Showing posts with label @edoloughlin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label @edoloughlin. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Potpourri for Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

Mission San Francisco Solano.
(Namesake of Sonoma Mission Inn.)
© 2018 Fred Hsu.

In a recent article by Chase Hunter and Susan Wood of the Sonoma Index-Tribune, an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found sufficient evidence to prosecute 43 labor law violations at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. Workers at the luxury Boyes Hot Springs hotel have been trying to unionize since fall, but the hotel has attempted to intimidate, threaten, and bribe employees, according to Carlos Castillo, a housekeeping houseman at the hotel for 13 years. The three-month investigation revealed violations such as illegal threats of reprisals against employees for engaging in union activities, interrogation of employees about their union activities, and promising a promotion to an employee if they refrained from union activities.

Ted Waechter, a union spokesman, confirmed that the timeline surrounding a union vote remains undetermined. The NLRB has required the hotel management to post information about employees' right to organize in order to rectify the labor violations. According to a press release, the Fairmont Sonoma has agreed to multiple concessions, including instructing employees about their rights at work, granting the union equal time should the hotel conduct further meetings about unionization, and refraining from further violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

The Sonoma Valley has experienced a significant shift towards a tourism-based economy in recent years, but little has been done to protect the workers who keep this industry thriving. These employees face a myriad of challenges, including long commute times, poor working conditions, unaffordable housing, underfunded schools, and inadequate healthcare. The local economy relies on the hard work and dedication of these individuals, and they deserve a better deal. The interference with organizing efforts at a flagship institution like the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is particularly disconcerting, as it sets a precedent for other businesses in the region. Workers in the Sonoma Valley should have the opportunity to advocate for their rights and secure better working conditions without disruption to ensure a sustainable and equitable tourism industry for all.


The Berkeley Library, Trinity College Dublin.
 © 2014 Smirkybec.

Trinity College Dublin has decided to rename its central library, formerly known as the Berkeley Library, after discovering that the 18th-century philosopher George Berkeley, whom the library was named after, owned slaves in colonial Rhode Island and wrote pamphlets supportive of slavery. Despite being regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of the early modern period, Trinity's governing board voted to "dename" the library following months of research and consultation. According to the article by Ed O'Loughlin from The New York Times, Trinity College's provost, Linda Doyle, stated that while Berkeley's intellectual legacy remains intact, his involvement in slavery and racial discrimination conflicts with the college's core values.

The decision to rename the library came after students at the college began lobbying and protesting for a re-examination of Berkeley's legacy. Although his name will be removed from the library, George Berkeley's philosophical and scientific theories will continue to be taught at the college. Meanwhile, the University of California, Berkeley, founded in 1868, was also named after the philosopher, along with the adjacent city (founded in 1878). In recent years, there have been efforts to address problematic legacies within the University of California system. The Berkeley campus' law school, generally known as Boalt Hall, was renamed following recognition of John H. Boalt's authorship of the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act. Similarly, the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco was renamed after discussions surrounding Serranus Hastings' involvement in Native American genocide. 

As the University of California system continues to confront and address these historical issues, it seems increasingly likely that the system will also have to reckon with George Berkeley's record as a slave owner and advocate of slavery. In light of these revelations, a potential renaming of the UC Berkeley campus to simply the "University of California" might be an inevitable step toward distancing the institution from its controversial namesake.


Dedicated parking lot for EVs in Oslo, Norway.
© 2018 Mario Roberto DurĂ¡n Ortiz.

As reported today by Jack Ewing in The New York Times, Norway now serves as a prime example of how prioritizing electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure can lead to significant benefits, both environmentally and economically. 80% of new-car sales in Norway were electric in 2022, with the government planning to phase out internal combustion engine cars by 2025. This transition has not only led to cleaner air, quieter streets, and a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2009, but it has also avoided mass unemployment among gas station workers and the collapse of the electrical grid. Tesla has emerged as the best-selling brand in the country, while traditional automakers like Renault and Fiat struggle to keep up.

The Norwegian government's proactive approach, dating back to the 1990s, has been key to the successful adoption of EVs. By exempting battery-powered vehicles from value-added and import taxes and highway tolls, as well as subsidizing the construction of fast charging stations, Norway has made EVs an attractive option for its citizens. The country's power grid has remained stable, with a modest increase in electricity demand from EVs and ample supply from hydropower. However, Norway faces the challenge of balancing its ambitious climate goals, such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions to nearly zero by 2030, with its continued reliance on oil and gas production, which generated $180 billion in revenue in 2022.

Addressing the lack of EV infrastructure is crucial for governments worldwide, as it presents a classic case of coordinated action to solve a collective problem—emissions contributing to climate change. This infrastructure deficit is a legacy of the long-standing economic dominance of the fossil fuel industry. As nations strive to reduce their carbon footprints and combat climate change, it is reasonable to expect governments to follow Norway's lead in ensuring the necessary infrastructure is in place. By enacting policies and incentives to encourage EV adoption and the development of a comprehensive charging network, governments can facilitate the transition to cleaner transportation and address the challenges posed by our dependence on fossil fuels.