering-in-mining.do 
Lost amidst the heart-wrenching stories and photographs of the "poor Haitians" living in squalor and misery circulating on the second anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake, another set of images appeared. Few people noticed these other images — they received little attention in the mainstream media — but they offer an insight into the prospects for Haiti's reconstruction and, indeed, into the prospects for Haiti's political and economic future.
The images were taken during the official commemoration ceremonies at the hillside of Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, where former dictators Jean Claude Duvalier and his father, Francois Duvalier, discarded the bodies of their political opponents. After the earthquake, it became the gravesite of thousands of unidentified earthquake victims. During the ceremonies, local delegates and international diplomats paid their respects to the Haitians that lost their lives and pledged to help those who lived. But the most striking image that emerged during the ceremonies was that of an immoral triumvirate. Rubbing shoulders on stage, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries were Haitian President Michel Martelly, former U.S. President and United Nations (UN) Special Envoy Bill Clinton and Jean Claude Duvalier. To understand the future of Haiti, we have to shift our focus from the "poor Haitians" who dominate Haiti coverage and understand the significance of these three figures to the shaping of U.S. imperial designs on Haiti.
"Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to Haiti after twenty-five years in exile on January 16, 2010. His arrival was supposedly a surprise, though it is becoming clear that he was given the go-ahead by France and the United States. The Obama administration's relative silence around the return of Duvalier needs to be contrasted with the noise it made while it forcefully tried to prevent the return of Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected President. The contrast smacks of duplicity. Let us remember that under Duvalier (and his father, Francois) nearly 50,000 Haitians were killed, disappeared, and tortured by the reviled tonton macoutes, Duvalier’s private army. At the same time, Duvalier embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars, most of which sponsored an exiled life of grandeur. Despite the calls for his arrest and prosecution by Haitian survivors, lawyers, and international human rights organizations, Duvalier has been allowed to roam Haiti's streets, even dining at the finest restaurants with the likes of Sean Penn.
What does Duvalier symbolize? For Haiti's elite, he represents a form of totalitarian nostalgia. There is a cultish aura that surrounds Duvalier, a reminder of the era of "macoutized bourgeoisie," as journalist Kim Ives has referred to it, when there was an alliance between the elite and the paramilitary forces of terror. But Duvalierism was also good for U.S. politics and economics. In the 1960s, they needed Francois ("Papa Doc") Duvalier to offset the rise of revolutionary communist Cuba. Under Jean Claude ("Baby Doc"), they were able to open up the Haitian markets and resources to U.S. businesses, expand sweatshops, and lay the basis for the coming neoliberal economic policies.
This is where the U.S.-selected President Martelly and "Papa" Bill Clinton come in. As we have pointed out here on Black Agenda Report, right-wing candidate Martelly was handpicked by the Obama administration to become Haiti's president in a forced election marred by irregularities and low voter turn out. More importantly, he is the face — and backbone — of a resurgent Duvalierism. His Duvalier affinities are well known as is his animus towards former President Aristide. He has historic ties with Duvalier loyalists, has called for "amnesty" for Duvalier, and is now in the process of reestablishing the Haitian army. Moreover, his erratic and belligerent interactions with his constituency and political colleagues — and, in particular, his threats against Haitian journalists — are early indications of his repressive tendencies.
But he is a good puppet. As Ezili Danto of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network reminds us: "Martelly is merely a tool to be used by those 'more schooled in the patterns of privilege and domination' than any self-serving Haiti politician could ever dream to be. Martelly is the valve that releases accumulated surface pressure while reinforcing the 'violent Haitian' narrative. Brilliant U.S./Euro move. A no brainer." In the meantime, he will open up Haiti to permanent U.S. occupation and economic exploitation while terrorizing Haitians who fight back. As the U.S. attempts to consolidate its military presence in the Western hemisphere, control of Haiti is important. For many, this is one of the reasons explaining Haiti's current military occupation by the UN-led criminal force, MINUSTAH, the largest UN military force in a country that is not at war. It is also the reason for the massive new U.S. embassy in Haiti, the fourth largest U.S. embassy in the world.
And then there is Bill Clinton. Clinton provides the "kind" face of U.S. control of Haiti. With his push to turn Haiti into a Western tourist paradise while Haitians become cheap sweatshop labor for making Western goods, Clinton is the arbiter of a new phase of neoliberalism. Clinton practically dictates Haitian policy. In fact, in one of the more absurd and nepotistic twists of Haiti's political history, Haiti's Prime Minister, Gary Conille, is Clinton's former chief of staff. Conille also has a long family history with the Duvaliers: his father was a minister to Baby Doc. As @dominique_e recently said on twitter, everything is set to "kill Haiti with neoliberalism."
Last week, Glen Ford remarked that in the U.S. media, "Haiti is most often spoken of as a tragedy — when it is actually the scene of horrific crimes, mainly perpetrated by the United States over the span of two centuries." With the puppet, the dictator, and the president on the scene, it is hard to imagine a more sinister cohort guiding Haiti down the path of U.S. exploitation.
2. http://www.thegrio.com/news/us-urges-aristide-to-delay-return- to-haiti.php
3. http://www.ezilidanto.com/zili/2011/03/obama-fears-lavalas-ret urns-duvalierists-refuses-aristide/
6. http://www.soros.org/initiatives/justice/articles_publication s/publications/duvalier-factsheet-20111213
7. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2011/0119/How-strong-are-charges-against-Haiti-s-Jean-Claude-Duvalier-Very-say-experts /%28page%29/2
8. http://www.haiti-liberte.com/archives/volume4-27/A%20Class%20 Analysis%20of%20Baby%20Doc.asp
9. http://blackagendareport.com/content/fools-and-sycophants-hai ti's-presidential-selection
10. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/2 2/haiti-jean-bertrand-aristide
Jemima Pierre, PhD, Black Agenda Report editor and columnist can be reached at BAR1804@gmail.com