Thursday, January 15, 2004
Green Lights Up For Grabs
Sometimes business and environmental interests coexist in a way that makes everyone feel like they’re coming out ahead. Such is the RightLights program of the Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Ecology Action. The program offers lighting retrofits that allow businesses to save money on energy costs while consuming less energy and producing less pollution.
RightLights started in September 2002, and deputy director Mahlon Aldridge says the program originally had a $1.9 million budget and a two-year goal of reaching 600 businesses in Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties. The program reached those 600 businesses, doling out money to places including the Bagel Bakery, Carmel Valley Roasting Company, Coffee Bear, Hayward Lumber, and the Old Monterey Café, as well as the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.
In the coming two years, the program has another $5 million to give away, and will expand its grantees into Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Aldridge explains that for most businesses, the initial cost of installing the more efficient lighting can be recovered by energy savings in just a few months.
“For businesses with 10 or fewer employees, the average utility bill savings is $1,215 a year,” he says. “The average retrofit costs are $556.”
With the rebates that the RightLights program provides, businesses receive an average of 84 percent of their expenditures back. Aldridge says that lighting and electrical contractors are lined up to provide reduced pricing on equipment and labor, and RightLights staff is available to do assessments, and offer lighting redesign suggestions.
For more information call 888-846-5050 ext. 31. [BW]
MLK Day On The Line
On Jan 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council is organizing a major demonstration at the Safeway store on Fremont Street in Monterey. The protesters charge that Safeway stores, which own Vons, are significantly cutting wage and healthcare benefits to employees.
Labor Council spokesman Paul Johnston says that the picket lines, which were set up at an earlier demonstration in Monterey on Nov. 20, and in the past few weeks in Salinas and King City, are increasing in frequency and are intended “to escalate the pressure on Safeway.”
“There is general recognition throughout the whole labor movement that this is the most important strike in the country,” he says.
With over 3,000 grocery workers on the Central Coast with contracts that are expiring this summer, Johnston felt the timing was right to join in the protests held last year in Southern California.
Johnston says that Safeway “propaganda” creates the illusion that workers are only being asked to contribute $5 to $10 weekly towards their health care costs, but that in reality, it’s much more they stand to lose.
“They are taking all the new hires into a second-tier plan—what you might call the Wal-Mart plan—and requiring all employees to be responsible for any increases in cost in health care premiums,” he says.
Johnston also explains that supporting grocery workers in their struggle to maintain affordable health care helps the labor movement as a whole.
“With the struggle in defense of Natividad, people understand you have to hold your ground somewhere and this strike seems to be the place where people are holding the line,” he says. “We think if Martin Luther King were here, he’d be out on the picket lines with us.”
For more information call 633-1869 or visit www.montereybaylabor.org. [BW]