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.

Appeal from Railroad Workers United: No Single Employee Crews!

Public Comment Period Extended to June 15th at 11:59 PM EDT 

Tell the FRA:

"No Single Employee Train Crews!"

Email Your Message today!

Dear RWU Members & Supporters:

On March 15th, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) offricially announced a Proposed Rule on the whole question of crew staffing for trains in the United States. After careful consideration, RWU has come to the only conclusion possible: the Proposed Rule provides a road map for any and all rail carriers to obtain the FRA's blessing to run trains with a single employee. Therefore, RWU cannot support this Proposed Rule, period.

We continue to agree with the joint statement from nearly 7 years ago that the BLET and the UTU made in a joint Petition filed in June 2009 with the FRA on the question of traincrew  staffing which reads: “No conditions exist where one-person operations are safe.”  And since the Proposed Rule is predicated on the "safe" operation of trains with a single crew member, we must urge the FRA to promulgate a Rule that outlaws the practice. We urge all RWU members and all railroad workers to contact the FRA and tell them in plain language: "No single employee train crews!"

  • To write/FAX the FRA, click HERE.
  • To email the FRA, click HERE.
  • To view the RWU Letter to the FRA on the Proposed Rule, click HERE.
  • To view the FRA Proposed Rule, Click HERE.
  • To view the RWU Editorial on the Proposed Rule Click HERE.
  • To view a comprehensive article entitled "What's Wrong with Single Employee Train Operations?" with 21 reasons why they are unsafe and unworkable, click HERE.
  • To view the most recent RWU Resolution to Oppose Single Employe Operating Crews from March 2nd, 2015, see below or click HERE.
  • To view the original RWU Resolution on Single Employee Train crews from January 5th, 2010, click HERE
  •  

Union Members Don’t Oppose Environmental Protections: They’re Actually More Likely To Support Them

By Jeremy Brecher and Todd Vachon - In The Times, May 23, 2016

Union workers attacking environmentalists—it has become a trope of our time. But what do union members actually think about the environment?

In a study soon to be published in Labor Studies Journal, we report our findings on workers attitudes and behaviors regarding a variety of environmental issues. In particular, we examine the attitudes and behaviors of unionized workers to see how they may differ from the non-union respondents. The results might surprise those whose images of worker attitudes come only from the mainstream media.

Looking at data from national surveys, we find that union members are on average more likely than the general population to display pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors.

For example, in the General Social Survey (GSS), people were asked to agree or disagree with the statement “We worry too much about the future of the environment and not enough about prices and jobs today.” Forty-three percent of nonunion respondents disagreed—but 48 percent of the unionized respondents disagreed.

People were asked if they had signed a petition about an environmental issue in the past five years. Twenty-five percent of the general population said yes—but 32 percent of union members said yes.

Eight percent of the population belonged to a group whose main aim is “to preserve or protect the environment.” But 12 percent of union members belonged to an environmental organization.

Overall, we analyzed 19 survey items pertaining to the environment. On 13 of them, union members expressed more pro-environment sentiments than non-union members at a statistically significant level. On the remaining six items, there were no statistically significant differences between union members and the rest of the population.

This finding runs against the mainstream media mantra of “jobs versus the environment,” a frame which portrays unionized workers as self-interested and materialistic, putting their own personal gains above all else, including the environment. A more informed historical analysis would reveal a long record of environmental concern among unionized workers and their organizations that overlaps and intermingles with the sporadic “news event” conflicts that occasionally flare up between workers and environmentalists.

“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street

By Desiree Hellegers - Counterpunch, May 23, 2016

On Sunday, May 15, more than a hundred climate change kayaktivists took to the waters of Padilla Bay in Anacortes, Washington, risking arrest to land on the banks of the Tesoro oil refinery. In the shadow of the refinery smoke stacks, they unfurled banners calling attention to the potentially lethal risks that fossil fuel workers confront each day on the job. “Seven Dead, No More Casualties, Tesoro Explosion April 2, 2010” read one banner focused on Tesoro’s checkered workplace safety record. “Solidarity is Strength, We are all workers,” read another banner. Yet another called for a “Just Transition,” as kayaktivists knelt on the ground, paddles in hand, in what organizers described as a demonstration of respect for the workers killed at the refinery, and for those still working in the refinery. The messaging on the banks of the refinery signaled the central challenge that climate change activists confront in trying to find common ground—if not common cause–with refinery workers.

The Anacortes actions were part of a global two-week wave of activism spanning six continents under the shared rallying cry to “Break Free” from fossil fuels. As actions unfolded in the U.S. from Albany, NY and Washington, D.C. to Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles, more than a thousand activists converged on Anacortes, just south of the Canadian border. The aim of activists was to confront, by land and sea, the role of big oil in rising global temperatures and sea levels–and to disrupt the flow of oil to the Shell and Tesoro refineries.

In the face of activists’ resolve to blockade the oil shipments to the port, both Shell and Tesoro suspended tanker and rail transport for the duration of the three-day action. Nonetheless, an estimated 150 activists camped out on the rails for two nights before the police moved in in the early hours of Sunday, May 15, arresting 52 activists and charging them with criminal trespassing.

In a phone interview, Eric Ross, organizing director of the Backbone Campaign out of Vashon, Island, WA, which handled much of the logistical planning and coordination for the water-based Break Free events in Anacortes, indicated that the workers at Tesoro, who daily face toxic exposure on the job, are among the many “casualties of extractive industries” and the byproduct of the “reckless endangerment” that defines the behavior of multinational corporations, whose main focus is on “extracting money.” “They’ve chosen to make their billions by extracting resources from communities that don’t consent to that reckless endangerment of our children, our communities and our climate,” Ross observed. Ross heralded the three-day cessation of oil transportation as a victory for Break Free: “I think it’s a really impressive show of the power of our movements and just how afraid these extractive industries are of organized people.”

Zarna Joshi, an activist with the grassroots group Women of Color Speak Out, was one of several speakers who addressed kayaktivists on the banks of Fidalgo Bay before they struck out for the banks of the Tesoro refinery. In a phone interview, Joshi described the Break Free action as the culmination of “a real building of momentum” over the past two years. She indicated that in the Pacific Northwest, climate activists have been “building relationships with people in labor, building relationship with people in the First Nations—particularly Salish Sea First Nations—building community and building trust.”

In fact, an entire day of the three-day event was devoted to a Native-led march and ceremonies at March Point in the shadow of the Shell refinery. While the 1855 Point Elliott Treaty included March Point within the boundaries of the Swinomish Reservation, an executive order by President Ulysses S. Grant in the 1870s redrew the boundaries of the reservation to exclude March Point, ultimately opening it up for development by Shell and Tesoro. Last year, Shell was “fined $77,000 by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries for an uncontrolled release of toxins that sickened residents and sent at least two people to the hospital.”

Skagit County, Joshi observed, “has one of the highest levels of cancer in the entire state, and those levels of cancer are linked to the pollution coming from the refineries.” Activists, Joshi said, “were standing in solidarity with workers, and not just with workers at these refineries, but with workers around the whole region whose jobs are being threatened by the fossil fuel empire, by climate change, by health crises.”

Among the participants in the Anacortes actions was Laurie King, former long term organizer with Portland Jobs with Justice, now retired, who planned to attend one of a number of workshops focused on effecting a “just transition” for workers currently employed in the fossil fuel industry. “I’m a union activist, so I’ve been asking a lot of questions about what do the workers think and what kind of jobs do people think of fighting for for the workers. I think that this whole movement has to be a two-pronged movement and that the same energy that goes into the desire to save the planet for everyone also has to be into a just transition with the same fervor, the same degree of planning and we have to figure out really concrete ways to have a just transition.” Over her decades of union organizing, King observed, “I’ve talked to many, many workers, and if they had a choice, of course they’d rather be doing things that are not hurting themselves or the planet. The thing is that it isn’t easy to find another well paying job, and we environmentalists have to deal with that in the most deep way and not just slough it off.” King went on to observe, “I think we have to be just as fervent about fighting for jobs for the workers who are in the fossil fuel industries at the same time that we’re fighting against fossil fuel structures.”

EcoUnionist News #105

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 25, 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:

Carbon Bubble News #105

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 25, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral 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.

Capital Blight News #105

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 25, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Greenwashers:

This Is What Insurgency Looks Like

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 22, 2016

In a small church in the Albany, NY’s low-income, predominantly African-American South End, forty people were gathered for a community meeting. They were organizing a protest against trains carrying potentially explosive oil – dubbed by the residents “bomb trains” — that were running through their neighborhood. City Counselor Vivian Kornegay told the group that many municipalities had opposed the bomb trains and other dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure, but had little power to protect their residents; it was up to a “people’s movement” to do so. “What we want is for all of us to be free, healthy, and safe – and for our planet to be a better place to live.”

Maeve McBride, an organizer for 350.org, explained that the protest was part of a global campaign of direct action and civil disobedience aiming to keep 80% of all fossil fuels in the ground. Pastor Mark Johnson of the St. John’s Church of God in Christ said, “I heard at a meeting last night that we have a constitutional right to clean water and clean air.” Maeve McBride explained that the action was part of a “new wave” that was drawing on a “new paradigm” – “using civil disobedience to protect the public trust,” which included water, air, and the climate itself.

Organizers had met with officials from the police and sheriff’s offices and reported, “they abhor the trains – and are very supportive of us.” Then the group received direct action training. They read out loud the “action agreement” pledging nonviolent behavior and mutual support. Then they lined up to march and while police officers (played by the trainers) ordered them to move away, they scrambled onto an imaginary railroad track. Later that evening the steering committee for Albany Break Free planned outreach to supporting organizations, phone banks, canvassing, leafleting, and details of the action.

The Albany organizers had learned about the “new paradigm” when 350.org North American co-organizers of Break Free From Fossil Fuels had decided to use the “public trust” principle to frame US Break Free actions and formed a Break Free Public Trust Work Group to spread the idea. Some on the The Break Free Albany steering committee had participated in the working group’s webinar on using the public trust doctrine, and they decided to integrate the Public Trust Proclamation into their “topline message” and to hand out the Break Free Public Trust Proclamation to all participants. (The Proclamation appears at the end of this article.]

A week before the action the Albany Break Free steering committee defined their basic message. Potentially explosive crude oil “bomb trains” roll through Albany and surrounding communities, polluting the air and contributing to the climate crisis. Primarily low-income communities of color are put at risk. The urgent need to address climate change means that fossil fuels have to be left in the ground and a transition made to a “twenty-first century renewable energy economy.” They called for an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines, power plants, compressor stations, and storage tanks. And they called for a just transition away from fossil fuel energy with training and jobs for affected workers, so “no worker is left behind.”

The problem is not glyphosate, or DDT, or BPA; we must challenge the entire system!

By Jonathan Latham, PhD - The Ecologist, May 20, 2016

Piecemeal, and at long last, chemical manufacturers have begun removing the endocrine-disrupting plastic bisphenol-A (BPA) from products they sell.

Sunoco no longer sells BPA for products that might be used by children under three. France has a national ban on BPA food packaging. The EU has banned BPA from baby bottles.

These bans and associated product withdrawals are the result of epic scientific research and some intensive environmental campaigning. But in truth these restrictions are not victories for human health. Nor are they even losses for the chemical industry.

For one thing, the chemical industry now profits from selling premium-priced BPA-free products. These are usually made with the chemical substitute BPS, which current research suggests is even more of a health hazard than BPA. But since BPS is far less studied, it will likely take many years to build a sufficient case for a new ban.

But the true scandal of BPA is that such sagas have been repeated many times. Time and again, synthetic chemicals have been banned or withdrawn only to be replaced by others that are equally harmful, and sometimes are worse.

Neonicotinoids, which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) credits with creating a global ecological catastrophe, are modern replacements for long-targeted organophosphate pesticides. Organophosphates had previously supplanted DDT and the other organochlorine pesticides from whose effects many bird species are only now recovering.

The same is likely to happen with glyphosate - whose authorisation the EU notably failed to renew yesterday. If the EU does ban the herbicide in the next few months, the most likely outcome by far is that farmers will reach for another bottle. They will only spray 2,4-D, dicamba and glufosinate (phosphinothricin) instead.

Breaking free from fossil fuels in Cascadia: The solutions path forward

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, May 18, 2016

Over the first half of May climate warriors put their bodies in the way of fossil fueled business as usual around the world. Break Free civil disobedience events targeted major carbon bombs on six continents.

Here in Cascadia a tent city held a rail line leading into the region’s largest oil refinery complex at Anacortes, Washington for 36 hours. In Newcastle, Australia people power disrupted the world’s largest coal port by land and sea. Some of the largest coal plants in Brazil and Germany, and the world’s largest open-pit coal mine in Britain, were just some of the 20 sites around the world where around 30,000 people stood up to say now is time to break free from coal, oil and gas, and the carbon pollution disrupting weather patterns across the planet. An off-the-charts April temperature spike underscored the urgency of rapid transition to clean, renewable energy.

The Break Free actions were always intended to focus this necessity, to put forward a powerful solutions “yes" to complement the fossil fuels “no.” Now the real work begins.

Fortunately, the solutions are with us, and already working in many places. We can move beyond an economy based on energy from coal, oil and gas. We can make a just transition to a world run on 100% renewable energy, create millions of new jobs, and build stronger communities. Following are eight solutions that we can forward to break free from fossil fuels in Cascadia:

  • Four Solutions for Clean Energy show how we can move to 100% renewables in electrical power, transportation and buildings.
  • Four Solutions for a Socially Just Transition line out how to move our communities beyond fossil fuels while improving the quality of life, especially for lower-income people, and providing new opportunities for displaced workers.

The solutions are given in an order, but it does not indicate a ranking. All are important and necessary. We need to pursue all eight to meet the huge climate and energy challenges facing us. We can unite a broad movement around these solutions, and create a better world for ourselves and our children. It’s up to us, and the solutions are at hand.

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