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.

We have the power to change the history!

By the Organizing Committee of March 11 Anti-NPP Fukushima Action in 2016 - January 1, 2016

Doro-Chiba Union calls for endorsement of and participation in Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Fukushima Action on March 11, 2016:

We have the power to change the history! This is the slogan of the Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Fukushima Action on March 11, 2016.

Against the legislation to exercise the right to collective self-defense more than 100 thousand of people filled the square in front of the Diet day after day. Since this mass uprising last autumn a rising tide of the struggle by millions workers, students and other people, has broadened deeply all over the country and around the world.

The struggle of the fifth anniversary of the Earthquake and nuclear reactor meltdowns on March 11th in Fukushima will be fought headed by the unions which have been waging strikes, with Fukushima people’s widespread anger, calling “down with Abe administration which promotes war bills and wages restarting of nuclear power plants”.

Please endorse and participate in this action from all over the country and around the world.

Rebuilding Radical Unionism: An Organiser’s Notes

By an Anonymous Organiser - Novara, January 31, 2016

Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Still, a substantial minority of the workforce works for less than what it takes to get by. A much larger part of the workforce gets by in a haze of exhaustion, alienation and frustration, with little recourse. For the unemployed, disabled, ill or precariously employed, the sorrows of work are replaced or compounded by the malicious bureaucratic violence of the Department for Work and Pensions. For the retired, pensions are among the worst in the developed world and social care is a disgrace.

Chronic low expectations, low levels of worker solidarity and enfeebled official union structures – all the consequences of very deliberate legislative and executive action by successive governments – make it difficult to see a way out.

Still, a functional, scaleable, radical, rooted trade unionism capable of transcending bureaucratic hindrance and legal repression is a necessary starting point for a freer, more democratic, more equitable society.

With looming, sweeping automation threatening the movement’s last vestiges of strength in the industrial sectors – on the railways, and in some parts of distribution – the task of building this trade unionism is urgent.

Extensive automation achieved purely on the terms of capital will eradicate what’s left of the unionised working class, hastening the arrival of a purgatorial post-democracy. The absence of any industrial organisation with any means of obstructing the means of production and distribution in moments of conflict will lead to the total exclusion of the working class from civil society and political discourse. Protests and mobilisations are one thing – good unions secure and enforce the gains of the class in a permanent, scaleable way.

To unpack some of the obstacles to this work in the UK today, we need to approach this from the workplace and national level. We need to interrogate which demands, tactics and strategies could – just could – begin to rebuild the political and industrial power of workers and the economically excluded. And such interrogation is a matter of urgency: the Conservatives’ trade union bill – a bill that will make useful trade unionism close to impossible within the law – looks set to pass through parliament with little more than a whimper of labour movement opposition.

Inspiring Fossil Fuel Resistance Action In Northeast Pennsylvania

By Ted Glick - Ted Glick's Blog, February 8, 2016

Northeast PA – Very possibly as early as tomorrow, chain-saw-armed tree cutters hired by Williams Partners, a powerful pipeline-building corporation for the gas and oil industry, will try to cut down sugar maple trees on the property of Maryann Zeffer, Cathy and Megan Holleran and their family. For 65 years they have lived on this land, and for the last ten or so they have been producing delicious, pure, Pennsylvania maple syrup from those trees.

This destruction won’t happen without a big fight. Nine days ago as I write, after FERC gave approval to Williams’ request to start tree cutting in Pa. even though Williams does not have all of the necessary approvals to build their Pa. to NY Constitution pipeline, an encampment was set up on the Zeffer/Holleran land. Every day since people have been there.

The press has been there too. TV stations in Binghamton, NY and Scranton, Pa. have done stories on this epic David vs. Goliath battle, though this one is more like strong women Davidas vs. Goliath.

I spent a very cold but inspiring day yesterday with Maryann, Cathy and Megan and about 30 other people there for some part of the day, including fracktivist heroine Vera Scoggins, who I had never met before. One of the rewarding things about a life of for-the-people activism and organizing is the wonderful people you are always meeting and getting to know.

Yesterday it looked like Williams’ tree cutters might not be getting to the Zeffer/Holleran land for a while; they had started just the day before, a number of miles away. However, just today, another crew started cutting a little more than a mile away, and the locals sent out an alert calling upon as many people as possible to show up today if possible but tomorrow for sure. They expect the confrontation to take place within 48 hours at most.

People who can get to the site should do so right away. You don’t need to be prepared to risk arrest to do so; the more people there to watch and observe and take pictures and spread the word the better.

You do need a car. Here’s the information you need, from the “Stop the Constitution Pipeline in Pa” site on Facebook:
The Holleran property is located at 2131 Three Lakes Road, New Milford, PA, but use these coordinates to find where people are gathered to stop the tree cutting: 41.8272387, -75.7585062

Bridgeport Residents Release Balloon Banner at City Hall: “Fracked Gas is Environmental Racism”

By Dan Fischer, et. al. - Capitalism vs the Climate, February 2, 2016

Bridgeport, CT—PSEG expected to celebrate on Monday night as Bridgeport’s city council voted to endorse the company’s plan to replace its Bridgeport Harbor coal-fired power plant with a new fracked gas plant in 2021. Some environmentalists had even signed onto the agreement. To PSEG, it looked like local criticism would finally be silenced, that the company could maintain a “green” image while continuing to pollute one of Connecticut’s most vulnerable communities.

The corporate polluters must have been disappointed, then, when a group of Bridgeport residents and teachers, some of them members of Capitalism vs. the Climate, flooded a short public hearing preceding the city council session with a barrage of comments opposing the proposed fracked gas plant. As 10 year-old Jaysa Mellers spoke out against the proposal, with the words “no coal, no gas, go green!”, a Bridgeport-based member of Capitalism vs. the Climate released a banner tied to a bundle of balloons. The banner floated to the high ceiling, and city councillors and residents read its message: “Fracked gas is environmental racism! No coal, no gas!”

“Environmental racism is when an unfair share of pollution is placed on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. That’s what is happening in Bridgeport. PSEG is making it worse by trying to open a new gas plant, which would continue to release pollution in the air for decades,” said Gabriela Rodriguez, a nineteen year-old Bridgeport resident and a member of Capitalism vs. the Climate.

If labour really wants to break the wealthy's grip on society, it should fight car culture

By Yves Engler - Rabble.Ca, February 4, 2016

At their finest labour unions are class-conscious organizations that check the corporate elite's influence over public policy. But, even the best Canadian unions have largely failed to provide an alternative vision to the existing system and challenge the power of big business over important areas of our lives. 

Alongside collective-bargaining activities, unions have spearheaded efforts to expand the Canadian Pension Plan and Employment Insurance coverage, to raise minimum wages and to improve labour laws. While these campaigns have directly benefited all workers, unions have also been heavily involved in fights for Medicare and public daycare, programs that serve a wider interest than just people who work for a living.

Over the past few decades most unions have devoted resources to combating sexism, racism and homophobia. They have done so out of a sense of solidarity and an understanding, built upon internal union struggles, that these forms of oppression take their toll on many members and society in general.

But unfortunately unions have generally deferred to the business class regarding much of the social, cultural and even economic sphere. Advertising provides a striking example of this implicit class compromise. On a typical day most people come across hundreds of ads, which greatly influence their consumption habits and social outlook.

Additionally, a media sphere funded through advertising gives corporations significant leverage over the news agenda (companies regularly pull or threaten to pull ads when they are unhappy about a story and simply refuse to advertise in leftist media outlets). Yet most unions have little to say about this expression of capitalist power or the particularly acute psychological burden advertising places on low-income people.

Few (if any) unions have called for blanket restrictions on destructive corporate advertising. In fact, some unions representing media workers have called for more advertising. In response to layoffs at the Toronto Star two years ago, a union representative was quoted in a release saying, "Why cut ad staff when the thing we need most is more ads?"

In another example of how unions concede much of the social, cultural and economic arena to big business, they have given a free pass to the private automobile even though orienting our living spaces around cars is particularly damaging to working-class interests.

As the least accessible and most expensive form of land transportation, car-dominated transport eats up a disproportionate amount of working-class income. Rather than promoting cars, unions should be promoting access to employment, lodging and goods by foot, bike or mass transit as this would greatly benefit lower income people, as well as society in general.

But why not "cars for all" some might ask. One important answer is the environment. A transportation system based on the private automobile is simply not sustainable. Preventing global warming requires drastically reducing the number of cars.

But even aside from the critical environmental question cars are bad for ordinary people.

Why we need unions! #HeartUnions

By Admin - A Green Trade unionist in Bristol, February 3, 2016

We are often told that unions have become irrelevant to modern society, or worse that they are in some way negative.

No institution is perfect, but trade unions do amazing work standing up for their members in the workplace and increasingly in the community (see for example the role unions played locally in helping block the environmentally and medically damaging biomass facility in Avonmouth).  Many of us are given negative perceptions of trade unions because of how they are portrayed in the press (usually only ever mentioned if they’ve been forced into industrial action and then only described as militants needlessly causing trouble) and the legacy of the 1970s.

People who are against unions often argue that in the past ‘over mighty union barons’ ‘held the country to ransom’ and would strike ‘at the drop of a hat’. There may be some small germs of truth in this, but this is a gross exaggeration and is in part the result of attempts to undermine the legitimacy of unions and collective action.  Even if this had been the case the situation in modern Britain is so far removed it makes such comparison meaningless.

Today union membership is at a historic low (though it has moderately increased in recent years), as is the power and influence of unions in our society.  They’re even marginalised in the Labour party these days (though this could change under Corbyn).  We already have some of the most restrictive trade union laws in the ‘democratic’ world which are about to get even more restrictive with the governments draconian new strike legislation, making union action very difficult.  Furthermore, no worker ever takes the decision to strike and lose pay lightly (especially with the financial hardship of recent years), and with unions so comparatively weak and increasingly defensive the situation has to be pretty bad before they feel forced to resort to striking.

EcoUnionist News #90

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 9, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Greenwashers:

EcoUnionist News #89

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 2, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistleblowers:

Greenwashers:

No New Runways!

By Ella Gilbert MSc - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 30, 2016

Last week thirteen members of UK direct action group Plane Stupid were found guilty of aggravated trespass and unlawfully entering a restricted area of an aerodrome for their part in an action last July. The #Heathrow13 occupied Heathrow airport’s northern runway for a record-breaking 6 hours, preventing hundreds, if not thousands, of tonnes of CO2 from being emitted. The action took place shortly after the release of the Davies Report, a government-commissioned report on airport expansion in the Southeast that recommended a third runway be built at Heathrow.

There are many issues here: for one thing, the Prime Minister David Cameron promised in a pre-election manifesto not to build a third runway, “no ifs, no buts”. The recommendation for a third runway therefore represents another massive U-turn on the part of the Conservative government, who also once claimed to be part of the ‘greenest government ever’. Meanwhile, the Tories have scrapped subsidies for wind energy, removed feed-in tariffs and support for small-scale community energy projects and given the go-ahead to grant fracking licenses. All of their actions are in direct opposition to the Climate Change Act 2008, a radical piece of legislation that requires the UK to reduce emissions by 80% relative to 1990 by 2050. If we are to meet these (legally binding) targets, aviation cannot be allowed to continue to emit as it does. 

Yet Heathrow is just part of the problem. Building a runway anywhere in the UK will be massively damaging to the environment. Indeed, the Davies Commission investigated three options for expansion, none of which was not to expand at all. This is revealing of the government’s priorities: they would rather lock up peaceful activists and profit from human suffering than lose out on the £7bn a year that Heathrow apparently contributes to the UK economy.

Aviation cannot be readily decarbonised, and is one of the most polluting industries around. The emission of pollutants at cruising altitude makes their effects more pronounced and contributes considerably to climate change. On the ground, emissions of air pollutants like particulate matter and NOx cause severe respiratory illnesses and deaths in the local area. Within the 32km surrounding Heathrow, 31 deaths per year are directly attributable to emissions of NOx from aircraft.

Flying is also a preserve of the wealthy – in the UK, 70% of flights are taken by 15% of people, and only 5% of people globally have ever flown at all. This is a clear demonstration of global and national inequality. The whims of rich leisure flyers are prioritised over the lives and livelihoods of poor people who have to breathe toxic pollutants and lose their homes to rising seas. Aviation also enjoys a privileged status – aviation is not included in any climate negotiations or legislation and aircraft fuel and tickets are exempt from VAT. Imagine that – we live in a country where tampons are considered a luxury item and taxed as such, while a flight to a ski resort is not. The cost of meeting climate targets is never passed on, and airlines continue to get a free ride for exploiting us.

Exploitation is big business. Exploitation of the environment, of resources and of workers. Corporations like Heathrow Airport Ltd. are making billions from an industry that is contributing to premature deaths in the local area and around the world. And of course, it is the poorest people who get hit the hardest, and hit first.

In a capitalist society, a few people control the means of production, and they use this to exert their influence on the majority of people, profiting from their labour. This is a story of inequalities: Heathrow has the power and clout of the judicial system, financial backing, and a PR company behind them, whereas ordinary people have nothing but their bodies and their intellect at their disposal. Direct action is one way of redressing this vast imbalance and wresting back some control.

It scares those in power to think that people might begin to take things into their own hands and make change. That is why an example is being made here. The #Heathrow13 may soon be the first UK climate prisoners, but they certainly won’t be the last. To paraphrase Howard Zinn - action outside the law is essential to democracy. You’ll never change outdated laws without breaking them. We must challenge the capitalist status quo that abuses natural resources and people in equal and devastating measure with what means we have. It will take the sacrifices of thousands of normal people to break oppressive structures that exploit people and the environment, but the tide is turning.

Pages