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.

EcoUnionist News #63

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 1, 2015

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

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

Rail workers score big safety win in California

By Mark Gruenberg - People's World, August 26, 2015

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.

Rail workers scored a big safety win in California on August 21 as state lawmakers gave final approval to a bill mandating two-person crews on all freight trains.

The measure, pushed by the Teamsters and their California affiliates, the Rail Division of SMART - the former United Transportation Union - and the state labor federation, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., who is expected to sign it.

Rail unions nationwide have been pushing for the two-person crews while the rail carriers have been pushing for just one, an engineer. Several months ago, the head of one carrier, the Burlington Northern, advocated crewless freights.

The unionists told lawmakers presence of a second crew member would cut down on horrific crashes such as the one that obliterated downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, two years ago. Then, a runaway oil train crashed and exploded, killing 47 people. That train had only an engineer. There has been a string of similar U.S. accidents since, especially of oil-carrying trains. Recent oil train accidents were near Galena, Ill., Lynchburg, Va., and in West Virginia.

The proposed California statute requires trains and light engines carrying freight within the nation's largest state - home to one of every eight Americans - to be operated with "an adequate crew size," reported Railroad Workers United, a coalition of rank-and-file rail workers from SMART, the Teamsters and other unions.

The minimum adequate crew size, the bill says, is two. Railroads that break the law would face fines and other penalties from the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission supported the bill, SB730.

The Tianjin Explosion: A Tragedy of Profit, Corruption, and China’s Complicated Transition

By Yixi - chuangcn.org, August 21, 2015

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.

Late into the night on August 12, two massive explosions rocked the Port of Tianjin, immediately killing dozens and injuring hundreds of people. The explosions appear to have been caused by several hundred tons of unsafely stored sodium cyanide, in the container storage lot of Ruihai Logistics, a firm specializing in the transport and storage of hazardous materials.[1] As of 9am August 19, 114 people were confirmed dead, among them 19 Public Security Bureau firefighters, 34 port firefighters, and 7 police officers; a further 65 people are missing, while 674 have been hospitalized.[2] While public organs and journalists continue to investigate the exact causes of the blast, the backstory to the tragedy has gradually come to light. Ruihai, its insecure workers, the frantic development of the Port of Tianjin, and the especially severe abuses of power resulting from a powerful state bureau turning into a capitalist enterprise – all these are parts of the picture.

The Port of Tianjin

If an explosion were to happen at any port in China, Tianjin would have been a likely candidate. Handling more than 477 million tons of cargo and 13 million TEUs in 2013, Tianjin is the 3rd busiest port by raw tonnage and 10th busiest container port in the world.[3] It has a long history as a major trading port in China: an important foreign concession forced open in the Second Opium war, it continued to function as a major port during the socialist era, and then grew by leaps and bounds after “Reform and Opening” (economic liberalization) began in 1978. Tianjin is the closest major port to Beijing, and part of the important Bohai Economic Zone, one of the three clusters of economic development—along with the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta—that have benefited most from China’s economic liberalization. For Tianjin and its port, the past thirty years of reform have meant explosive and sometimes careless growth.

The chemical industry that erupted last week arose as Tianjin began to avidly court foreign investment. On May 12, 1991, with the approval of the State Council, the Tianjin port became the site of a bonded zone—the largest in Northern China, measuring 5 square kilometers. Since its founding, the Tianjin Port Bonded Zone has maintained a startling annual growth rate of over 30% per year, and is now home to more than 500 logistics companies and 3000 trading companies, maintaining regular trade ties with over 100 countries. It functions as an international trading center, a logistics center, a port-side processing zone, and a sales and exhibition center. Operating in the zone comes with tax, customs, and foreign exchange benefits. The cheap labor and investment incentives in the Tianjin Bonded have attracted well-known chemical companies to invest in the area, inviting clusters of dangerous chemical factories into the city. The chemical and hazardous chemicals industry has become one of the ten major industries in the Tianjin Bonded Zone, home also to heavy industries like steel and auto. [4]

Chemical factories have recently become a hot topic for environmentalist and NIMBY-style civilian protests—famously in Wukan in 2012, and in Shanghai this year. But logistics centers, where these foreign-bound chemicals are shipped in and out, are less visible yet even more dangerous nodes in the supply chains of global chemically-dependent industry. Tianjin is a reminder of this reality.

Manifesto: Act to Stop Climate Crimes!

Freeze fossil fuel extraction to stop climate crimes!

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.

We are at a crossroads. We do not want to be compelled to survive in a world that has been made barely livable for us. From South Pacific Islands to the shores of Louisiana, from the Maldives to the Sahel, from Greenland to the Alps, the daily lives of millions of us are already being disrupted by the consequences of climate change. Through ocean acidification, the submersion of South Pacific Islands, forced migration in the Indian Subcontinent and Africa, frequent storms and hurricanes, the current ecocide affects all species and ecosystems, threatening the rights of future generations. And we are not equally impacted by climate change: Indigenous and peasant communities, poor communities in the global South and in the global North are at the frontlines and most affected by these and other impacts of climate disruption.

We are not under any illusions. For more than 20 years, governments have been meeting, yet greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased and the climate keeps changing. The forces of inertia and obstruction prevail, even as scientific warnings become ever more dire.

This comes as no surprise. Decades of liberalization of trade and investments have undermined the capacity of states to confront the climate crisis. At every stage powerful forces – fossil fuel corporations, agro-business companies, financial institutions, dogmatic economists, skeptics and deniers, and governments in the thrall of these interests – stand in the way or promote false solutions. Ninety companies are responsible for two-thirds of recorded greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Genuine responses to climate change threatens their power and wealth, threatens free market ideology, and threatens the structures and subsidies that support and underwrite them.

We know that global corporations and governments will not give up the profits they reap through the extraction of coal, gas and oil reserves; and through global fossil fuel-based industrial agriculture. Our continuing ability to act, think, love, care, work, create, produce, contemplate, struggle, however, demands that we force them to. To be able to continue to thrive as communities, individuals and citizens, we all must strive for change. Our common humanity and the Earth demand it.

We are confident in our capacity to stop climate crimes. In the past, determined women and men have resisted and overcome the crimes of slavery, totalitarianism, colonialism or apartheid. They decided to fight for justice and solidarity and knew no one would do it for them. Climate change is a similar challenge, and we are nurturing a similar uprising.

We are working to change everything. We can open the way to a more livable future, and our actions are much more powerful than we think. Around the world, our communities are fighting against the real drivers of the climate crisis, protecting territories, working to reduce their emissions, building their resilience, achieving food autonomy through small scale ecological farming, etc.

On the eve of the UN Climate Conference to be held in Paris-Le Bourget, we declare our determination to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This is the only way forward.

Concretely, governments have to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and to freeze fossil fuel extraction by leaving untouched 80% of all existing fossil fuel reserves.

We know that this implies a great historical shift. We will not wait for states to make it happen. Slavery and apartheid did not end because states decided to abolish them. Mass mobilisations left political leaders no other choice.

The situation today is precarious. We have, however, a unique opportunity to reinvigorate democracy, to dismantle the dominance of corporate political power, to transform radically our modes of production and consumption. Ending the era of fossil fuels is one important step towards the fair and sustainable society we need.

We will not waste this opportunity, in Paris or elsewhere, today or tomorrow.

Add your signature to this Manifesto at 350.org or at Attac

Strawberry Jam

By Frank Bardacke - Stansbury Forum, August 12, 2015

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 April, 1993 Cesar Chavez died. In October, 1995, John Sweeney became the President of the AFL-CIO. Although the Arturo Rodriguez-led UFW was a minor supporter of Sweeney at the convention that elected him, nothing connected Cesar’s death to Sweeney’s election. But without the conjunction of those two events, there would have been no UFW/AFL-CIO strawberry campaign. Its very existence was rooted in happenstance. That should not surprise anyone interested in politics. Machiavelli claimed that half of politics was luck, or as he called it, fortuna. In the case of the strawberry campaign, at first it seemed like good luck, but by the end, for those who hoped for UFW and AFL-CIO renewal, it was surely bad.

In her eulogy at Cesar’s funeral, Dolores Huerta declared that Cesar died so that the UFW might live. It is a dubious claim—there is no indication of a Chavez suicide—but her meaning was not lost on many of the mourners. Under Cesar’s direction, the UFW had backed off organizing farm workers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, had lost most of its contracts by the mid-80s, and was, at the time of his death, no longer a force in the fields but rather a cross between a farm worker advocacy group and a mid-sized family business. As long as Chavez was alive that was not likely to change. Once he was gone, the UFW was free to make an effort to get back in the fields again.

They began, as they had to, by trying to improve their reputation among undocumented workers. Originally a union of mostly Mexican-American grape pickers, they had officially opposed “illegals” in the fields before 1975, championing the use of the Border Patrol against them and even setting up their own patrol on the Arizona border for a few months in 1974. That policy changed in 1975 with the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA), which made all farm workers, including the undocumented, eligible to vote in farm worker elections. But the changed policy never completely undid the original damage, and since the leadership of the union in the early 1990s continued to be Mexican-American and there were, by then, few Mexican farm workers left in the union, the UFW was considered by many farm workers, a “pocho” (slang used by Mexicans to describe Mexican-Americans) organization.

Thus, the UFW’s first step back into the fields was to take a leadership role against Proposition 187, the 1994 California initiative that denied State benefits to the undocumented and their children. Having made their new sympathy for the undocumented clear, the union won a new contract in the Central Valley roses, fought a victorious campaign in the mushrooms, and even signed a vegetable contract with their old nemesis, Bruce Church Inc. (although on close inspection the contract seemed to cover only a small percentage of Bruce Church workers). In 1995, the UFW leadership was lathered up, in the starting gate, and ready to race.

John Sweeney was also ready to go. Having won the AFL-CIO presidency with a rousing pledge to replace the conservative ways of the old bureaucracy with a new aggressive campaign to organize the unorganized, he was looking for an easy early victory. The UFW seemed to promise one. Relying on Rodriguez’s account of UFW popularity in the fields, and with no alternative assessment available, he went all in, put other organizing on hold, and committed his troops to what promised to be an opening victory for the New Voice coalition. As Gilbert Mireles, author of a pretty good (but also the only) book on the campaign, puts it: “It was almost inconceivable [to the strategists at the top] that workers would not be in favor of the union.”

Mass Incarceration vs. Rural Appalachia

By Panagioti Tsolkas - Earth Island Journal, August 24, 2015

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.

Feds want to build a maximum-security prison on top of a former mountaintop removal mining site in eastern Kentucky

For all practical purposes the [Cumberland Plateau] has long constituted a colonial appendage of the industrial East and Middle West, rather than an integral part of the nation generally. The decades of exploitation have in large measure drained the region.

Harry M. Caudill, author, historian, lawyer, legislator, and environmentalist from Letcher County, in the coalfields of southeastern Kentucky (May 3, 1922 – November 29, 1990)

The United States Bureau of Prisons is trying to build a new, massive maximum-security prison in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky — and there’s a growing movement to stop it.

The prison industry in the US has grown in leaps and bounds in the past 20 years— a new prison was built at an average rate of one every two weeks in the ’90s, almost entirely in rural communities. As of 2002, there were already more prisoners in this country than farmers. The industry seems like an unstoppable machine, plowing forward at breakneck speed on the path that made the world’s largest prison population.

Today, about 716 of every 100,000 Americans are in prison. Prisoners in nations across the world average at 155 per 100,000 people. And in the US, Southern states rule the chart. Viewing these states as countries themselves, Kentucky ranks at lucky number seven.

“Sounds terrible…” you may be thinking, “But what does it have to do with the environment?”

Well, this seemingly impenetrable multi-billion dollar bi-partisan government-driven industry does have a weak point: it’s a well-verified ecological mess. For a 10-year period of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Prison Initiative, prison after prison that the EPA’s inspected in the Mid-Atlantic region was plagued with violations. Violations included air and water pollution, inadequate hazardous waste management and failing spill control prevention for toxic materials.

From the initial breaking ground on construction in rural and wild places to the inevitable sewage problem from operating chronically over-populated facilities — running a prison is dirty business. And when you factor in the plethora of environmental justice issues facing the prisoners, disproportionately low-income and people of color, it becomes an outright nightmare.

Klein vs. Klein

By Out of the Woods - The New Inquiry, January 7, 2015

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.

This Changes Everything is a book capacious enough to allow Naomi Klein two positions at once. But a real climate-justice movement will at some point have to make choices.

Naomi Klein’s success pulls her in two directions. To some, her decades-long failure to produce “proper” theory as well as writing scintillating and successful books has been an affront. On her Reddit AMA she’s said her writing “will never be enough for hyper-sectarian Marxists, and I’m cool with that.” Perhaps it was her bad luck that Slavoj Žižek had begun to use the phrase “shock therapy, in the Naomi Klein sense.” Both No Logo, published just after Seattle’s WTO conflagration in 1999, and 2007’s The Shock Doctrine, which named “a fifty-year campaign for total corporate liberation,” were seminal, highly readable accounts of consumerism and neoliberalism, and (primarily) vindications of mostly unvictorious struggles against their encroachment across the globe, in which she participated. The anglophone world is now just beginning to digest her latest, an ecological magnum opus, and its eagerly anticipated castigation of the mainstream environmental movement.

Klein’s Twitter bio now claims “they say I’m polarizing.” In fact, the responses to This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate, have been unequivocally enthusiastic. The New York Times published one such, which asked only: “what’s with the subtitle? (…) Klein is smart and pragmatic enough to shun the never-never land of capitalism’s global overthrow.” Even the right-wing Telegraph was content to praise someone it clearly saw as “no advocate of socialism.” Opening This Changes Everything, Klein says that “this is the hardest book I’ve ever written, precisely because the research has led me to search out such radical responses.” Yet these radical responses have been warmly embraced by the center. The establishment, if it is trembling, is hiding it well.

Indeed, her difficulty writing it seems to have led to apparent contradictions. Klein supports proposals to create millions of green jobs and liberate people from work. She advocates rapid fossil fuel abolition and a welfare state funded by taxes on fossil fuel profits. She takes aim at the profit motive and endorses small local businesses as the fabric of the community. Rather than make accusations of confusion or hypocrisy, let’s take seriously her claim to have been pushed into radical positions by the urgency and severity of the climate crisis, and propose that, instead, two divergent Naomi Kleins have been formed who together make up the author of This Changes Everything.

Back to the future for work

By Andrew Curry - The Next Wave, August 20, 2015

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.

Most discussion of the future of work assumes that the work, or the lack of it, is our coming problem. But what if we’ve got the question the wrong way around? What if we’re slowly, or not so slowly, giving up on the idea of work? After all, we all know that most work is dull. And even the interesting stuff is exploitative, somewhere along the line.

The thought struck me while reading Dan Hancox’ book The Village Against The World, about the anarcho-syndicalist village of Marinaleda, in Andalusia. After 20 years of intense political struggle, the village won some land for itself, and later added some food processing plants. Unemployment there is five or six per cent, a fraction of the level in other parts of Andalusia. But the young people, generally, are less willing to work in either. Work in the fields is hard; work in the processing plants is boring. And this is, pretty much, a universal truth.

In The Village Against The World, a young woman called Christina who lives part-time in the village and part time in the larger town of Estapa explains it to Hancox this way:

“A thousand euros a month is fine – 1,200 euros a month is pretty good.” We were talking about the mileuristas, her generation, so called because they had learned to get by on a one thousand euros a month. Christina was living with her mother in Marinaleda while also renting a room in a flat in Estapa, where she works as a teacher some of the week.

A thousand euros a month is about £750 or $1,400; not a lot, in other words. Spain, of course, has an acute version of this problem. But even if it an outlier, it is not unusual. The labour contract with capitalism is breaking down.

Murray Bookchin: The Bernie Sanders Paradox: When Socialism Grows Old (1986)

By Murray Bookchin - Socialist Review issue 90, November & December 1986

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 posters that appeared all over Burlington — Vermont’s largest city (pop: 37,000) in the winter of 1980-81 were arresting and provocative. They showed an old map of the city with a label slapped across it that read: “For Sale.” A bold slogan across the top, in turn, proclaimed that “Burlington Is Not for Sale,” and smiling amiably in the right-hand corner was the youngish, fairly well-known face of Bernard Sanders, sans tie, open-collared, almost endearingly shy and unpretentious. The onlooker was enjoined to rescue Burlington by voting for “Bernie” Sanders for mayor. Sanders, the long-time gubernatorial candidate of Vermont’s maverick Liberty Union, was now challenging “Gordie” Paquette, an inert Democratic fixture in City Hall, who had successfully fended off equally inert Republican opponents for nearly a decade.

That Sanders won this election on March 3, 1981, by only ten votes is now a Vermont legend that has percolated throughout the country over the past five years. What gives Sanders almost legendary qualities as a mayor and politician is that he proclaims himself to be a socialist — to many admiring acolytes, a Marxist — who is now in the midpoint of a third term after rolling up huge margins in two previous elections. From a ten-vote lead to some fifty-two percent of the electorate, Sanders has ballooned out of Burlington in a flurry of civic tournaments that variously cast him as a working-class hero or a demonic “Bolshevik.” His victories now make the New York Times and his trips outside of Burlington take him to places as far as Managua, where he has visited with Daniel Ortega, and to Monthly Review fundraising banquets, where he rubs shoulders with New York’s radical elite. Sanders has even been invited to the Socialist Scholar’s Conference, an offer he wisely declined. Neither scholarship nor theory is a Sanders forte. If socialist he be, he is of the “bread-and-butter” kind whose preference for “realism” over ideals has earned him notoriety even within his closest co-workers in City Hall.

The criss-crossing lines that deface almost every serious attempt to draw an intelligible sketch of the Sanders administration and its meaning for radicals result from a deep-seated paradox in “bread-and-butter” socialism itself. It trivializes this larger issue to deal with Sanders merely as a personality or to evaluate his achievements in the stark terms of lavish praise or damning blame. A sophomoric tribute to Sanders’ doings in the Monthly Review of a year ago was as maladroit as the thundering letters of denunciation that appear in the Burlington Free Press. Sanders fits neither the heaven-sent roles he is given in radical monthlies nor the demonic ones he acquires in conservative letters to moderate dailies.

To dwell heavily on his well-known paranoia and suspicious reclusiveness beclouds the more important fact that he is a centralist, who is more committed to accumulating power in the mayor’s office than giving it to the people. To spoof him for his unadorned speech and macho manner is to ignore the fact that his notions of a “class analysis” are narrowly productivist and would embarrass a Lenin, not to mention a Marx. To mock his stolid behavior and the surprising conventionality of his values is to conceal his commitment to thirties’ belief in technological progress, businesslike efficiency, and a naive adherence to the benefits of “growth.” The logic of all these ideas is that democratic practice is seen as secondary to a full belly, the earthy proletariat tends to be eulogized over the “effete” intellectuals, and environmental, feminist, and communitarian issues are regarded as “petit-bourgeois” frivolities by comparison with the material needs of “working people.” Whether the two sides of this “balance sheet” need be placed at odds with each other is a problem that neither Sanders nor many radicals of his kind have fully resolved. The tragedy is that Sanders did not live out his life between 1870 and 1940, and the paradox that faces him is: why does a constellation of ideas that seemed so rebellious fifty years ago appear to be so conservative today? This, let me note, is not only Sanders’ problem. It is one that confronts a very sizable part of the left today.

Pages