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.

Bakken Bomb Trains: Hell on Rails

By x356039 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 1, 2014

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.

Over the past two years the volume of bakken crude oil, extracted from the tar sand fields of Alberta, Wyoming, Utah, North and South Dakota, has skyrocketed by an astonishing 900%.  Thanks in part to the work of many brave communities in the line of fire and the logistical difficulties of building a continent-spanning pipeline the companies extracting this toxic material have sought out other methods for moving the volume of material they desire for export overseas to China and points beyond.  The solution they have settled on is to move the bakken crude by oil trains, some stretching over a mile, owned by high-powered corporate captains of industry like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates from the point of extraction to the points of refinement and distribution. 

They argue the materials being ripped from the Earth's crust are vitally necessary for energy independence and economic growth.  What these self-interested short-sighted tycoons overlook is the truly massive cost in far more real terms than a mere bottom line such decisions are inflicting on people, communities, and the biosphere.  In spite of the measured, massaged tones they use to assuage the fully-justified fears of the public there is little doubt the extraction, refinement, and movement of bakken crude by rail is a clear and present danger to all life in the path of these deadly horsemen.

The first and surest sign of the threat these bomb trains pose is the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec.  A small community located on Lake Megantic it is the sort of place, prior to the summer of 2013, one would never have expected to become associated with the worst rail disaster in Canadian history and one of the worst ever in North America.  One fateful evening a bakken crude train was pulled off to a siding by its lone crew member so they could take a break from an extremely long shift and catch up on much needed sleep.  During the night the brakes securing the train came loose and the train rolled off the track, tipping over and rupturing the tanks containing the highly volatile bakken crude.  Thanks to the incredibly low flash point of bakken crude, due to the nature of the refining process, the entire train load went up in a flash obliterating a huge swath of Lac-Megantic.  In the rushing inferno that followed 47 people's lives were mercilessly snuffed out, from young children to the elderly, without warning or any possibility of escape.

In the immediate wake firefighters from across Quebec and neighboring Maine were called in to bring the fires under control, do whatever they could for the survivors, and bury the dead.  So great was the ferocity of the blaze following the disaster that nothing less than such a massive mobilization of emergency personnel would stand a chance.  All were left stunned, shocked, and wondering how such a catastrophe could be visited on their homes with no warning of any kind.  In the words of Tim Pellerin, fire chief for Rangeley, Maine, “It was like a World War II bombing zone.  There was just block after block of everything incinerated. All that was left were foundations and chimneys. Everything burned. The buildings, the asphalt, the grass, the trees, the telephone poles. Just about everything was incinerated.”  In the investigations following Lac-Megantic many facts came to light as to how so much harm could be caused, proving without question the devastation was no fluke but a very real, predictable possibility.

Chapter 25 : Sabo Tabby vs. Killa Godzilla

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

"Between 1914-18, when the IWW openly advocated ca’canny (better known as “sabotage”), it often used the symbol of an angry black cat, with claws borne, fur standing on end, and a bottlebrush tail, as visual code. Indeed, the “sabo-cat”, (which may have originally been a tabby to provide a visual play-on-words, i.e. “sabo-tabby” for “sabotage”) designed by none other than Solidarity Forever songsmith and IWW organizer Ralph Chaplin [1], is still used today by the IWW, Earth First!, and the admirers of both—sometimes to specifically encourage direct action, but generally as a totem. [2] And though the IWW and Earth First! may have openly advocated sabotage at different times during their existences, as Earth First!er George Draffan had pointed out, in actual fact, it was the timber workers themselves who actually practiced it more than anyone else. [3] While this was often welcomed by the members of Local #1, at the same time, it also potentially caused problems as well.

"As opposition to Corporate Timber grew, North Coast activists anticipated a backlash. Already Earth First!ers in Arizona had been set up and framed for “terrorist” acts they didn’t commit. It was only a matter of time before something locally would get sabotaged, blown up, or burned down and the North Coast activists would likely get the blame. Indeed, there were some hints that it had possibly already happened. Take the case of the mysterious burnings of the Okerstrom feller-buncher logging equipment.

Ten Ways We Can Build A Better Economic System

By Gary Engler - rabble.ca, August 25, 2014

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.

For the numerous readers who asked: “But what can we do?” after reading my “10 reasons to smash capitalism,” here are ten ways we can build a better economic system:

10. We can elect governments that represent people rather than corporations. This will require serious electoral reform and include laws to make it clear corporations are not people and therefore cannot participate in the political process. A government representing all the people would regulate corporations to ensure socially responsible behaviour and transform psychopathic capitalist monstrosities into democratic, social enterprises that benefit all.

9. We can build communities and organizations that encourage solidarity, compassion and altruism. These will include worker, consumer, housing and producer cooperatives, as well as institutions of government. People must always remain vigilant, especially while capitalism continues to exist, about the pervasive power of greed to destroy these communities and organizations.

8. We can promote and build a democratic economy in which social ownership replaces private ownership of communities’ means of livelihood. The people who work in them and the communities in which they are located should control economic enterprises.

7. Since authentic freedom for any of us can only come when all of us are free we must create enterprises, communities, forms of governance and institutions that respect the rights of everyone and encourage the creativity of all. Socially useful individual enterprise should be encouraged but everywhere people work together we must create effective forms of democratic decision-making to promote creative input from all involved.

6. Everywhere we work we can organize in ways that become the building blocks of a new, democratic economy. Sometimes this will be through existing unions but often we will create new organizations that defend our day-to-day interests while self-consciously preparing to replace capitalist minority rule with democratic social control of all enterprises.

Making a Living on a Living Planet

By Joe Uehlein - Common Dreams, August 27, 2014

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.

On Labor Day 1940, American workers faced the aftermath of the Great Depression, with mass unemployment persisting and a divided labor movement facing a renewed counterattack from corporate America. They were barely becoming aware of an even greater threat, one that would determine the future of their country and their labor movement: the threat of Nazi armies mobilizing for war.

On Labor Day 2014, American workers face the lingering results of the Great Recession, with unemployment still at historic highs, burgeoning inequality, and attacks on the very right to have a union. But, like workers in 1940, we are being pressed by another threat, one that will far overshadow our current problems if we do not take it on.

Today the American labor movement -- like the rest of American society and like labor movements throughout the world—is being forced to grapple with global warming, climate chaos, and climate protection strategies. The future of labor’s growth and vitality will depend on its ability to play a central role in the movement to build a sustainable future for the planet and its people.

Climate change changes everything: Everything about how we organize society, how we conduct politics, even how we think of progress. For us in the labor movement, it must change how we envision the role of an organized labor movement in society. 

Society will change—either through the effects of climate degradation or through a colossal struggle to avert it. Labor has to decide whether to fight the transition to a climate-safe society or to help lead it. 

Renewable Energy and Lucas Aerospace "Workers Plans"

By Dave Elliot and Hilary Wainwright - The Multicultural Politic, October 28, 2011

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.

Over the years the trade union movement has often led radical challenges to existing ways of doing things, including initiatives to improve not just the health and safety of the workforce, but also, during a period of increased worker militancy in the 1970’s, campaigns to change the direction of technological development.

One epic struggle was the Workers Plan movement in the late 1970’s, led off by shop stewards at the 17 plants around the UK run by Lucas Aerospace – which employed around 13,000 people making aircraft systems, many of them defence related. The trade unionists were concerned about job security at a time of recession in the industry- and also cuts defence spending (which they supported in principal).

They involved the workforce in a two year process of developing a detailed plan for switching to what they called ‘socially useful work’. The Plan drew on the expertise of the workforce and the skills they had, and outlined a range of new products they could work on, including medical aids, new transport systems and several renewable energy technologies, like wind turbines, solar panels, fuel cells and heat pumps. They even managed to get some prototypes built.

This was long before these technologies were familiar, and the company was not impressed by trade unionist trying to tell them what to produce. They ignored the plan insisting that only they had the right to manage. The cross-plant shop stewards ‘Combine’ committee was also seen as ‘unofficial’, so it proved hard to get support from the TUC and union bureaucracy, or even from the Labour government.

And when the political climate changed with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, most of the leading Lucas activists were sacked. Some of them went on to work for left wing local councils, developing similar ideas.

The Animalization of the Proletariat

By Percy Gauguin - Species and Class, August 29, 2014

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 animalization of the dispossessed has been the very process by which the dispossessed became dispossessed. To reduce another to a bestial status is the establishment of supremacy over that other.

The condition of animality is essentially the lacking of humanity. The human who is treated as inferior is not fully human, and therefore lies somewhere between humanity and animality. This hierarchical mechanism is a form of predatory relations constituted within society, or the relations of nature transferred into social relations- not the reproduction of nature on social terrain, but the institution of a separate nature within society. This humanized nature, originating from nature but diverging from it, imposed itself upon ‘original’ nature and made it indistinct from it, thereby conflating human social relations with the natural order spontaneously arising between life forms in an idealized form. Animalization has been one of its underlying historical processes that has established inferiority and superiority between people, which then condensed the signification ‘animality’ as a distinct concept in opposition to ‘humanity’. This continual reproduction of animality throughout time has perpetuated the divide between humans and other species because humans themselves are divided into ‘social species’, or classes.

And so the species-relations between humanity and its livestock appear as the reflection of inter-human relations, reproduced in a distilled manner. The imperative of capital is to relegate each individual to the status of a meatbag which will generate, or at least not be an impediment to, profit. In the mass concentration of animals into bestial death camps proletarianization is reproduced in a very raw manner: the hyperexploited animal is merely a disposable unit situated in the accumulation of alienation. The hamburger fuels and provides alienated pleasure (e.g. McDonald’s) to those whose labor fuels the accumulation of capital and the even greater alienated pleasures of the capitalist class. The idea that animals suffer greatly under the industrial farm system is still extremely alien to many people, and oftentimes a matter of complete indifference and contempt. How can the proletariat’s proletariat become an object of solidarity when workers have no conception of even themselves? The pivot on which capitalism hinges is the individual ego that disregards all life that is situated beyond its egotistical view. The destruction of the slaughterhouse can never be accomplished within capitalism because capitalism is by nature always a world where the predatory instinct is sanctified.

Obama Opened Floodgates for Offshore Fracking in Recent Gulf of Mexico Lease

By Steve Horn - DeSmog Blog, August 28, 2014

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 little-noticed news arising out of a recent Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas lease held by the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the floodgates have opened for Gulf offshore hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

With 21.6 million acres auctioned off by the Obama Administration and 433,822 acres receiving bids, some press accounts have declared BP America — of 2010 Gulf of Mexico offshore oil spill infamy — a big winner of the auction. If true, fracking and the oil and gas services companies who perform it like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger came in a close second.

Rail-union Agreement Raises Concerns Over Safety

By Sarah Case - Gilette News Record, August 26, 2014

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.

If things go the way BNSF and some union leaders hope, the trains that haul coal out of the Powder River Basin soon could be driven by a lone engineer, instead of an engineer working with a conductor.

A pending contract would mandate single-person crews on trains equipped with a technology called Positive Train Control. Conductors, in a new role called a master conductor, would work off site and would oversee an unknown number of trains at any given time.

It’s a cost-saving maneuver that embraces technology mandated by a 2008 law. Many rail employees say it’s too risky to slash crews that help each other out and keep each other awake during long hauls across isolated stretches of territory.

Those opposed to the deal point to the remains of a small Canadian town as evidence that single-person crews are a deadly mistake.

Climate Crisis Connects Us, Climate Justice Requires Unity

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese - Popular Resistance, August 26, 2014

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.

What do rigged corporate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Treaty, an international climate agreement to be signed in 2015, have in common? They are both tools being pushed by the power elite to rip away our hopes for democracy and to commodify all things to monetize them for profit.

It is this drive by multinational corporations to patent and control even living beings such as plants and animals and to privatize even elements that are essential to life such as water which connects all human beings on the planet. We are in a global battle of the people versus the plutocrats and this battle has a ticking timer called the climate crisis.

The global financial elites meet regularly to plan their strategy and tactics. If they can’t push their agenda through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, they move to secret massive trade agreements. The Obama Administration is negotiating three such agreements right now: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TAFTA) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). Those agreements are stalled thanks to a movement of movements coming together to stop Congress from giving Obama fast track trade promotion authority.

Similarly, in response the climate crisis, the United Nations has been involved in what is called the Conference of the Parties (COP) which is part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Big corporations have taken over this process and are using it in their relentless drive to plunder the planet and exploit its living beings which knows no limits. It will take people power to apply the brakes.

Now, with the Paris Treaty, a binding international climate agreement, set to be concluded in December of 2015, we must build a similarly unified movement that stops this rigged corporate agreement and puts in place real solutions to the climate crisis. We must understand that climate change affects and connects all of us and we must be as organized as the opposition.

The United Nations Climate Summit in New York this September 23 provides an opportunity to further build this unified movement in the United States. Thousands of activists are planning to come to New York City for a march on September 21. In the days prior to that, the Global Climate Convergence in partnership with System Change not Climate Change will host a conference to discuss real solutions and obstacles to change, share skills and connect our sub-movements. This will be another step in the growing movement seeking real climate solutions in the face of the corruption and dysfunction of the United Nations and United States which have failed to address the climate crisis in meaningful ways.

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