Welcome to the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus

"Judi Bari did something that I believe is unparalleled in the history of the environmental movement. She is an Earth First! activist who took it upon herself to organize Georgia Pacific sawmill workers into the IWW…Well guess what friends, environmentalists and rank and file timber workers becoming allies is the most dangerous thing in the world to the timber industry!"

--Darryl Cherney, June 20, 1990.

Ending the Oil Age

By Jess Worth; lead image by Jenna Pope - New Internationalist, November 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In September 2014, the $860 million Rockefeller Foundation made an historic announcement. Timed to coincide with massive marches for climate action all over the world, the fund revealed it was going to divest from fossil fuels. Following in the footsteps of the World Council of Churches, the British Medical Association and Stanford University, the latest major institution to make such an announcement is also the most symbolic. Because the Rockefeller fortune owes its very existence to oil.

The Rockefeller story is also the story of the rise and fall of the first ‘oil major’. Standard Oil, founded by John D Rockefeller in 1870, soon came to control the burgeoning US oil industry, from extraction to refining to transportation to retail.

It built an unprecedented monopoly that ultimately became so publicly despised that the US government stepped in and broke it up – birthing Exxon, Mobil and Chevron, among others. But by then, Standard had already set the Western world on a path to oil dependence that we are still shackled to, chain-gang-style, today.

The forced break-up created the Rockefeller millions. A century later, those millions are being used to make a dramatic point: we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the oil age.

Battling Ebola: Nursing in the Era of Climate Change

By Tamanna Rahma and Brendan Smith - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Nurses are asking all Americans to sign a petition demanding protection for frontline health care workers who are protecting us all from the threat of Ebola. Tamanna Rahman and Brendan Smith tell us why:

As the Ebola outbreak continues to dominate headlines, so too do the stories of health care workers fighting to contain the disease. The climate crisis is morphing into a public health crisis, forcing nurses to join the ranks of other workers on the front lines of climate change: firefighters battling ever more destructive fires, farmers struggling to coax crops from drought-ravaged fields, fishermen hauling empty nets from warming waters. The nature of work is changing and we’re not prepared.

For nurses, the risks became strikingly clear when news leaked out that Amber Vinson and Nina Pham, two nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, had contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national infected with the disease. While both nurses thankfully recovered, their situation highlights nurses as a new generation of “climate workers” exposed to expanding dangers on the job.

Stunningly, instead of celebrating the bravery of a profession the nation regards as its most trusted and respected, politicians and media reacted to the Ebola outbreak by blaming nurses for their carelessness. In fact, it’s the policy makers and hospital administration, not nurses, who are being “careless” by failing to take the measures necessary to protect healthcare workers and patients.

After the Ebola outbreak, the NNU surveyed 3,000 nurses from 800 health facilities in 48 states and the District of Columbia. They report that “a shocking 84 percent say their hospital is still not holding the essential, interactive training programs, and more than a third cite inadequate supplies of protective gear.”

In California not one hospital is adequately prepared. According to RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United: “We cannot name a hospital that we feel comfortable with, for patients in the state…to attempt to have the appropriate response in an Ebola situation.” Last week the NNU put out a statement demanding action to protect healthcare workers and patients:

[N]ot one more patient, nurse, or healthcare worker should be put at risk due to a lack of healthcare facility preparedness. The United States should be setting the example on how to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus.

The World Health Organization has called Ebola “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” But can the outbreak be directly linked to the climate crisis? While a relation between Ebola and global warming is already hotly being debated, study after study shows that infectious diseases are becoming more virulent, and spreading faster, as a result of conditions directly related to a changing climate. The Ebola outbreak is a harbinger of the future.

Many of the most deadly diseases on earth — malaria, dengue and yellow fever, encephalitis and cholera — are highly climate sensitive, and are thriving as patterns of temperature, precipitation, and sea levels shift in their favor. They are spreading to new parts of the globe, including the U.S.

Dengue fever, which was wiped out in the U.S. in the World War II era, has now made a dramatic reappearance in the Florida Keys. Commonly called ‘breakbone fever’ because it causes pain so severe it feels like one’s bones are breaking, dengue is expected to spread over the next 60 years, exposing an additional two billion people.

Rodents, insects and other disease host populations are also exploding. Parasites and microbes are marching steadily northward, with infections such as Lyme disease increasing tenfold in the past 10 years.

As climate diseases escalate so does the need for global first responders. Nurses organizations, like the NNU, have stepped up to play this role. In the wake of Typhoon Yolanda, for example, over 500 RNs traveled to the Philippines to volunteer their skills. When Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake, 12,000 RNs from across the nation responded in a matter of days.

The climate crisis has changed the world of health care. Nurses have been at the forefront, and their role will only continue to expand. It is critical that we as a society figure out how to protect our health care workers as they step into the breach.

Tamanna Rahman is a registered nurse and former labor organizer. She is currently a graduate student in advanced practice nursing at Yale University. Brendan Smith is the co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability.

URGENT: WIDESPREAD IMPOUNDMENTS & AN ARREST ON THE HPL

By Black Mesa Indigenous Support, October 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

UPDATE from HPL (Hopi Partition Land) residents:  Shirley Tohannie and elder Caroline Tohannie  had their entire herd of 65 sheep impounded by the Hopi Rangers (US federal government) Tuesday, October 22, 2014.If the fines aren’t paid the sheep will go to auction, and the family is being told that the sheep will not be able to return to the family’s rangeland.  The cost to release the livestock is nearly $1,000.

Jerry Babbit Lane, the Tohannie’s neighbor on the HPL, was arrested by Hopi rangers when he attempted to check on his neighbors and was charged with disorderly conduct. He was released this evening, 10/23. Rangers told Shirley they plan to take Rena’s (Jerry’s mother) sheep too and that they’re going to start impounding across the HPL.

 As we’re writing, another family on Big Mountain has had nearly their entire herd impounded.
PLEASE DONATE HERE for an impoundment fund.

Residents are requesting human rights observers and sheepherders during this time of escalated harassment.  If you or anyone you know can come be a human rights observer to support the Dineh resistance on Black Mesa, now is the time. Doing human rights observation work can help stop or slow down the impoundment process. Families who will be potentially impacted by impoundments are requesting solidarity. Email blackmesais@gmail.com if you can come out.

Poisoned by the shale? Investigations leave questions in oil tank deaths

By Mike Soraghan - EnergyWire, featured on Dakota Resource Council, October 23, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

KILLDEER, N.D. — Dustin Bergsing was 21 and six weeks a father when he arrived here at Marathon Oil Corp.’s Buffalo 34-12H well pad, a square of red gravel carved into a low hill.

By dawn, he was dead.

A co-worker found him shortly after midnight, slumped below the open hatch of a tank of Bakken Shale crude oil. It was Bergsing’s job to pop the hatch and record how much was inside. An autopsy found he died of “hydrocarbon poisoning due to inhalation of petroleum vapors.”

An environmental engineer in Marathon’s Dickinson, N.D., regional office heard about it a few days later. He’d been warning his bosses they were creating a dangerous buildup of lethal gases in their tanks. But, he said, they ignored him.

“With that excessive gas, you get lightheaded,” he said in a deposition with the attorney for Bergsing’s family, Fred Bremseth. “It would be just like carbon monoxide. You’re gonna doze off, and Katy bar the doors, man — you’re dead.”

An investigation of the drilling industry’s worker safety record and what it means for those living amid the boom. Click here to read the series.

Bergsing died in January 2012. At least three other men have died this way during the Bakken Shale boom, found lifeless on steel catwalks, next to the hatches they’d opened to measure the bounty of the shale.

ILWU Local 6, strikes Waste Management. AFL-CIO leaders tell their members to scab.

By Richard Mellor - Facts for Working People, October 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The ILWU Local 6 represents sorters and other workers at the Waste Management recycling center (we used to call them dumps) at the end of Davis Street in San Leandro CA. The workers have not had a raise in four years.

Most of the workers are Latino's, many of them immigrants and they complained to me about disrespect and discriminatory treatment on the job. Workers told Facts For Working People that management is refusing to budge on wage increases and workers don't trust the management to comply with the Oakland City Council's meager wage increase provisions which would raise wages from round $12 an hour now to around $21 an hour by 2019. This is the only possible increase on the table so far. It is a sorry state of affairs when the only chance of making any headway albeit an inadequate one, is relying on a municipal body run by politicians in one of the two Wall Street Parties.

As I walked the picket line, drivers for Waste Management, members of Teamsters Local 70,  drove through the picket lines as the strike does not have sanction from the Alameda Labor Council.  I called the Labor Council to find out why and was told that the ILWU local 6 is no longer affiliated to the AFL-CIO.  The source said that she hoped the strike is successful.  Unfortunately hope doesn't pay the rent and it doesn't win strikes.

Jobs! Money! Nope! Benefits of LNG exports grossly exaggerated

By Al Engler - Rabble.Ca, October 24, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the 2013 provincial election, Christy Clark's Liberals promised that exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia would provide jobs and expand government revenues.

A year and a half later this boom is nowhere to be seen.

Fifteen liquefying plants and pipelines have been promoted. Six were reported to be on the verge of starting construction. But in early October, Petronas -- the company closest to seeking regulatory approval -- announced that it was considering shelving its proposal.

The Malaysian government-owned corporation wanted assurances that provincial and federal taxes and royalties would be kept low and that the company could bring in workers from abroad to construct and operate its facilities.

Then on October 21 the provincial government announced that tax rates and royalties on LNG operations would be slashed, and that the public should understand that if these projects proceeded, significant public revenues could not be expected for 15 years.

All of the proposed projects have faced strong opposition from Indigenous people and local communities to pipelines, liquefying plants and increasing tanker traffic.

The most widely promoted LNG terminal in Kitimat is in doubt after a substantial majority in this industrial city voted against the proposal. (People living in the adjacent native reserves who were expected to vote overwhelmingly against the LNG project did not get a vote in this referendum.)

Kitimat showed that when issues are openly and thoroughly debated, the communities most dependent on industrial employment will vote against projects that damage the environment.

The B.C. and federal governments as well as the corporate media continue to promote LNG as the key to future employment and increased public revenues. But even without the prospect of blockades, lengthy public hearings and litigation, the profitability of LNG exports is dubious.

Beating Climate Change by Retooling the Economy—The Story Begins in Navajo Country

A proposed community-owned solar project on an abandoned coal mine in Arizona illustrates how cooperative economics make it possible to stop extracting fossil fuels—without leaving workers behind.

By Mary Hansen - Yes Magazine, October 17, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

“I grew up without running water,” Nichole Alex, a young woman from Dilkon, Ariz., says in a video released by the activist group Black Mesa Water Coalition. Alex grew up on the Navajo reservation in the rural Black Mesa region of Arizona, where for decades a controversial coal mine emptied the region’s aquifer, leaving local wells dry.

“I grew up traveling 20 miles to gather water,” Alex continues. “That’s not fair, that my community is being sacrificed to power the valley here.”

In 1970, the Peabody Coal Company began mining on the reservation. Although tribal members were initially enthusiastic about the jobs the mine would provide, over time the relationship grew rocky. The company built a coal slurry pipeline that cut straight through the reservation and pumped billions of gallons of water from the Navajo Aquifer. Peabody mixed the water with coal and pumped the fluid mixture to a power plant in Nevada where the coal was burned to generate electricity for the nearby cities of Phoenix and Tucson, as well as other parts of the Southwest. But local people like Alex were left without access to water.

It’s a story echoed around the country: From the East Bay in California to the mountains of Appalachia, fossil fuel companies have drilled, burned, and mined their way into towns, cities, and rural areas—especially communities of color, as well as indigenous and low-income ones—disrupting the lives of people and damaging the environment.

But local residents have fought back. In 2001, Navajo and Hopi youth created the Black Mesa Water Coalition to stop the depletion of the Navajo Aquifer. They educated their peers and neighbors about the problem, and eventually persuaded the Navajo Tribal Council to cut off Peabody Coal’s access to the aquifer. That work, combined with a lawsuit that charged Peabody with violation of the Clean Air Act, helped to force the shutdown of the Black Mesa coal mine in 2005.

The problem with that outcome was that it left many residents of the reservation without jobs. About 300 Navajo and Hopi people had worked for Peabody, according to the advocacy group Cultural Survival . Efforts by the Black Mesa Water Coalition and its allies to create green jobs through traditional livelihoods, like wool-making and farming, have made only a small dent in the unemployment rate, which hovers around 50 percent. Furthermore, the land where the coal mine had been is not suitable for living or farming.

The story of Black Mesa illustrates a realization that is sweeping through the network of organizations, individuals, and coalitions working to fight global warming: While the burning of fossil fuels causes climate change, simply shutting down these industries leaves workers and their families behind, and often result in a familiar conflict over “jobs versus the environment.” That in turn prevents many workers and low-income groups from joining the fight against climate change—something movement leaders say they cannot afford.

United Campaign Workers Challenge the Predatory Tactics of Grassroots Campaigns Inc. and the Nature Conservancy

By Shane Burley - LibCom.org, October 12, 2014. A shorter version of this article was originally published at In These Times.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Outside of coffee shops and bookstores, crowded Whole Foods stores and worker-run co-ops nationwide, you‘re bound to find canvassers asking for donations or signatures in support of a host of causes. They’re often young people shaking the can for high-profile nonprofits. But as we get deeper into the post-crash precarious economy, the image of canvassers as idealistic college students making a few extra bucks on summer break quickly disintegrates. People are turning to this occupation as their primary source of income, according to many active campaigners. They are hired by independently contracted companies to canvas for nonprofits. The quotas are demanding, making the work one of the most difficult low-wage jobs to hold on to.

In Portland, Oregon, one union local as formed precisely to take on this precarious world of street canvassing, and they are growing at a pace no one could have predicted.

Last week, the United Campaign Workers union, an affiliate of the Portland Industrial Workers of the World, announced its second organized workplace in its less than two months of existence. (The first was the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp.)

Canvassers working for Grassroots Campaigns Inc. (GCI), a third-party contractor that does street canvassing and fundraising for progressive nonprofit organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center, informed management of their unionization drive two weeks ago. The union drive began in response to what workers say were unsustainable turnover rates from firings and overly complicated pay scales.

Rail Industry Fights Speed Limits, Brake Regulation in Quest for Profits

By Justin Mikulka - DeSmog Blog, October 23, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Earlier this month Hunter Harrison, the CEO of Canadian Pacific told the Globe and Mail that he thought regulators have “overreacted” to the oil-by-rail disaster in Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people.

Lac-Mégantic happened, in my view, because of one person’s behaviour, if I read the file right,” Harrison said.

As detailed by DeSmogBlog, he didn’t read the file right. The accident was directly related to lack of regulation and the railroads putting profits before safety.

Harrison’s choice of words echoed those of American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard commenting on the new proposed oil-by-rail regulations when he stated: “Overreacting creates more challenges than safety.”

Yea, that’s right, according to Big Oil and Big Rail, the biggest threat to the 25 million people living in the bomb train blast zones is the overreaction of regulators.

The rail industry is now spending a lot of time pushing back on the new regulations on train speed. As anyone with a basic understanding of physics knows, the speed of the train is a critical factor in the severity of any accident.

Gregory Saxton, chief engineer for rail tank manufacturer Greenbriar, made that clear at a National Transportation Safety Board conference on oil-by-rail safety in April.

Kinetic energy is related to the square of velocity. So if you double the speed, you have four times as much energy to deal with,” argued Saxton. “Speed is a big deal.”

Speed is also a big deal when it comes to profits. Canadian Pacific’s Harrison recently explained to the Wall Street Journal that his main focus on improving profits was on increasing train speeds, “This next stage of growth is driven by a lot of things, a little bit here, a little bit there, but it’s effectively all the things that impact train speed and train velocity.”

And just as Harrison has arrived at his own incorrect conclusion about Lac-Megantic, he has once again ignored the facts when it comes to the relationship of speed to rail safety. DeSmogBlog reported Harrison’s comments earlier this year on a conference call talking to investors about rail safety.

I don’t know of any incidents with crude that’s being caused by speed. We keep slowing down in this North American network over the years. We don’t get better with speed. We get worse.”

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