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.

Ambition and Smoke, Love and Courage: What to Expect from the Climate Treaty Negotiations in Paris

By John Foran - System Change not Climate Change, November 26, 2015

The most important question raised by the climate summit may be: Does the power to change the world belong to the people in the conference rooms of Le Bourget or to the people in the streets of Paris?” – Rebecca Solnit, “Power in Paris

The Paris COP 21 UN climate summit is upon us, now, starting on Monday, November 30.  I have spent the last year, ever since the dust of Lima was wiped from my shoes, trying my best to get a grasp on what was going to happen and communicating what I found out to all interested parties.  This has led to two long pieces, “Just Say ‘No’ to the Paris COP:  A Possible Way to Win Something for Climate Justice” and “A History of the Climate Negotiations in Six Videos.”

In the last two months, the world’s attention has really started to focus on climate, the COP, and the possibilities and probabilities of “success” and (gasp!) “failure.”  The murder of 129 people in the streets of Paris on Friday, November 13, has only trained hearts and minds more on this ground zero in the interlaced struggles for peace on Earth with justice.

Within twenty-four hours, the French government and the UNFCCC had reassured us that the COP would proceed exactly as planned, with added layers of security.  The incredible and creative plans of civil society for making sure that the world’s demand for climate justice will be heard in Paris hung in the balance until the government of François Hollande made it known that the twin bookends of our strategy – the massive march on Sunday, November 29 and the nonviolent civil disobedience and other acts of protest scheduled for the outcome of the COP on Friday and Saturday, December 11 and 12 – would be prohibited from occurring.

A COP without the full-throated participation of global civil society, however, has a less than zero chance of succeeding, whatever that nebulous term connotes.  Just as the COP must go on, so, too, will we, the countless members of the global climate justice movement, whether marching under that banner in Paris or simply showing up in our hearts and heads.

But the carefully prepared script that global elites have been busy writing for Paris may not end up to end the way they think, and here’s why.

Paris: closed to civil society, open to greenwashers

By Pascoe Sabido - New Internationalist, November 24, 2015

Image, right: In preparation for the Paris climate talks Philippines groups launch climate justice march. 350.org / AC Dimatatac under a Creative Commons Licence

In the days after the tragic events on 13 November in Paris, everything concerning the climate talks was in limbo. A state of emergency was called. Would the summit go ahead at all? What would it mean for the mass mobilizations being planned?

The week that followed has seen the state of emergency extended for three months and the government ban all demonstrations. Not just the big demos, but any gathering of more than two people bearing a political message. The political message behind that decision is clear: the government is criminalizing social movements and supressing dissent. Christmas markets, football matches, other mass public events can take place; it’s the politics that’s the problem.

While the government has clamped down on political expression from civil society, its support for big business shindigs has not waivered.

The first tweet to come from the official COP21 account following the attacks claimed that ‘Paris is still standing and ready for COP21’, and linked directly to a statement from the Solutions COP21 corporate-expo.

The organizers of the event claimed the attack ‘was an attack against life, youth, friendliness and culture, thus targeting our capacity to live together’ but that their event was ‘a direct answer to all those who are willing to add a concrete contribution toward the evolution of our societies following a positive and equitable approach, and to foster solidarity toward those in need, besides preserving our quality of life.’

What they fail to mention is that Solutions COP21 is a platform for some of the world’s most socially and environmentally destructive corporations, whose business models constantly attack life, youth, friendliness, solidarity and any notion of an equitable approach.

Sponsored by the likes of dirty energy giant Engie (formerly GDF Suez, also an official sponsor of COP21) alongside fracking enthusiast Suez Environment and agrofuels giant Avril-Sofiproteol, the event at the Grand Palais will also welcome Vinci, the company behind the proposed airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, coal financiers HSBC and BNP Paribas, and Coca-Cola, among many others.

As the organizers are proud to admit, corporate climate criminals will be joined inside the event by small and medium enterprises, NGOs (some of whom have pulled out after public pressure) and international artists (some of whom have refused to pull out on discovering the true nature of the event).

Such an ensemble lends a veneer of respectability that money can’t buy. But what it can buy is political access. Corporate packages ranging up to $266,000 ensure you don’t have to settle for mere exhibition space but can have VIP access to networking areas with negotiators and politicians, as well as guaranteed TV coverage.

In short, the French government has put its weight behind a corporate greenwashing event for the biggest polluters to push their false solutions – such as fracking, nuclear energy, GMOs and market-based solutions – at the same time as silencing those very communities coming to Paris to denounce such destructive business practices and the fatal impacts they have on the ground.

Before the attacks took place, there was already a public call for mass civil disobedience against (false) Solutions COP21, coming from a diverse range of organizations including ATTAC France, Via Campesina, the trade union Solidaires, the grassroots activist networks Climate Justice Action and the JEDIs, Sortir du Nucleaire and Corporate Europe Observatory. Huge uncertainty followed, but hearing the response from both the organizers of Solutions COP21 and the French government, it now feels more important than ever for the mobilization to take place.

The fight for climate justice is intertwined with the fight for peace, not just in Europe but in communities around the world facing violence and terror as a result of our extractivist economic model.

If the French government thinks that events in the Grand Palais are more important than the voices of those on the frontline fighting climate change and its causes, then that’s where their message needs to be delivered.

If you are in Paris on Friday 4 December, make your way to the venue from 10.00am, where guides will take you on a ‘toxic tour’ around the expo with representatives of frontline communities as they call out the false solutions on offer. Meanwhile, creative acts of civil disobedience are planned to stop the event from staying open.

As others in the climate movement have said already, now is not the time to stay silent. No-one intends to.

Using Violation Tracker to Analyze Workplace Safety and Labor Relations

By Phil Mattera - Dirt Digger's Digest, November 5, 2015

It’s widely known that BP has a terrible workplace safety record, especially at its Texas City refinery, where 15 workers were killed in a 2005 explosion blamed in large part on management. In 2010 BP had to pay a record $50 million to settle OSHA allegations relating to the incident and the serious deficiencies in its subsequent remediation efforts.

Figuring out which other companies have created the greatest hazards for their workers has been more difficult — until now, that is. Violation Tracker, a new database on corporate misconduct, brings together information on some 100,000 environmental, health and safety cases filed by OSHA and a dozen other federal regulatory agencies since 2010. The database links the companies involved in the individual cases to their corporate parents, and the penalties are aggregated. Here I look at the largest OSHA violators identified by Violation Tracker and discuss a key characteristic they tend to have in common.

Companies with the most OSHA penalties, 2010-August 2015

  • BP: $63,860,860
  • Louis Dreyfus (parent of Imperial Sugar): $6,063,600
  • Republic Steel: $2,635,000
  • Tesoro: $2,532,355
  • Olivet Management: $2,359,000
  • Dollar Tree: $2,153,585
  • Ashley Furniture: $1,869,745
  • Kehrer Brothers Construction: $1,822,800
  • Renco: $1,535,475
  • Black Mag LLC: $1,218,500

(Source: Violation Tracker. Amounts are totals of “current penalties” for serious, willful or repeated violations of $5,000 or more after any negotiated reductions in OSHA’s initial proposed fines.)

Last February, members of the United Steelworkers union walked off the job at BP refineries in Ohio and Indiana as part of a strike focusing on safety problems in the industry. USW president Leo Girard stated at the time: “Management cannot continue to resist allowing workers a stronger voice on issues that could very well make the difference between life and death for too many of them.” BP’s $63 million in OSHA fines and settlements since 2010, far more than any other company, have put it at the forefront of that deadly resistance.

Tesoro, another unionized oil refiner criticized by the USW for its safety shortcomings, has the fourth highest OSHA penalty total ($2.5 million) among the companies in Violation Tracker. In 2014 the union called on the company to develop a “comprehensive, cohesive safety program” after an accident at a California refinery in which two workers were seriously injured. The USW also took the company to task for disputing a report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board citing “safety culture deficiencies” among the causes of a 2010 explosion at a Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington that killed seven workers.

Kehrer Brothers Construction, on the top-ten list of OSHA violators with $1.8 million in penalties, is nominally a union contractor, but it was the subject of a 2010 lawsuit by the Roofers union complaining about wage theft. Earlier this year, OSHA accused the company of bringing in non-English speaking workers under H-2B visas and knowingly exposing them to asbestos on the job.

Not all of the largest OSHA violators are rogue unionized employers. Some are firms that have managed to keep unions out. Chief among those is Imperial Sugar, which in 2010 had to pay $6 million to settle more than 120 violations linked to a 2008 explosion at its non-union plant in Port Wentworth, Georgia that killed 14 people and seriously injured dozens of others. (Imperial, acquired by Louis Dreyfus in 2012, had unions at some of its other facilities.)

Dollar Tree, which has racked up more than $2 million in OSHA fines since 2010, is one of the large deep-discount retailers that target the portion of the population that cannot afford to shop at Walmart. The non-union chain has been cited repeatedly for piling boxes in storage areas of its stores to dangerous heights and blocking emergency exits.

Ashley Furniture was fined $1.8 million by OSHA earlier this year at its non-union plant in Arcadia, Wisconsin for 38 willful, serious or repeated violations stemming from the company’s failure to protect workers from moving equipment parts. One worker lost three fingers while operating a woodworking machine lacking required safety protections. OSHA recently proposed another $431,000 in fines for similar problems at another Ashley facility in Wisconsin.

A more obscure company in the OSHA top ten is Olivet Management, a real estate developer fined more than $2.3 million for exposing its own workers and contractor employees to asbestos and lead during clean-up activities at the site of the former Hudson Valley Psychiatric Center in Dover Plains, New York. The company was created by Olivet University, which calls itself “a private Christian institution of biblical higher education.”

There’s a smaller third category of top OSHA violators, represented by Republic Steel: a company with decent union relations that appears to have gotten sloppy in its safety practices. In 2014 Republic agreed to pay $2.4 million as part of a settlement with OSHA resolving violations at its facilities in Ohio and New York. The settlement, which also involved the creation of a comprehensive illness and injury prevention program, was praised by the USW. Yet this year Republic was fined another $162,400 for repeated and serious violations at its plant in Lorain, Ohio.

The lesson of all this seems to be that workers face the greatest hazards in non-union companies and rogue unionized firms, but they also need to be vigilant in workplaces with decent labor-management relations.

In November, We Write Letters in Solidarity

By Peter Moore - Ottawa IWW, November 19, 2015

Prisoners Who Need Our Support

After the 2014 release of all the G-20 prisoners, there remain two long-term prisoners who deserve our support.

Please send a letter to Fellow Worker Marius Mason and our union’s friend, Leonard Pelletier.

Remind them who is out there for them.

Leonard Peltier #89637-132
USP Coleman I
P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521

Case information: http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/

Marie Mason #04672-061
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

Case information: http://freemarie.org/

Please address letters to “Marie (Marius) Mason.”

Under no circumstances mention any illegal acts. Letters that mention other Green Scare prisoners may be rejected.

Marius has a list of 100 pre-approved people he can write to; this means he will be able to receive your letter but until your name is added to his list he cannot write back.  Marius can request people to be added/removed but this takes time and is not always granted.

EcoUnionist News #77

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 24, 2015

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

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Road to Paris:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

An International Farmers Alliance Links Climate Change to Industrial Agriculture

By La Via Campesina - In These Times, November 17, 2015

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agriculture is responsible for a major portion of the increase of greenhouse gases. Not all agriculture has the same impact, however—the vast majority of the effect comes from the post WWII industrial agricultural system.

This system—an agricultural model based on capital concentration, high fossil energy consumption, overproduction, consumerism and trade liberalization—has put our planet’s ecosystems at risk and pushed human communities toward disaster. 

Industrialized countries and the industrialization of agriculture are the biggest contributors to global warming, but it is farmers and rural communities—especially in developing countries—that are among the first to suffer from climate change. Changing weather patterns bring unknown pests along with unusual droughts, floods and storms, destroying crops, farmlands, farmstock and farmer’s houses. Moreover, plants, animal species and marine life are threatened or disappearing at an unprecedented pace due to the combined effects of warming and industrial exploitation. It is estimated that by 2080, Latin America will likely see a 24.3 percent decline agricultural yields, Asia 19.3 percent and Africa 27.5 percent. Life at large is endangered by the decreasing availability of fresh water resources. By 2050 an estimated 4 billion people will live in highly water-stressed environments.

In tropical regions, global warming is likely to lead to a serious decline in agricultural production and to the acceleration of the desertification of farmland. On the other hand, vast regions of Russia and Canada will turn into cropland for the first time in human history. Yet it is still unknown how these regions will be able to grow crops. Farmers have to adjust to these changes by adapting their seeds and usual production systems to an unpredictable situation.

What is expected is that millions of farmers will be displaced from the land. Such shifting is regarded by industry as a business opportunity to increase food exports and imports, when the reality is that hunger and dependency will only increase around the world.

Via Campesina, a transcontinental movement bringing together of small farmers and producers, asserts that it is time to radically change the industrial way to produce, transform, trade and consume food and agricultural products. We believe that sustainable small-scale farming and local food consumption will help reverse the devastation and support millions of farming families. Agriculture can also cool down the earth by using farming practices that store CO2 and reduce the use of energy on farms.

ITUC calls on workers to join climate rallies in support of Paris climate justice

Press Release - International Trade Union Confederation, November 19, 2015

With the climate summit taking place in ten days in Paris, the ITUC issues a renewed call to all its members to take to the streets for climate justice in countries around the world.

“The cancelation of Paris marches and demonstrations based on security concerns adds one more reason for workers to show that no wall can be built between immediate problems and so-called long-term ones: climate change is already happening and destroying jobs and communities,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

The union movement is heavily involved in the organisation of the 28-29 November marches in Spain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia, and dozens of national centres, sectoral federations and local unions are bringing workers together to show social justice is climate justice.

“Workers and their unions stand for decent jobs, social justice and prosperity for all, and the fight against climate change is about all those,” said Burrow.

Trade unions from around the world will still come to Paris and join its French counterparts as well as other social movements and organisations in the COP21 as well as for the Trade Union Climate Forum, part of which will be held in the Citizens’ Summit in Montreuil.

“Even without the Paris demonstrations, politicians will not be left off the hook. Our voices will be stronger than ever in calling for a climate deal that must protect people and the planet,” concluded Sharan Burrow.

Union members are asked to wear green hard hats in the rallies to show support for jobs and climate action. Hard hats can be personalised with stickers available from the ITUC.

Resist the Climate Coup d’Etat! Paris COP21 Protests Still On

By Alexander Reid Ross - Earth First! Newswire, November 19, 2015

Although Syrian refugees are still being blamed for the Paris attacks, the news that the attackers were all European nationals seems only to have created a growing sense of disquiet. It’s as if some sense of purpose has been lost with cavalier bravado that always obscures the chauvinism staring plainly back at the West through the mirror of “the Orient.”

Lost on many is the fact that NATO powers helped to fuel the conflict in Syria and ensuing growth of ISIS. Lost on many more is the accelerant that climate change has become, creating systems of drought and despair in Syria and throughout the world that feed the conditions of civil war. Solving climate change would provide an important key to liberate those struggling for global justice, because it would come from them.

At this point, domestic questions begin to arise, and answers do not come easily for the bomb-dropping President of the French Fifth Republic whose imperial policies are so clearly part of the problem. He has agreed to allow Syrian refugees into France regardless of the notorious ressentiment of the radical right. However, his government has also used the attacks as convenient leverage to attempt to preemptively disperse protests for the upcoming Paris Conference of Parties (COP21), slated to take place November 30 to December 11.

‘This Changes Everything’: What the Paris attacks mean for the climate protests

By Claire Fauset - New Internationalist, November 17, 2015

Key organizers are pushing for the climate marches and protests to go ahead in Paris despite threats of a government clampdown (see November 16, 2015 press statements by 350.org and Climate Coalition 21). Claire Fauset, one of many climate justice activists planning to attend the talks, explains why it’s more important than ever to take action in Paris. Image "To change everything it takes everyone" by 350.org, copied under a Creative Commons Licence.

This changes everything. The title of Naomi Klein's book on the urgency of the fight to stop capitalism destroying our planet was the phrase that immediately came to mind as the horror of the Paris terror attacks settled on my brain last Friday night. I was with friends recording poems and snippets for a radio project during the climate summit, and all our thoughts were already in Paris.

My mind raced like a movie montage of paranoiac dystopianism. Remembering that day in 2001 when, while planning for a campaign against the World Trade Organization, the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground. Remembering the fear, not of terrorism, not of Islam, not of getting on a plane, but of war, xenophobia, repression, and spiralling cycles of violence. Fearing now what this attack means for a Europe already swinging to the right and restricting freedom of movement in the desperate hope of stemming the tide of people fleeing the wars and poverty for which Europe itself is partly responsible. And fearing the growth of the unthinking, poisonous prejudice that values white lives over the lives of people of colour in Beirut, Baghdad, Syria and everywhere.

And of course my fears were for our mobilizations around the climate summit. Will it even happen? Are we mobilizing people to be an easy target for terrorists in a heavily militarized state? Will climate change even be on the agenda? This changes everything.

Climate change is a greater threat than terrorism, we said, in those innocent days only a week ago. And it is. And the two are interconnected. The war in Syria is thought to be partly sparked by a drought, linked to climate change. And resource dependency – specifically oil – is what is buying the guns for the Islamic State. Climate change is a greater threat, but terrorism certainly has the ability to overshadow other issues by its immediacy and horror. Our intention was to go onto the streets of Paris when the summit fails, as it inevitably will, to reach an agreement that has a hope of keeping us within a 1.5 degree temperature rise, to take to the streets and take the last word. But how can we realistically hope to take the last word with our barricades when the first word has been so devastatingly stolen by the terrorists?

Right now social movements are trying to get their heads around what these attacks mean for resistance to the corporate agenda that hijacked the climate talks long before IS hijacked the Bataclan concert hall. We know that the summit will go ahead, but there are strong indications that marches and protests may be banned as a state of emergency is extended to cover the talks.

Paris is a traumatized city. We should not stay silent about the climate crisis, but our resistance must show empathy and solidarity, both with those affected by the attacks and those targeted by the fear, racism and paranoia that now follows. More than ever this is a time for solidarity and a rejection of false 'solutions'. The COP process over the past 20 years has led to a worsening of the climate crisis and a rise rather than reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the war on terror has led to more terror – in Beirut and Baghdad as well as Paris – and to a refugee crisis that leaves dead bodies washing up on Europe's shores. The same logic underlies both of these failures. A logic of maintaining the status quo, of protecting our economic interests at all costs, of ignoring the historical and current ways in which the West is deeply implicated in the root causes of the problem. In this moment of fear and uncertainty, of multiple crises sweeping the globe, a movement for justice, equality, anti-oppression, for a liveable planet and for a change to the system based on greed and exploitation is ever more needed.

Now is not the time to stay silent.