Marcia G. Yerman

Connect With Me

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn
Instagram Google+

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Just as mothers understand the pain of others trying to save their children from violence and desperate situations; that children must be defended against the horrors of unregulated guns; they also get that deregulating environmental regulations spells disaster.

July 10, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

“At War” (En Guerre): A French Look at Labor Relations

“At War” (En Guerre): A French Look at Labor Relations

In “At War” (“En Guerre”), the French film directed by Stéphane Brizé and starring Vincent Lindon, we watch
a conflict between workers in an auto parts factory in the city of Agen in the southwest of France — and the suits who measure everything by shareholder satisfaction.

July 17, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Women’s Voices Stymie Trump Agenda

Just as mothers understand the pain of others trying to save their children from violence and desperate situations; that children must be defended against the horrors of unregulated guns; they also get that deregulating environmental regulations spells disaster.

July 10, 2018 | No comment | Read More »

Reducing Energy, Saving Money, Creating Jobs and Staying Safe

Reducing Energy, Saving Money, Creating Jobs and Staying Safe

In their report, Food and Water Watch outlines what a $500 billion investment in upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings, over a fifteen-year time span, would achieve.

May 14, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

“At War” (En Guerre): A French Look at Labor Relations

Courtesy: Cinema Libre Studio

It is currently a time when liberal democracies around the world seem to be imploding, Brexit is tearing Britain apart, and the United States is fighting for its soul.

Yet, there are some story lines that don’t change. One is the fight waged by those who depend on manufacturing jobs to provide for their livelihoods.

In “At War” (“En Guerre”), the French film directed by Stéphane Brizé and starring Vincent Lindon, it’s not a question of a dying industry (think coal) or an issue of obsolescence. Rather, it’s a conflict between workers in an auto parts factory in the city of Agen in the southwest of France — and the suits who measure everything by shareholder satisfaction.

Just as the promises Donald Trump offered to workers at a Carrier factory in Indianapolis turned out to have little value, “At War” demonstrates that whether it is the Rust Belt in America or a region of France, employees often feel both helpless and dependent on the companies that employ them.

“At War,” which uses primarily non-professional actors, feels more like Cinéma vérité than fiction. “News segments” are regularly integrated into the narrative. This also serves as a subtext for how the media can shape the public perception of events without referencing adequate backstory.

Brizé and Lindon have worked together on previous films, including “The Measure of the Man,” for which Lindon won the Best Actor award at Cannes. As the story unfolded, I thought of the working partnership of Yves Montand and Costa-Gavras in the political thriller “Z.”

Like Montand, Lindon is not a Hollywood type. He is the embodiment of an everyman, slightly worn but still attractive. In “At War,” Lindon portrays Laurent Amédéo, the union representative and leader of the strike. When things are going well and small victories are achieved, he is respected and regarded by the others as a hero. When the fissures within the group surface, he is attacked as “being in a world of your own…with your fan club.” The fly-on-the-wall scenes of internecine arguments among the union members is typical of any group that has a continuum of opinions — but it gets bitterly vicious.

Laurent’s convictions are strong, but so are the facts. Perrin Industries bargained with 1,100 workers to work forty hours for thirty-five hours of pay and give up bonuses. These concessions were given in exchange for a guarantee that the factory would remain viable for five years. Now the parent company Dimke, which is German, has reneged on the deal after only two years. Laurent knows that his cause is justified.

The factory has made 17 million Euros in profit for the shareholders, but the top brass believes that closing the factory will better suit their needs. They are trying to offset the deadly reality of job loss and no prospects with a “severance package” deal.

On a quest for a face-to-face meeting with various power brokers and ultimately the German CEO Martin Hauser, I was reminded of the efforts of documentary filmmaker Michael Moore to meet the CEO of General Motors, Roger Smith. That plant closure in Flint, Michigan was responsible for the loss of 30,000 jobs.

Looking desperately for answers and possibly truth, Laurent and the group engage with a range of people. They include the mayor of Agen, an advisor to the French president, their union lawyer, an economist, human resource flacks, and a variety of CFOs. Some are of help, others of hindrance —with the remainder playing out their roles as cogs in a corporate wheel.

The strikers hope to force the powers that be to actually see and hear them as people whose lives they are impacting.

After presenting their case to the French High Court and being rebuffed, simple questions are posed. “Why is there no recourse to challenge the closing, especially when the company got state subsidies?” Then there is the ethical query, “Does the government have a moral responsibility…or are they more concerned with overseas investors?”

During scenes of union meetings, waiting to see the bigwigs, demonstrations, as well as violence, the pulsating score of Bertrand Blessing — rather than words — are the accompaniment. This serves to underscore the emotionality and intensity of the exchanges.

A secretly secured shareholder’s report reveals that the plant’s profits rose by 25 percent, while Hauser is getting compensated a cool 9 million Euros a year. When workers express frustration about the potential outsourcing of jobs to Romania where the wage is one-fifth of French salaries, corporate responds: “So, maybe move somewhere else.”

As time drags on, the goal of keeping the factory open and jobs viable is beginning to pale next to the reality of a “severance check in the pocket.”

The workers finally do get their encounter with Hauser. He speaks about his love of France before segueing into a rote speech on “market realities” and the demands of shareholders. Saving jobs is at odds with those concerns. There is an offer on the table for a buyout of his company, which would allow the factory to remain open. He refuses. Why have to deal with competition?

There are no real victories for the factory workers. The only bright spot in the film is when Laurent meets his newborn grandson. Perhaps he is a symbol of hope for the future.

There will be discussion among audiences about the resolution of the movie. The film begins with a quote from playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht:

“Whoever fights can lose —
Whoever does not fight has already lost.”

It serves as a fitting ending as well.

 

Share |


Jul 17, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

Reducing Energy, Saving Money, Creating Jobs and Staying Safe

The mission of Food and Water Watch includes “standing up to corporations that puts profits before people,” recently released a report titled: Building Climate Justice Investing in Energy Efficiency for a Fair and Just Transition.

There are plenty of stats, but the bottom line is simple. Energy efficiency is the key to achieving the goals of:

  • Reduce energy consumption.
  • Save money.
  • Create jobs.
  • Protect the viability of the planet.

What is energy efficiency? It’s how much energy is needed to perform a specific work task. It is the delivery of improved energy to perform the same function while reducing consumption.

Example: The most efficient light bulb needs less energy to generate the same amount of light.

Food and Water Watch outlines what a $500 billion investment in upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings, over a fifteen-year time span, would achieve. They qualify it in terms of economic benefits, job creation, achieving environmental justice parity, reducing energy usage, saving money, and reducing emissions. Results would include:

  • A 36 percent decline in building energy use from current projected demand.
  • 3 million jobs created annually, which is 20 percent more than current job creation rates.
  • $1.3 trillion in savings on consumer utility bills.
  • 300 million metric ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from current projections. This amount equals what would be emitted from nearly 80 coal-fired power plants.

Of greatest import, the study shows that these initiatives would totally eliminate the need to build any new fossil fuel power plants.

Build Green

Buildings use the greatest amount of total energy consumed in the country — 40 percent. This exceeds both the industrial and transportation sectors. The types of buildings that would be targeted are offices, schools, and housing.

Currently, there is both developed technology to achieve these goals, and technology that is being advanced. The top ways to attack the problems include:

  • Weatherize buildings by preventing the escape of either heated or cooled indoor air.
  • Upgrade efficiencies in temperature systems.
  • Upgrade efficiencies in home appliances and electronics.

Green Jobs

Looking at the employment component, the majority of created jobs would fall into the sector of “high-quality construction and manufacturing.” Targeted sites would be “energy inefficient buildings,” most of which are situated in low-income areas and communities of color.

This is where occupational innovation feeds into the economic justice piece of the equation. There would be recruitment and training in these sectors to carry out the upgrades. In addition to tapping workers from the lower end of the economic scale, there would be outreach and retraining for those who were previously employed in the fossil fuel industries.

Pro-labor policies, unions, and a commitment to upholding safety and environmental rules would be a prerequisite for participating companies.

The report emphasizes that if the road to energy efficiency is actively pursued, by 2035, a potential 20.8 million jobs could be created.

Of course, there will be naysayers. However, the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System and FDR’s rural electrification program stand as examples of what can be accomplished.

Reduce Energy Consumption

Reducing energy consumption cuts down on air pollution caused by methane leaks, a major negative by-product of the oil and gas industries. By 2035, energy efficiency upgrades would reduce these leaks by almost 440 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

It’s time to reformat the national thinking process. Americans use 20 percent of all global energy. China comes in second, but they have a billion more people than we do.

Oil, gas, and electric companies don’t want to see a reduction in their sales. The “low-cost fossil fuels” agenda is being pushed by those with vested interests. It is not to the benefit of the American consumer.

I reached out to Mitch Jones, Climate & Energy Program Director at Food & Water Watch to ask about this:

Where do you think the opposition to this proposal resides? (Other than from the fossil fuel interests).

“Usually it’s the utilities. Utilities make money by selling people energy, so having more efficient homes cuts into their profits. But the homebuilders also often oppose tighter efficiency standards for the same reason. Profits.”

Why do you believe elected officials are not getting on board? Is it up to the public to demand they take action?

“It’s always up to the public to demand action no matter the issue, but especially when powerful interests like the homebuilders and gas and electric industries are opposed. Elected officials do tend to like building efficiency because it can create jobs, but scaling their willingness to act to what’s required to help stave off the worst of climate chaos is a heavier lift. It’s not that most of them want to take no action, it’s that the action they want to take isn’t sufficient.”

Here’s how to make energy efficiency a national and state priority:

  • Ask your Congressperson to support fully funding the Weatherization Assistance Program by 2035.
  • Ask your elected officials to make sure that investment monies cover frontline communities, low-come people, and people of color.
  • Support the federal government upgrading all federal building to the highest level of energy efficiency. Same for those who lease to federal agencies.
  • Push Congress to implement regular upgrades to mandatory energy efficiency standards.
  • Create incentives for landlords to upgrade appliances, equipment and their rental properties.
  • Have landlords retrofit properties while preventing rent increases.
  • Get states involved in the process via tax credits, deductions, and rebates.

We all need to be in this together to protect the next generation.

 

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

Share |


May 14, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

A Child’s Cancer Leads Mother to Demand Answers

Kari and Emma

 

In Johnson County, Indiana, where Kari Rhinehart lives, over fifty children have been diagnosed with rare forms of blood, brain, and bone cancer in the past ten years. Her daughter, Emma Grace Findley, was one of those children. She was 13 years old when she died from Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive brain tumor.

Documentation from the EPA shows that both state and federal environmental regulation entities were aware of contamination concerns over the previous decades — going back to 1984. As early as 1963, the area had been used to manufacture electrical parts by Franklin Power Products.

In 2015, Rhinehart joined with Stacie Davidson to form If It Was Your Child, a “nonprofit parent organization working to investigate the cancer crisis and environmental contamination in Indiana.”

This interview tells of the fight the two women have been leading:

In January of this year, If It Was Your Child, along with the Edison Wetlands Association, wrote to the Acting Inspector General of the EPA about the Indiana Amphenol Corporation site. Included was the statement that there had been a lack of oversight by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). You noted that the toxicity at this location is “comparable” to Superfund Sites. How did this situation fall through the cracks and what went wrong?

Our letter to the OIG pointed out that there are significant data gaps in documentation. We reviewed 30,000 pages of materials, one of which was a document from the 1980s that scored the Amphenol site high enough for it to be designated a Superfund. That calculation did not include vapor intrusion as statistics do now. Since Amphenol agreed to the cleanup, it was decided to place oversight under the RCRA program. The biggest issue has been that there was never any effort to determine if the contamination moved offsite until last year, following our tests that showed Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Perchloroethylene (PCE) in homes.

The contamination was known for at least eleven years prior to the “pump and treat” installation. Clearly, there was plenty of time for the toxins to migrate off-site.

What went wrong?

Good question. Amphenol agreed to and followed the EPA mandates. I think it was mostly overlooked by the EPA. But what’s more disturbing is the number of state and local officials and agencies who have found evidence the toxins had migrated off-site over the last two decades and yet took no action. I think it’s a classic case of “not our problem,” or that’s EPA…not the local IDEM or the city. No one took accountability and our kids have paid the price.

How did the June 2018 Edison Wetlands Association findings differ from those of the state and local authorities?

The June 2018 tests were funded by EWA, and performed by Mundell & Associates. We coordinated the homeowners and community effort. The results were meant to be a baseline, as no one had ever sampled homes or looked to see if the contamination had an impact off-site. Our tests found these toxins both above and below the maximum contamination limits (MCL). The city, state, EPA and other private organizations have found the same. It’s important to remember the difference between non-detect (ND) and below the maximum contamination limits (MCL). Being below the limit does not equate to “safe” in vapor intrusion as volatile organic compounds can fluctuate drastically day to day, even hour to hour. That is why our next round of testing will be important. We will utilize state-of-the-art technology that will provide real-time readings, as well as traditional testing.

If It Was Your Child is currently organizing an independent environmental investigation, with a residential sampling sign-up. Do you think the results will help to get traction at the state and federal level?

I think private testing has been pivotal to getting federal and state agencies moving in our community. We went to both state and local officials in June of 2017 with a cancer cluster specialist and a chemical engineer/hydrogeologist who had previously worked for the EPA. We showed them documents at that time which were troubling. The experts told officials there were significant areas of concern with the multiple sites near the cluster of childhood cancer cases. No one listened or took any significant action to investigate. Not until our test results came out on July 16, 2018, ironically on what would have been Emma Grace’s 17th birthday, did any agency take any real action to determine if the contamination was off-site.

What can moms do if they are put in the position of protecting their children from environmental harm?

Follow your mom gut. We have been told for years now that we were overreacting. Once our tests results came out, it was clear everyone else had been under-reacting. You can use your deep love and fierce protectiveness for your kids to drive you emotionally, but you can also use science, data, and research to ensure you are moving in the right direction.

There are many times when this has been incredibly hard and I wanted to walk away. My emotional drive, in those times, comes deeply from my love for my children and the inspiration of Emma’s fight and determination.

Photo: Courtesy of Katie Plummer

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Airforce.

Share |


Mar 21, 2019 | No comment | Read More »

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio...

Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Local Activism Pays Off

Individuals from all walks of life, who are concerned about the future of their children...

Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

The Military Battles Climate Change

Ret. Adm. David Titley said,"The ocean, atmosphere and ice do not caucus, do not vote,...

Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

EPA Adminstrator McCarthy Makes A “Moral Obligation To The Next Generation”

McCarthy, who doesn’t pull any punches, stated, “Climate change caused by carbon pollution is one...

Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

IPCC Report: Man-Made Climate Change Is A Scientific Certainty

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report on September...

Oct 2, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

Small Businesses Support President Obama’s Climate Plan

After extreme weather incidents like Hurricane Sandy, 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen....

Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »