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.

Beyond teamsters and turtles: Jobs, justice, climate

By Judy Rebick - Rabble.Ca, June 29, 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.

Jobs, Justice, Climate is the slogan of what we hope will be a massive march in Toronto on July 5 and Vancouver on July 4. To my knowledge it's the first action in Canada that has linked jobs with the battle for climate change in a context of social justice.  While turtles and teamsters have marched together in the past, it has usually been with a focus on social justice, against corporate globalization and trade deals.  This is not only the first time climate change is a focus in a march co-sponsored by the labour movement, it's the first time that the links are being made to the struggles of Indigenous peoples, immigrants, and people of colour and the first time our cross-sector movement is not just saying what we are against but what we are for. Check out the video promoting the march.

In May I attended a cross-country meeting called by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis to begin the work of building a broad movement to fight climate change by presenting a new vision where reversing climate change can be done in the context of increasing social justice and good jobs. A movement where Indigenous Peoples, the first defenders of the land, are in the lead. A movement that reaches out to immigrant communities whose countries are already drowning, baking, or collapsing in face of climate catastrophes. A movement where unions realize that climate change is as much a threat to their members as austerity and find ways to link both struggles. A movement where environmental activists understand that it is the peoples of the earth not the corporate overlords who will save the planet. 

There were divisions at that meeting and they continue.  Unions, for example, support certain pipelines that environmentalists oppose. 350.org, a key organizer of the march wants the bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to stay in the ground. The unions don't agree yet. There remains deep scepticism among Indigenous activists about how solid is the solidarity expressed by settlers. There is concern from activists of colour that support for their issues is only present when their support is needed. There is still the gap of knowledge and sometimes solidarity between Quebec and the rest of Canada. All of these divisions were present in the May meeting and we talked about them. 

I pointed out another powerful movement where the differences were just as great. In the anti-Viet Nam War movement some of us supported the victory of the Viet Cong. We used to chant “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, the Viet Cong are gonna win;” while others were only in the demonstration because they didn't want their sons to be drafted.  In those days we didn't have facilitators to help us through negotiating those differences in a positive way.  We pretty well hated each other but we marched together because the stakes were high and we contributed to stopping that terrible war. This time the stakes are much higher.

As Naomi argues in her book, This Changes Everything, those of us who have been fighting for social justice all our lives now have an opportunity to create a new vision of a just and caring society. A society where caring for each other, the land and the creatures that share it with us is a powerful transformative idea that can appeal to a majority of people around the world. 

Join us on July 5 in Toronto at Queen's Park at 1 p.m. for the Jobs, Justice, Climate March or you can participate in actions sponsored by 350.org in various cities across the country .

The Costco Connection: Farmworkers bring Driscoll’s Boycott to Respected Washington Grocery

By Káráni: Escribir o Volar - Káráni, June 30, 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.

Bellingham, WA – Farmworker families in northwest Washington have brought their berry boycott to Costco Wholesale, a respected Washington grocer that purchases berries from Driscoll’s, global small-fruit supplier that sources berries from Sakuma Bros. Farms and from several farms in the San Quintin Valley in Baja California, Mexico where there are ongoing labor disputes over unfair wages and wage theft, mistreatment and sexual harassment in the workplace, and against the dependency upon child labor for production.

A small independent farmworker union called Familias Unidas por la Justicia began their boycott of Sakuma Bros. Farms berries in 2013, successfully forcing the firm to discontinue selling fresh market berries with under their own label. In 2014, after discovering that the firm had shifted production towards processed berries and began packing fresh market berries exclusively into Driscoll’s label cartons, the farmworker union began to focus their campaign on Driscoll’s because the wholesaler refused to meet the union’s demands, stating instead that they fully supported Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc. and had not found any wrongdoing via their corporate audits of their supplier. A finding that the Skagit Valley Superior Court’s legal register disproves when it comes to the firm interfering with the farmworker’s right to engage in concerted activity, reprisals, their tenant rights, and the firm’s failure to follow Washington state’s legislation regarding paid rest breaks. Meanwhile, the farmworker union’s boycott campaign convinced five US cooperative grocers and the University of Washington to discontinue sourcing berries from Driscoll’s by early 2015.

On March 17, 2015 over 50,000 Mexican farmworkers organized a general strike in Baja California’s San Quintin Valley in the berry fields of Driscoll’s subsidiaries, BerryMex and MoraMex, Reiter Affiliated Companies along with several other fruit and vegetable growers in the region. As a result, J. Miles Reiter, the owner of the subsidiaries, stepped down as CEO of Driscoll’s on March 31, 2015 and was replaced by Kevin Murphy. The powerful strike immediately impacted the supply chain for all fresh market commodities in California on the U.S. side of the border.

On April 8, 2015 the emerging independent farmworker union named La Alianza de Organizaciones Nacionales, Estatales, y Municipales por la Justicia Social joined forces with Familias Unidas por la Justicia by announcing their endorsement of the Driscoll’s boycott and calling for it’s expansion to an international scale. Familias Unidas por la Justicia leadership had reached out in solidarity to the emerging union shortly after the strike because their extended family members who lived in the San Quintin Valley had participated in the strike and were reporting incidents of reprisals.

EcoUnionist News #54

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 30, 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 Story:

Green Bans:

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

Dr. StrangeWeather, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb-Train

By Stephyn Quirke - Earth First! Newswire, June 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.

Is our weather getting funny?

Some bushes and flowers started to bloom near the end of January this year, and in the spring cherry blossoms were blooming weeks early. This capped a winter with extremely low snowfall in the Cascade Mountains. The abnormal heat, combined with the drought now covering 80% of Oregon, has actually raised temperatures in the Willamette River above 70 degrees, recently killing chinook salmon as they made their way up-stream to spawn.

In March, tribal leaders from the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians converged in Portland to discuss this ongoing phenomenon of strange weather, which they cannily dubbed “climate change”. These changes, they said, were related to a pattern of global warming, and were creating unique hardship on Northwest tribes. In 2013, the ATNI also passed a resolution opposing all new fossil fuel proposals in the Northwest, citing harm to their treaty rights, cultural resources, and land they hold sacred. Now the Affiliated Tribes are discussing plans for adaptation and mitigation, and asking how to undermine the root causes of climate change.

In addition to the sudden onset of strange weather, Portland has also seen the abrupt arrival of strange, mile-long trains loaded with crude oil – a very unusual sight in the Northwest until just two years ago. In the event of a derailment or crash, these trains are known to increase the temperature of surrounding areas by several hundred degrees – a strange weather event by any standard. This phenomenon has become so common that the train engineers who run them actually call them “bomb trains”.

While the danger of unplanned explosions is universally recognized, the risks of strange weather, and the planned explosions that take place in our internal combustion engines, are typically less appreciated. But the connections are becoming more obvious as the figure of the oil train valiantly pulls them together.

The sudden appearance of oil trains in the Northwest is one effect of the unprecedented crusade for oil extraction in North America – one that has produced a massive wave of opposition from residents and elected officials. In Washington state alone, nine cities representing 40% of the state’s population have passed resolutions that oppose oil trains. In Alberta resistance to oil politics recently replaced a 44-year ruling party with socialists. And in Portland, anger against oil trains just smashed a city proposal to bring propane trains into the port.

In recent months rail workers have become increasingly vocal about the industry-wide safety problems that lead to fiery train accidents. They are also critical of the latest safety rules that allegedly protect the public from accidents. Rail Workers United, a coalition of rail workers and their unions, says that the best way to make trains safer is to increase worker control and self-management; they propose a host of reforms that profit-obsessed rail companies are not interested in hearing. For many rail-side communities there is a parallel interest in community control over the railroads: no fossil fuel trains are safe for them as long as trains derail and the climate unravels. Together, the two movements are calling for a better future for our railroads and our environment, and demanding more public influence to safeguard both.

UK: is the ‘dash for gas’ frackturing the labor movement?

By Francesca Sullivan and Karen Viquerat - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 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.

Unfolding story:  Proposal to frack in North West England leads to a minor earthquake

Just days after the UK’s leading union in the gas industry signed on to a charter with the gas industry to develop fracking, other unions are stepping up efforts to make sure the drilling never starts. The GMB’s Central Executive Committee issued its statement on fracking on June 8. The UK’s largest union, UNITE issued a press release in support of an anti-fracking demonstration organized by ‘Frack Free Lancashire‘ and Chris Baugh, Asst. General Secretary of Public and Commercial Services union, responded to the GMB’s argument.  See below for more details.

Unite Press Release

For immediate use: Monday 22 June 2015

Unite urges councillors to keep Lancashire ‘frack free’

Britain’s largest union, Unite will be joining campaigners and local groups tomorrow (Tuesday 23 June) in a demonstration to support a ‘frack free Lancashire’ and halt Cuadrilla’s fracking plans.

The ‘don’t frack Lancs’ demonstration outside Lancashire county council hall in Preston coincides with a council meeting where county councillors will decide whether to accept or reject Cuadrilla’s fracking applications.

Chair of Unite’s executive council, Tony Woodhouse is among the speakers at the demonstration being organised by Friends of Earth. The county hall demonstration runs from 17:00 to 19:00.

Last week council planning officers recommended that fracking should go ahead at Preston New Road, but permission should be refused at Roseacre Wood due to a severe impact on road safety due to heavy lorries.

Councillors tomorrow will decide on whether to accept or reject planning officers’ recommendations.

Unite North West regional secretary Mick Whitley said: “Fracking is a huge issue for communities across our region and a cause for deep concern.

“A moratorium on fracking is in place in Scotland and the Welsh assembly government is following suit such is the depth of concern in other parts of the UK.

“Here in Lancashire, county councillors need to listen to tens of thousands of people from across the county who have objected and reject all applications for fracking.”

Unite is committed to supporting and lobbying for a moratorium on all fracking activities across the United Kingdom.

We don't have to choose between jobs and climate action

By John Cartwright - Rabble.Ca, June 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.

Years ago, someone in the global disarmament movement came up with a humorous way to draw attention to a desperately serious topic. The slogan a single atomic bomb can ruin your entire day soon appeared on buttons everywhere, and it came to symbolise the absurdity of the military strategy of mutually assured destruction.

Decades later, another kind of assured destruction looms as climate change dramatically change weather patterns across the world. When Hurricane Sandy swept into the American eastern seaboard, many New Yorkers experienced aspects of devastation that hit like the aforementioned nuclear bomb. Suddenly, climate change was no longer an abstract conversation. People's lives had been affected in a way they never imagined. In New York City, there was a new immediacy to the issue of global warming.

And so, last September, I found myself surrounded by thousands of New York trade unionists as the People's Climate March surged through Manhattan. In the labour rally at the start of the march, the leader of a New York nurses' union described the scene in her hospital emergency room as the victims of Sandy poured in, while her members elsewhere were evacuating patients from hospitals that had lost electricity.

Transit workers saw the subway tunnels flooded for days, janitors were impacted as scores of office buildings shut down, and IBEW electricians worked overtime to repair damaged power lines and transformers. SEIU Local 1199 members were out in force carrying signs that proclaimed "climate change is a health issue." Teachers and Teamsters and City employees shared the street with a message of common concern. It was breathtaking.

Postcards to Wales

By Striking Heart - Striking Heart, February 3, 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 ways we know each other and ourselves are transformed through collective struggles. Sometimes we manage to exceed and push beyond what is anticipated. The bonds formed between Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and mining communities in South Wales are one such example. Matthew Warchus’s film Pride got us thinking about what notion of ‘pride’ might be required to combat climate change through a struggle around the conditions of contemporary work. We see that labour struggles of the 20th century were accompanied by a discourse of pride in being a worker – for some, in being a miner. We ask, how might our collective nostalgia for labour movements remembered in terms of the pride to be labour be unsettled by the catastrophic threat posed by our enduring reliance on coal mining?

Juxtaposing reflections on our families’ histories in the Taff Bargoed and Cynon valleys with the contemporary political and economic situation in Australia, we ask whether there is another path for communities that rely on wages/welfare today. What possibilities are arising for our generation, a generation that must challenge catastrophic environmental destruction? Is it possible that we might not need to sacrifice our well-being, our environment and the futures of others to satisfy our immediate material needs and desires?

We propose that we can be proud of mining communities’ battles to defend their livelihoods by clarifying these as struggles for dignity, sustainability and for community control over community interests. These characteristics will be essential in ongoing efforts to put an end to mining. To this we would add that a major battleground for our time is the struggle to collectively work less!

Mining Memories

As two Welsh-Australian women who were children in the 1980s and for whom Sydney is mostly home, there isn’t much we can contribute to a personalised analysis of the battles against pit closures. There are, however, some links to be drawn between the experiences of our ancestors and the conditions we face in contemporary Australia.

We know that in Wales the pits sustained life by providing relatively well-paid jobs, and sites around which strong communities were built and where our families flourished. But they also took life, sometimes quickly and brutally, sometimes by slowly chipping away. Emphysema and other lung conditions affected our grandparents’ and parents’ generation. Many people would not live beyond their fifties due to over-work and poor health and safety conditions. Injuries were commonplace in the hazardous underground mines and for children playing in the towns around the coalfields. Claire’s Dad remembers,

‘There wasn’t much in the way of health and safety! If we were going up the mountain, we used to hitch a ride on the coal trams. There was a rope that winched them up and we’d jump on that. I don’t know how many of us got hurt doing it. We also used to play on the bridge over the train tracks. The game was to be on top of the bridge as the coal train passed, shooting smoke up as it went. We came back covered in soot, black from head to foot.’

Despite some of the horrors and misery of the daily grind, we feel a longing for the courage of those communities that fought against the pit closures. We understand that a way of life was at stake during the struggles in the 1980s. Much of what has been lost in the last few decades relates to the breaking down of that culture, as well as the very real consequences of inter-generational under-employment and poverty. This acknowledged, one of the starkest examples of the contradictions inherent in the fight to keep the pits open is found in many people’s hopes that their children would not have to work in them. ‘No one wanted their children to go down the mines but there weren’t many other options in the Valleys. It was down the pits or to the army,’ says Claire’s Dad. The less common narrative of the struggle to against pit closures is the struggle for better lives, lives extricable from work.

Review: Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello, The Coming Revolution in North Africa: The Struggle for Climate Justice

By Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello - Jadaliyya, June 10, 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.

Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello, editors, The Coming Revolution in North Africa: The Struggle for Climate Justice. Platform (London), Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (North Africa), and Environmental Justice North Africa (EJNA), 2015.

Jadaliyya (J): What made you put together this book?

Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello (HH & MM-P): The idea was both to highlight the violence of climate change in North Africa, and the need for an indigenous response. We wanted to point out that survival relies on structural change, and on facing the challenge of talking about climate justice in Arabic.

Climate change is already a reality in North Africa. People are dying and communities are being forced off their lands, with stronger and more frequent droughts and winter storms, as deserts grow and sea levels rise.

There is a growing literature in Arabic on the threat, but this knowledge production is dominated by neoliberal institutions like the World Bank, the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and European Union agencies. They highlight the dangers of a warmer world and they argue for urgent action. But their analysis of climate change does not include questions of class, justice, power, or colonial history. They re-empower those who have wealth, and their vision of the future is marked by economies subjugated to private profit and further privatization of water, land—even the atmosphere.

There is no reference to the historic responsibility of the industrialized West for causing climate change, of the crimes of oil companies like British Petroleum and Shell, or the climate debt owed to the Global South. Most Arabic-language writing on climate change in the Middle East and North Africa includes no references to oppression—or to resistance.

We wanted to point to the failure and bankruptcy of the global climate talks. These have been hijacked by corporate power and private interests that promote profit-making false solutions like carbon trading, instead of forcing industrialized nations to reduce carbon emissions and leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Through compiling and editing this book, our goal was to counteract the dominant neoliberal discourse on climate change in Arabic, and point to the need for a revolutionary alternative grounded in justice. 

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?

HH & MM-P: We think this is the first book in Arabic to address climate justice (though we would be really happy if that is not the case!). It includes six essays on climate violence and false solutions in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and the wider region.

A further fifteen essays introduce inspiring and liberating perspectives advanced by radical and progressive intellectuals, activists, politicians, organizations, and grassroots groups from the Global South. We selected essays, interviews, and statements in which social movements describe what they are fighting against, how they are organizing, and what they are demanding. The chapters cover a broad geography—from Ecuador to India, South Africa to the Philippines.

The book addresses the burning issue of climate change in North Africa and the Global South through a justice lens rather than a security one. A future framed around “security” subjugates our struggles to a conceptual and imaginative framework that ultimately re-empowers the state’s repressive power. Through the different articles and essays, we argue that the climate crisis is the epitome of capitalist and imperialist exploitation of people and the planet. Climate change is a class war—a war by the rich against the working classes, the small farmers, and the poor who carry the burden on behalf of the privileged.

There are four sections in the book, with twenty-one chapters. The first section, “The Violence of Climate Change,” highlights the scale of the threat posed by climate change. The second section, “System Change Not Climate Change,” points to the economic and power structures driving climate change, and what a different system should look like. The third section, “Beware the False Solutions,” examines how the powerful have attempted to use the climate crisis to profit and entrench inequality by pushing false solutions. The final section, “Organizing for Survival and Climate Justice,” looks at how people are mobilizing for a different future.

Power to the People: Toward Democratic Control of Electricity Generation

Press Release - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 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.

Unions welcome new report highlighting the need to ‘reclaim’ and democratize the energy system and to promote publicly owned renewable power

Globally, the energy system is failing to protect workers and communities.  Airborne and water pollution levels are out of control, especially in Asia. Energy-related emissions continue to rise as more fossil-based power comes on line. Union leaders say the struggle for democratic control of electrical power generation is central to the struggle for a healthier, safer and fairer world. A major scale-up of publicly owned but democratically controlled renewable power is required. Public renewable power will make it possible to conserve energy, control and then reduce demand, and begin to make transport as well as electrical power less dependent on fossil fuels. A truly “just transition” for workers and communities will require re-asserting the public good over private greed.

A new Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) working paper titled Power to the People: Toward Democratic Control of Electricity Generation shows how “another energy is possible, and absolutely necessary.” It succinctly explains the failure of profit-driven approaches to either emissions reductions or controlling energy demand. The TUED paper, published by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung–New York Office, examines the actual and potential content behind the term energy democracy in order to help unions get a better grasp of what is happening now and what could happen in the future. It discusses the major “fronts” on which the struggle for democratic control of power generation is currently expressing itself: cooperatives in the renewable energy sector and their potential contribution to energy democracy, as well as recent attempts to reclaim electrical power generation at the municipal level. The 4-part paper also examines the historical experience of the “public works” approach to energy transition during the New Deal in the United States and, in particular, the Rural Electrification Administration—a model of state-cooperative interaction and partnership replicated successfully in numerous countries during the post-World War II period. It proposes that a “Renewable Energy Administration” is needed today.

Unions and social movements have the power to help create a new energy system, one that will be located at the heart of a new political economy grounded in equity, true sustainability, and economic democracy. This paper, co-authored by Sean Sweeney (Murphy Institute, CUNY) Kylie Benton-Connell (New School for Social Research) and Lara Skinner (Worker Institute at Cornell) explores concrete possibilities for moving toward this goal.

According to Sweeney, the coordinator of TUED, “The paper is not a blueprint. It shows what is happening, and also what needs to happen in order to reduce emissions and pollution in a way that shifts power toward workers and communities. Its main message is, if we want to control atmospheric warming and to protect our common home, then we have to get serious about reclaiming and democratizing energy.  Unions in different countries and from all sectors are increasingly aware of the need to do this.”