IGBCE (“Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie”) and Verdi are two large unions “representing” German coal and power plant workers that continue to support and be responsible for coal extraction deepening the scope of the climate crisis. With Climate Change denying being less wide-spread in Europe than in US their response instead is to accuse people raising the issue of being “ignorant and arrogant”. This occurred at the first meeting of those Unions and Climate Activists that just took place at Climate Camp in Rhineland. Being “ignorant and arrogant” is a description that fits very well to the responses of Big Unions to people at the discussion panel that included several residents of Immerath and other towns being demolished for RWE as well as activist from AusgeCOhlt and other participant. Below is a transcript of the discussion that constantly bordered on being ridiculous and that is symbolic of both IGBCE and Verdi representing interests not of communities and even their own members but interest of large corporations like RWE. Constant false narrative of “affordable energy”, coal energy is now more expensive than wind or solar but only continues by removal of subsidies for the later in favor of the former. Weird argument of unreliability of solar and wind were made as if a reliability of the evidence for melting arctic,rising water level, heat waves and cataclysmic forest fires and global instability as if all of that was a better option instead.
Really disturbing post-colonialist arguments of privilege and exploitation were used.
The Union members approached the Climate camp before the meeting and stood outside for awhile outside of the entrance repeatedly saying “Braun Kohle” (Lignite) out loud and laughing. Their short haircuts and attire begged for analogies to the large corrupt unions in US that for years have been rumored to have been infiltrated and controlled by the Mob. Making dirty deals with employers and while collecting the dues from the workers only keeping them quiet and blocking them from striking even resorting to violence to do so. That is also why the “arrogant and ignorant” approach rings true on another level as it reflects the State police violence approach of also ignoring the climate crisis and to protect toxic RWE profits attacking, injuring and imprisoning Hambacher Forest Activists that protest and block this global disaster profit madness.
[Different paragraphs are different speakers]
First Question: How do you see Rhineland Region as being five years from now?
A female bodied person from the demolished by RWE village:
Focus on Alternative energy, town from which I am is already all gone(Loud Applause)
Manfred Maresch of IGBCE (all other really long statements are his also)
Not much change, knowing this is unpopular, the world with consensus[unpopular consensus?] in role of lignite to generate power withing European structures. Need to invest less in storage for energy and not invest in renewable while we do not know how to store it. We still have mining jobs. And storing energy from renewable problem really needing to be solved[this is a totally invented delegitimization of renewables as India puts up the largest solar plants in the world presently, generating bogus problems also keeps people from talking about the real problem: the climate]. By 2040 we should start getting out of traditional energy with Germany still having a role(loud maniacal applause on part of all the labor unionist)
I am not finished yet, Germany still has an important role to play (another maniacal circle of like for order applause.[A nationalist and fear element being obvious here while ironically removing green energy subsidies and extending them to coal has cost Germany more jobs than in all of coal mining and its status as a green capitalist industries central as there is exodus of solar and wind employers to china and india – in other words create a false problem and then use it to enforce globalization]
Hambacher Forest should still be around, with many possibilities of decentralized energy storage.
You can see how structural change can happen very quickly as in transition from horse power to cars. Decisions are being made by Coal Commission. People could be happy that they have contributed to structural change.
What is the process of relocation is giving up your home involuntarily is nothing one wants to do if I go somewhere I chose to do so but here that choice is not mine. My father did not have that choice and he died last year and part of it could have been the stress of resettlement.
Another Displaced person:
I have told my father there is a new place for us. He said “I do not want to see it!” and 4 weeks later he died. The Police is working with the RWE coal mining interest but we are not being cared for.
Climate Activist Posing another question:
There is lots of harvest loss due to Climate Change and how could coal phase out could interact with the fact that people are losing their livelihoods even now?
That is difficult to answer as long as responsibility is put on the shoulder of my collegues it is not their fault(maniac applause) This is accordance with the laws of this country and the politicians are rightfully elected and they have made a decission that this is legal. Members of Verdi and IGBCE being responsible is absurd, we do not deny that it takes place. One of my collegues said I should not answer that question as it is a provocation(only a single maniac clapping, probably fro the mentioned collegue)
Germany lives of Economic Growth it produces lots of resources and lots of pollution and this is the country we live in. We have lots of our wealth at the cost of other people.(Maniac Clapping WTF?) We use lots of resources and that is on the Global level. I am completely relaxed about that as it is not for the people here to like what I do. But the 2-3 percent of world emissions that Germany is responsible for is not all because of lignite. We do not feel that we do not protect climate. We can not just focus on it as we focus on affordable energy. Our jobs are giving jobs in many, many fields. If you pretend that work of my colleagues is irresponsible you are IGNORANT AND ARROGANT person[holding a narcissistic mirror in front of face?]. Do not mistake me I value you being here. If you want to be non-violent you need to talk with us. KohleKomission is on growth and structural change. Our Collegues deserve to be respected as they earned that respect. (Even Louder Maniacal Applause)
What to say to coal workers when their jobs are lost due to coal exit. We need to be responsible not only to people here but to those in the global south as we live off of their backs. RWE responsibility is to watch after their own workers, we need retraining for the workers and work on clean up of the mine sites. Those who loose their jobs need to be reimbursed by the company. We also focus on renewable as lignite is putting a break on these possibilities. People that work in energy intensive industries can not go on like this so we need to look at which ones we can keep and perhaps some we can as we need to look at efficiency and impossibility of unlimited grown. Poverty of many in Global South is our doing and we have responsibility to them and need to question our way of life(Applause from whole audience sans unionists)
“Ignorant and Arrogant” Manfred Maresch:
What can we learn, we had successful restructuring change in phasing out black coal. [Laughter in the audience]. It was not an easy process but it was largely successful. We are also phasing out nuclear plants. Regions that are loosing taxes from the plants that have helped them survive, they also have problems getting personnel to take care of the plants. As demolishing them can not be done easily and people are no longer studying these fields. The same will happen in Coal mining.
Gas Sequestering is promising if we want to reach our climate goals, we need to do this if we want to sustain life on planet and that only works if we connect different sectors. Power to Gas as storage method of renewables is one option, or storing heat.[False non-tried solutions galore] Of course we just do now want electricity when sun is out. We need new tech, educating new people. There will be most likely a big lake here.[Lake that will fill in the huge coal opencast mines after they are closed, ones in other coal mining regions are so toxic that not only harbor no life but it is not possible to swim in them without skin ailment.] Largest then the biggest lakes we have in Germany now, so we will have tourist jobs, real estate jobs. We need to learn from mistake that have been made.
What could structural change look like?[not climate chaos break down of course] breaking into groups and talking to each other .
Now a discussion part is taking place. Forum Open.
First question from an activist: The question of renewable from the left perspective is really low. So the coal commission will invest a billion that they did not have to support coal. System Change needed and to structures of worker. We as left climate movement that is opposed to exploitation if we could get in touch with left unions and together with workers for just energy transition.
I am really disappointed last year we had a workshop in degrowth. Now I feel like your non answers to climate justice I would think that we are further along. Reducing lignite has to do with alternatives and not storage. The soil is being lost. Insinuated disrespect to workers did not carry over to jobs lost in the solar capacity. People move from their homes with the bodies of their ancestors being dug up from cemeteries. Germany is setting example to others that they are using not to de-carbonize.
You can not always point people at others like China we need to see how we deal with this. Many say that we are against RWE workers but here the workers[many big unionists are bureaucrats and functionaries and no longer work as miners either] are protecting their company that treats them horribly. My maternity was reduced I had to take care of myself and my child. I did it myself and I recommend it to everybody. Laud Applause
I worked in chemical industry 10 years ago and I understand insecurity of loosing the jobs. The literature of climate justice struggle focuses on issues for better common future.
Solar and Wind industry has been decimated how is it possible to empathize with this corporation so much. One thing about Coal Commission has been introduced as we are not meeting our agreed to climate goals. That is why we need to do something. We need to get in this discussion, right now. Applause
IGBCE should be responsible for workers well being not for climate goals, protecting the worker. When will the union reeducate the workers that might loose their jobs.
I can understand that workers are going late into retirement, so they are afraid to loose their jobs like many others. Restructuring could be risky, what will I do in the last 20 30 years of my life. The coal commission is to set framework for change . While in solar industry 50 lost their jobs so there is no framework for alternatives that is so insecure.
I felt like many were trying to make me into the bad one. I identify as a miner. When I think of mines closing I feel like crying. If you have no sympathy you do not understand how this works. We identify with the company for many reasons, we have many conflicts with the company doing what we do not enjoy but we back it up. In solar industry there is not union protections like we have with most unionized.
The cities of Yulich and Aachen are very deeply vested in the coal industry and with renewable they can find new solutions. As a farmer like miners I am connected to my identity. I feel connection to the soil and I see the fields overgrown. I believe if that is not the case we can meet the people needs for food.[Applause]
If you loose your jobs how do you think that compares to our loosing our whole homes and our whole lives and being resettled. Look to the future as something new and now worse. Clapping
As the climate justice movement we learn its hard to mobilize if you frame it as needing to do something, we create perspectives for people, develop creative possibility. Would it not be more rewarding to fight for something instead of holding on to something which time has come, being part of the transformation might be hard as coal phase out should come sooner. I invite to transform your sadness(hiena like laughter from the unionist) and transform it into positive and just options. Laud applause.
Plants and industry is clossing as there is not communal and social dynamic.
People involved in Conflict the miners identity, I could cry feeling how connected one is to it. Needig to separate from it but keeping the memories alive. In RWE we need people to come up with ideas how people can separate from it. I need to think of myself as an electrician not as a miner. How is the security of RWE miners are being met? I currently have very secure job place but I do not know what I will do in the future, without a chance with my employer. I want people to have ideas where they can find a job.
I was here first time 1 year ago and also was for the first time in Hambi then. You say that you identify as miner and yet you too are part of nature and part of laws of nature. When that is being changed and violated we need to change ourselves. The Groundwater in Hambacher Forest is gone, the time is running out. I started project on social media about EndGame as we live on finite planet and we need to have our lives on it. (Laughter from Unionists) Clapping from audience.
Why is workers union fighting for centralized power structure we need decentralization in wind in solar and the company will not do that as other actors take over this scene abroad. So we will have fever jobs then ever. (Unionist whispering jokes to each other years.)
I work on renewables and at one time 4 percent of power generation was once seen as not possible. Now with companies splitting and coming back together. Obviously people working on large equipment look unfavorably on recultivation as a matter of convenience but underestimating alternatives.
This discussion has to continue and i want us to develop vision for Rhineland that is a common vision.
We can not allways influence of transition with our colegues jumping in and correcting what this corporation is doing. I am suprised too sometimes what it is doing. We need to develop a common vision what life is like. Get climate protection, get structural changes, I say we will stick to lignite to 2045 to 2050. Otherwise give the answers how to provide affordable energy.
Livelihoods have been destroyed in resettled towns where people do not rebuild their identity, I do not want to be uprooted and dig out my own father after he just has died and I want to keep seeing the church steeple from out of my bath.
Structural change is not easy I would like to do it and am afraid the direction in which this world is going, I am a person affected by coal mining. I would like a hobby not being dominated by having to resettle. Coal phase out would possibly make me not see my house being destroyed. Loud Clapping (Conspiratorial whispers among Verdis and IGBCE).
The power in the circus tent has been charged by bikes on salvaged from submarines batteries. Thanks you to people translating.
We identify the same topic but have different ideas about them. Security of workplace vs security of home. Affordability of not paying for company’s mistakes but also not paying for the effect of climate change. Respect is needed in this. 2 years ago it was not possible to have this discussion together at all(First time since the beginning of the meeting that everybody is clapping together and not doing clapping boycott of their opponents – so the fact that people are sitting in one place together for over 1 hour is the only topic that was agreed on)
The above describes how indifferent, corrupt and pro profit large scale capitalist unions are. By their own nature they are incapable of concern for any social or ecological or work place issues. Causing a response of radical, left and syndicalist unions forming A Climate Action Alliance distributing fliers with texts such as “RWE Climat Killer, Out of Lignite!”[Anarchist Clapping]