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.

Can the Climate Movement Break Free From the 'Jobs vs. Environment' Debate?

By Kate Aronoff - Common Dreams, April 30, 2016

For two weeks this May, organizers across 12 countries will participate in Break Free 2016, an open-source invitation to encourage “more action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and an acceleration in the just transition to 100 percent renewable energy.” Many of the month’s events — pulled together by 350.org and a slew of groups around the world — are set to take place within ongoing campaigns to shut down energy infrastructure, targeting “some of the most iconic and dangerous fossil fuel projects all over the world” with civil disobedience.

The Break Free site’s opening page invites viewers to “join a global wave of resistance to keep coal, oil and natural gas in the ground.” And that’s where some unions have taken issue.

The United Steelworkers, or USW, this week released a response. “Short-sighted and narrow-focused activities like 350.org’s ‘Break Free’ actions,” they write, “make it much more challenging to work together to create and envision a clean energy economy.” Three of the locations targeted — in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Washington — are USW-represented refineries. The union argues that, despite record growth in renewables, the economy will continue to be reliant on fossil fuels for some time. “Shutting down a handful of refineries in the United States,” they say, “would lead to massive job loss in refinery communities, increased imports of refined oil products, and ultimately no impact on global carbon emissions.” Rather, refineries and their workers should be brought into the clean energy economy.

The statement ends arguing that, “We can’t choose between good jobs or a healthy environment. If we don’t have both, we’ll have neither.” In more familiar terms, Breaking Free — for the USW — sounds like a case of jobs versus the environment.

While similar releases are standard fare for other unions, the 30,000-member USW is one of the country’s most progressive — even when it comes to environmental issues.

“People assume that because we’re an industrial union that our leadership doesn’t care about the environment,” Roxanne Brown told me. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Brown is the assistant legislative director at USW, and emphasized the union’s long history of work on environmental issues. The USW hosted a conference in support of air pollutant regulations in the late 1960s, early on rejecting the kind of weaponized jobs versus environment rhetoric that has cropped up around the Keystone XL pipeline and other extraction fights.

Private industry's waste cleaned up by the taxpayer

By Richard Mellor - Facts for Working People, April 29, 2016

One aspect that’s left out when it comes to the so-called vibrancy and efficiency of capitalist mode of production is the cost of cleaning up the mess created by private industry.  Apart from the human health conditions directly associated with the workplace, the cost of cleaning up the environment after one capitalist venture or another lives and then dies as capital accumulation wanes, is staggering. This cost is born by the workers and the middle class as a public expense.  The entire capitalist system is propped up by public assistance in one way or another.

According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) * between 1986 and 2008, the Department of Defense (DOD), in other words, the taxpayer, spent $30 billion ”…. across all environmental cleanup and restoration activities at its installations.”.  We all know that private defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman do very well from their government contracts.  Who owns them, who actually pockets the billions in profits accumulated over the years is another matter not so easy to determine.

The DOD In its fiscal year 2014 Agency Financial Report DOD reported “$58.6 billion in total environmental liabilities”, It appears the costly job of spreading peace around the world has some serious environmental costs as well.

EcoUnionist News #102

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 3, 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 #102

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, May 3, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Other Carbon Bubble 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.

Hemispheric Congress of Unions in São Paulo Urges Governments to Stop Fracking

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, April 28, 2016

More than 500 delegates representing unions in the Americas today adopted a ‘base document’ that included a call for governments in the hemisphere to issue a moratorium on fracking. Via the TUED-initiated Unions Against Fracking, five trade union centers in the Americas had earlier supported the call for a moratorium, namely CTA Argentina, CSN Quebec, the Canadian Labour Congress, CUT Brazil, and CUT Peru. A growing number of individual unions are also on board. The TUCA-CSA Congress document also declared, “We fight against the extractive model imposed by the business logic of large oil production and mining transnational corporations that do not foster development.”

Convened once every four years, the 3rd Congress of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americasis meeting at a time when unions in Brazil and across the region believe that a coup against president Dilma Rousseff is imminent. A right-wing government replacing the governing Workers Party is expected to push forward with an aggressive privatization agenda and a full-force attack on collective bargaining.

At a pre-Congress international seminar on April 26th titled “Democracy & Development in the Americas: Trade Union Strategy for the 2016-2020 period,” João Felício, current ITUC president and former leader of the main Brazilian union federation, CUT, underscored the seriousness of the situation. Referring to Dilma's period of incarceration during the 1964-1985 dictatorship, Felício said, “The torturers of Dilma, our democratically elected president, are poised to seize power. This is a coup. The CUT will never sit across the table with murderers and thieves.”

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow told the main session of Congress today, “This is about greed and corruption — corporate greed. We say, ‘No to coups, no to corruption.’ Dilma is the one person not charged for any personal corruption. Dilma is being tortured today in a different way.”

On climate change and the need for a ‘just transition,’ Burrow delivered a strong message: “Workers in fossil fuels should not be simply cast aside in the shift to a new economy. But there are no jobs on a dead planet. After the Paris Agreement, we need to act on the commitments made.”  Thanking Sharan for her work, TUCA president Hassan Yussuff acknowledged the ITUC's role at COP 21 in Paris. "Temperatures can not be allowed to rise above 2 degrees," he said, "We must ensure that unions are at the front of this fight." 

Representing TUED at the Congress, coordinator Sean Sweeney said, “Oil and gas multinationals have set their sights on Latin America in particular, and those supporting their agenda are playing their part in the attack on democracy in Brazil and across the continent. Unions at this Congress have seen with their own eyes what happens when mining and drilling companies move into their countries. They don't just go after fossil fuel deposits and water supplies, they also target democratic institutions and worker and human rights."

How can we save Liverpool’s green spaces?

By staff - Liverpool IWW, April 28, 2016

Liverpool IWW held a second successful event in our ‘One Big Discussion’ series of events at Liverpool Central Library on Thursday, 21st April. A dozen people showed up to air their thoughts on the subject ‘How can we save Liverpool’s green spaces?’, and the talk lasted right up to the library’s kicking out time.

Liverpool’s green spaces are facing an unprecedented challenge, with Labour mayor responding to the council’s funding crisis by selling off public assets to big developers such as Redrow. He claims the city needs more housing, but in reality, there are enough empty houses to easily keep a roof over the head of every one of the area’s spiraling homeless population. Those places just need doing up. There’s absolutely no sense on tearing out the city’s lungs, at a time when there’s a huge public health crisis due to poor local air quality.

Perhaps the most important thing about the meeting was that people interested in the subject, many of whom had never met before, came together to learn from each other, feed of each other’s anger, and make connections which could bolster resistance to Mayor Anderson, Labour, and the whole local elite over the coming months and years.

The next One Big Discussion is ‘How can working class women improve their lives?’, and it will take place from 6pm on Wednesday, 16th May. The June talk will be on ‘How can benefits claimants defend their rights?’

Farmworkers Lead the Way To Climate Justice

By Edgar Franks - Front and Centered, April 21, 2016

We at Community to Community (C2C) have been in solidarity with the Boycott Driscoll’s campaign led by Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) since 2013. We believe that movements are most successful when led by the most affected. It’s not often, if at all, we see a union that is led by indigenous people, FUJ union members are Mixteco and Triqui people and they are dramatically shifting the ways in which we think about farm worker organizing. We have learned from Cesar Chavez and the California farm workers’ strategies on winning contracts using the boycott and in WA State we are continuing that legacy.

FUJ is making history not only in taking on a corporate giant but in the ways they have been able to educate people on the complexities of the food system. Through the boycott of Driscoll’s we are now able to see the dramatic shift that agriculture has been going through. Driscoll’s is an example of why we need a new food system. Apart from the tremendous amount of labor exploitation the fight against Driscoll’s is also about climate and environmental justice.

We can’t call corporate businesses farms or say that they are practicing agriculture. Our campesino way of food production and feeding our people is at odds with the profit/commodity market. Through the industrial agriculture model we see an intensifying use of pesticides and fertilizers, most of which are petroleum based and contribute to ozone depletion. The water that is extracted is drying up our rivers and reservoirs. For example, California is currently going through a historic water shortage mostly due to the amount of water that is used in industrial agriculture.

So when farm workers are calling for a boycott of Driscoll’s berries, it is a much deeper call to action. It is a challenge to all of us to fight for a better way of living and build the food system and economy that we need to thrive in harmony with Mother Earth. We at C2C are working to create a local solidarity economy where profit is not the motive, but living well is the driving factor of our labor. We want food sovereignty for all communities, where communities can decide how to feed their people in an equitable, participatory manner. We want agroecology as the way to build the new food system and to end the corporate industrial model of food production. By doing this we can raise the political consciousness of our people and build solidarity across movements.

USLAW Passes Resolution on Climate Change

Resolution passed by US Labor Against the War - April 17, 2016

Whereas, according to NASA, ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position; and

Whereas, the planet is warming at a dangerously rapid rate, primarily as a result of our reliance on carbon-based fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities that have caused a dramatic increase in the global level of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases; and

Whereas, scientists say that unless we curb the emissions that cause climate change, average U.S. temperatures could be 3 to 9 degrees higher by 2100; and

Whereas, if the trend of the 20th century continues the average worldwide sea level could rise by 3 to 6 feet by 2100; and
Whereas, the inevitable consequences of major disruptions to global ecosystems will be more frequent extreme weather events of Katrina-like hurricanes, more powerful tornadoes, prolonged draught, larger and more frequent wildfires, reduction to agricultural productivity with resulting food shortages and famine, spread of disease and a spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth within this century; and

Whereas, emergency measures must be taken to prevent catastrophic increases in global warming that will trigger irreversible changes to our biosphere; and

Whereas, at the present rate of global warming we could reach that tipping point by 2050; and

Whereas, these developments have sparked a global movement that is demanding urgent action by our governments, including an encyclical by Pope Francis that describes the moral imperative for transforming our economy and social practices; and

Whereas, the world’s governments met again in Paris in December for the Conference of Parties held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) and called for significant reductions in the global use of fossil fuels; and

Whereas, the Pentagon and the military-industrial sector that feeds it and feeds off of it together are the largest consumers of fossil fuels and create the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions on the planet; and

Whereas, we have been sold the myth that we must choose between military jobs that do not enhance our nation’s security vs. having no job at all; and

Whereas, there is no good reason why the richest nation in the world cannot fund protection for its workers as we move towards less military spending and minimal reliance on fossil fuels; and

Whereas, millions of good jobs can be created by moving towards greater energy efficiency and reliance on renewal energy;

Therefore, be it resolved that US Labor Against the War affirms its commitment to significant reduction in the Pentagon budget and to a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy; and

Be it further resolved that USLAW will encourage unions at all levels to adopt resolutions supporting just transition towards reduced military spending and minimal reliance on fossil fuels; and
Be it further resolved that ULSAW will encourage unions at all levels to support legislation for the just transition described above.

EcoUnionist News #101

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 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:

Pages