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.

Chapter 28 : Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

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

At their first meeting, the members of IWW Local #1 had agreed upon a policy that they would not consent to interviews in the press because—while Earth First!ers could be open about their militant radicalism, since they didn’t have a direct economic relationship with the big timber companies or the gyppos—the workers, on the other hand, risked the loss of their job, or even their standing in the community if they spoke out. The G-P mill workers hit by the PCB spill were the exception, of course, because by the time they had turned to IWW Local #1, they had already had their standing taken away from them, and some—such as Treva Vandenbosch and Frank Murray—had been forced to quit. On the other hand, the P-L dissidents—such as Kelly Bettiga, Pete Kayes, Les Reynolds, and Bob Younger were already under intense scrutiny for the ESOP campaign and their unsuccessful appeals to the NLRB—and the L-P workers feeding information to Bari—including Don Beavers and Randy Veach, all could be fired in a heartbeat if they were linked to the “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs.” [1]

After the FBI sting operation that entrapped five of their comrades in Arizona, North Coast Earth First!ers were understandably wary of their dealings with the press, with good reason. With the region increasingly resembling a pressure cooker on overdrive due to the Corporate Timber reaction to Earth First!’s direct actions, EPIC’s lawsuits, the potential listing of the spotted owl as endangered, L-P’s outsourcing, and several ballot initiatives, the bosses were more likely than ever to ramp up their propaganda mill. The added pressures of underground IWW union organizing activity required especially tight security from the activists. Sometimes even the left-liberal press, small and limited though its circulation tended to be, could cause more harm than good. Judi Bari was especially aware of this fact.

Even if a press interview was sympathetic to the efforts of IWW Local 1 and the workers’ privacy respected, there was a sense that reporters might sensationalize the matter. In December of 1989, freelance reported Julie Gilden, whose articles often ran in publications such as The Village Voice approached Judi Bari about conducting just such an interview with her and timber-worker members of IWW Local #1. Bari informed Gilden of the branch’s aforementioned policy, and the latter claimed to agree to respect the IWW members’ wishes, but wanted to ask Bari some background questions on the IWW’s history and the local culture of Humboldt and Mendocino County. Bari consented, assuming that Gilden was completely forthright. She wasn’t. [2]

A Sea of Black Flags

By Max Perkins - Boston IWW, September 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.

Truly the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of, the Peoples’ Climate March in New York City was beyond the biggest mass of activists I have ever seen. Have you ever seen 200-300 Anarchists before? WOW! From every part of the country and from all over the world. The day started with meeting up with our wonderful comrades from NY Black Rose / Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation, who did an amazing job organizing our Anti-Capitalist contingent. At 11:30 we started masking up, assembling our banners, unraveling our flags and meeting each other, then marched to meet 2-3 other groups that had been assembling between 90th St. and 87th St. by Central Park West. A beautiful day was in store. Never have I seen so many diverse groups: 350.org, Indigenous Rights activists, Vets for Peace, just to name a few. We assembled near the contingent from the Revolutionary Communist Party (Bob Avakian’s followers). This was at first very tense. A fight almost started when one of our comrades was explaining that a cult of personality is counter-revolutionary. However the issue was resolved peacefully.

Looking around me was stunning: A sea of black flags, red and black flags, also hundreds of folks of all ages and backgrounds — simply the most comrades I have ever seen in the US or in once place. Chanting, and singing a beautiful version of “Solidarity Forever,” the march began around 1-2 pm. It took hours for the first contingents to reach the end of the march, and even longer for us. The highlights included screaming up at the Banks, and most especially at Fake Fox News. So many people were asking, “Who are you?” And the reply was “We are Anarchists! Oh we need more of you! Yes we do!” The march was amazing and peaceful with much support for us, many people taking pictures and cheering us on. At one point a huge group of young POC on bikes saw us and there was a massive show of anti-police solidarity. Wonderful!

The march continued to Times Square, with wave upon wave of dedicated activists and no loss of energy. The changes never stopped and my voice was really gone. The follow up to this is that we made a huge statement, but received no press (not that we were seeking it, but to have so many of us (Anarchists) together, you would think that maybe someone would say something, but alas NO!). Coverage seemed, as is common, to focus on the “big” groups. Even Democracy Now did not mention the Anarchist involvement in the march. I feel that it means we have to work harder to bring the message to the people that this should not be a one-time thing, but a regular occurrence, for people forget all too quickly, and carry on with their lives as if nothing happened. Today I have been corresponding with Fellow Workers, including FW Maria, from the IWW’s Washington DC Branch, who like me wants to see better communication and solidarity actions that include many branches. Our struggle continues, and until we reach our goal of a world free from the shackles of Capitalist oppression we must carry on. For an Injury to One (planet) is truly an Injury to All! Solidarity Forever, and special thanks to Maria, DC IWW, NY Black Rose and Polish Anarchists, and any others who helped make this happen.

Chinese Abolone Farmers, Angry Over Pollution, Shut Down Shipyard and Smash Equipment

By Brenda Goh - Reuters, September 23, 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.

(Reuters) – A shipyard in China‘s southeast has suspended operations after at least 500 farmers, who blame water pollution from the yard for killing their abalone harvest, stormed the yard and smashed its offices, an official at the shipyard said on Tuesday.

There has been no work at the Fujian Huadong Shipyard, which sits on the north coast of Luoyuan Bay in Fujian province, since last Wednesday, said an assistant manager at the factory who gave only his surname, Zhang.

Luoyuan Bay is home to numerous floating farms that cultivate the sought-after shellfish, a delicacy that is eaten in Asia at banquets and even exchanged as gifts.

Public awareness over China’s industrial pollution has grown in recent years and Chinese leaders have vowed to clean up its waterways and skies.

However, violent protests over such incidents in China are comparatively rare. Sixteen people were sentenced to prison last year for their involvement in an environmental protest.

Zhang said farmers from surrounding villages visited the offices of the Luoyuan Bay area Communist Party committee after an unusually high number of abalone deaths in August.

Villagers decided to target the shipyard directly after they received no reply to their petition, Zhang said.

“On the 16th (last Tuesday) some villagers cornered one of our bosses and wouldn’t let him leave, they wouldn’t let him drink or eat,” Zhang said.

“There were at least 500 villagers who arrived the next day,” he said. “After work at the yard stopped, they entered the locked offices of our finance and administrative departments and smashed the computers, cupboards … They left after they got tired,” Zhang said.

Media reports said the villagers blamed the factory for polluting the water in which the abalone was farmed. A Luoyuan government official said they had sent a team to investigate.

The factory, which opened in 2011, switched its focus to ship repair last year after the global shipping slump sapped demand for new vessels, Zhang said. Ship repair usually has a greater impact on the environment, he said, but the reasons for the abalone deaths were likely to be more complex.

He said the factory was waiting for the local government to give the go-ahead before restarting work.

JUSTICE PUSHES WHISTLEBLOWER BOUNTIES AS EPA ABANDONS THEM - Declining EPA Prosecutions Reflect Low Priority for Corporate Pollution vs. Fraud

By Kirsten Stade - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, September 24, 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.

Washington, DC —As federal prosecutors promote substantial financial rewards for white collar crime whistleblowers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cashiered its modest witness bounty program long ago, according to records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This may help explain the stagnancy of EPA’s anti-pollution criminal enforcement program.

In a September 17, 2014 speech at the New York University Law School, Attorney General Eric Holder advocated increasing the size of whistleblower awards under white collar crime bounty laws, saying it “could significantly improve the Justice Department’s ability to gather evidence of wrongdoing while complex financial crimes are still in progress – making it easier to complete investigations and to stop misconduct before it becomes so widespread that it foments the next crisis.”

By contrast, EPA has no interest in whistleblower bounties. In 1990, Congress authorized EPA to pay “an award, not to exceed $10,000, to any person who furnishes information or services which lead to a criminal conviction or a judicial or administrative civil penalty for any violation” of the Clean Air Act. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from PEER about how this bounty authority had been utilized, the agency conceded that this provision had become a dead letter. EPA could find only one responsive document, a 1996 internal manual provision, because –

“Nearly all the records you requested were destroyed in 2012 because the retention schedule for those records had been met (10 years retention time).”

“The Justice Department now emphasizes the importance of whistleblowers to effective enforcement against corporate criminality while EPA remains clueless,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Corporate pollution violations are just as much a white collar crime as securities fraud.”

Reflecting persistent complaints about shortages of agents, lack of focus and low priority on complex pollution cases from within EPA’s own Criminal Investigation Division (CID), PEER points out that –

  • Criminal cases generated by EPA have been in overall decline over the last decade, with more than half of all its criminal referrals rejected for prosecution. During the first three-quarters of FY 2014, EPA generated only 207 new cases, putting it on track for the lowest number since 1992;
  • Despite policies requiring timely enforcement, EPA allows major wastewater dischargers to violate their permits for years without even a citation; and
  • EPA’s new five-year Strategic Plan deemphasizes traditional enforcement in favor of industry self-reporting of emissions and discharges.

“Agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission actively seek to verify corporate filings but when it comes to the environment EPA has no means for, or apparent interest in, checking whether industry pollution self-reporting is accurate,” added Ruch. “EPA hands out citizen awards for all sorts of volunteerism but not for helping catch polluters.”

A Coal CEO Allegedly Coerced His Employees To Donate To Political Candidates. Here’s Who Benefited

By Emily Atkin - Think Progress, September 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.

Earlier this month, the United States’ largest independent coal company was slapped with a lawsuit by a former employee, claiming she was illegally fired for refusing to give money to political candidates chosen by her boss. That boss, Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, allegedly sent letters to his employees asking them to support pro-coal candidates for political office, keeping track of who made the requested contributions and who didn’t. Employees of Murray Energy and its subsidiary companies were aware that failing to contribute could impact their jobs, the lawsuit claimed.

This incident is not the first time Murray has been accused of pressuring his employees to give money to his preferred candidates and his political action committee, the Murray Energy PAC. “The pressure to give begins as soon as employees enter the company,” the New Republic’s Alec MacGillis reported in a 2012 investigative piece. “At the time of hiring, supervisors tell employees that they are expected to contribute to the company PAC by automatic payroll deduction — typically 1 percent of their salary, a level confirmed by a 2008 letter to employees from the PAC’s treasurer.”

Murray has adamantly denied the veracity of the allegations. In a statement to ThinkProgress, a spokesperson called the latest lawsuit “baseless,” “blatantly false,” and “totally concocted,” deeming it an “attempt to extort money from Murray Energy Corporation.” The claims that Murray knows which of his employees donates and who does not are “totally fabricated,” the spokesperson said, a fact that Murray has “repeatedly stated.”

Still, the allegations raise questions about the ethics and legality of Murray Energy employee donations. Federal Election Commission rules state that corporations can’t make their employees donate to specific candidates or parties “as a condition of employment.” If corporations do ask their employees to contribute to certain funds, they must inform the employee “of his right to refuse to so contribute without any reprisal.”

In the latest accusation of coercion against Murray, the former employee cited fundraising letters she received from Murray in late May of 2014. Those letters asked for contributions to four Republican candidates for U.S. Senate: Scott Brown from New Hampshire, Ed Gillespie from Virginia, Terri Lynn Land from Michigan, and Mike McFadden from Minnesota.

Climate Reckoning: My Family’s Coal Story

By Jeff Biggers - EcoWatch, September 24, 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.

Four years after the publication of my memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, I found myself sitting in the front row of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southern Illinois. It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, only a few miles from where Peabody Energy sank its first coal mine in 1895, and a few blocks from where I had sat on the front porch as a kid and listened to the stories of my grandfather and other coal miners about union battles for justice. For the first time in decades, residents in coal country were shining the spotlight on issues of civil rights, environmental ruin and a spiraling health crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.

The total destruction of my family’s nearby Eagle Creek community from strip-mining was held up as their cautionary tale. The takeaway: Strip-mining more than stripped the land; it stripped the traces of any human contact.

“We have lost population, we have lost homes and we have lost roads,” testified Judy Kellen, a resident facing an expanded strip mine in Rocky Branch. “We have lost history. We have to endure dust, noise levels to the pitch you wanted to scream because you couldn’t get any rest or sleep, earth tremors, home damages, complete isolation of any type of view to the north, health issues, a sadness in your heart that puts a dread on your face every day, and an unrest in the spirit that we knew nothing of.”

A lot has changed in these four years—much of it troubling, and much of it inspiring.

After traveling to coal mining communities around the U.S. and the world, I have learned that my own private reckoning with coal in the great Shawnee forests surrounding Eagle Creek was only a prologue to our greater climate reckoning for my children.But first, the inspiring part: Faced with losing their homes, farms, health—and sheer sanity—from the blasting and non-stop war-zone traffic of coal operators within 300 feet of their living rooms—southern Illinois residents with deep coal mining roots in Harrisburg were taking a courageous stand for climate and coalfield justice. Meanwhile, former coal mining areas from central Appalachia to Germany to Scotland have begun the process of transitioning to clean energy economies.

Here’s the troubling part: Four years after the publication of Reckoning at Eagle Creek, Illinois is in the throes of a coal-mining rush not seen in nearly a century, recognized as the fastest-growing coal region in the nation. Since 2009, the state’s mining production has increased by more than 60 percent.

Big Oil Brown Greenwashes his Legacy at U.N. Climate Summit

By Dan Bacher - Indybay.Org, September 23, 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.

Jerry Brown, one of the worst governors for fish, water and the environment in California target="_blank" history, spoke to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City today in a cynical attempt to greenwash his deplorable environmental record.

During his U.N. address, Governor Brown touted California’s controversial carbon trading policies as an example of "innovative climate strategies."

“The California story is a very hopeful one,” Brown gushed. “It’s a story of Republican and Democratic governors pioneering innovative climate strategies. It’s not been easy, it’s not without contest, but we’re making real progress."

“I believe that from the bottom up, we can make real impact and we need to join together,” added Governor Brown. “We’re signing MOUs with Quebec and British Columbia, with Mexico, with states in China and wherever we can find partners, because we know we have to do it all.”

Brown's remarks at the summit are available at: http://cert1.mail-west.com/oUyjbH/myuzjanmc7rm/21oUgt/r8kgy/vnqoU2xx1jy8d/uqc5hy21oUq/043i8kyepg?_c=d%7Cze7pzanwmhlzgt%7C12lu5pdhlx8v340&_ce=1411519461.60b50da8597e418eaeff8b1b85e25029)

In a video message ahead of the Summit, Brown claimed, "We are carrying on because we know in California that carbon pollution kills, it undermines our environment, and, long-term, it’s an economic loser. We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate. The time to act is now. The place to look is California.”

Yes, California, now under attack by the anti-environmental policies and carbon trading greenwashing campaign by Governor Brown, is definitely “the place to look” for one example after another of environmental destruction.

Once known as "Governor Moonbeam" for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, has in his third administration transformed himself into "Big Oil Brown.”

Climate, Coal and Confrontation

By Paul Messersmith-Glavin - The Portland Radicle, May 17, 2013

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 a previous essay (Capital and Climate Catastrophe, November, 2012), I outlined how capitalism is responsible for the current climate crisis and how it is not capable of solving it. Here I talk about the local effects of climate change, the effort to export coal through the Pacific Northwest, and about bringing an anti-capitalist perspective to organizing against climate catastrophe.

More Rain, But Less Water

Over the last century, the average annual temperature has increased 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with increases in some areas up to 4 degrees. Changes in forest cover, stream flows, and snowpack are already occurring in our region and will continue. The average annual temperature is expected to increase up to 10 degrees by the time today’s infants enter old age. The winters here are likely to get wetter and the summers drier. Insultingly, people living in the Pacific Northwest are being asked to help further facilitate these devastating changes to our environment by allowing coal trains to export coal to Asia to accelerate global warming.

Much of the region’s water supply is stored in snowpack in the mountains. Snowpack melts in the late spring and summer, running into streams and rivers throughout the year, providing drinking water, a healthy environment for fish, and water for agriculture, and driving energy production through dams. Higher winter temperatures will cause more precipitation to fall as rain, rather than snow. The decreased snowpack, estimated to decline by 40% in only the next 30 years, would increase the incidence of drought in increasingly drier, hotter summers. Increased rain (rather than snow) at higher elevations in the winter would also increase the probability of winter flooding. Overall we’ll experience less availability of drinkable water.

Decreasing water availability would strain existing social relations, as people compete to use dwindling supplies for agricultural irrigation, hydropower, municipal drinking water, industrial uses, and the protection of endangered and threatened animal species. Seventy percent of electric power in the Northwest is supplied by hydropower. At the same time that rising temperatures will increase the demands for air conditioning and refrigeration, decreased summer water supplies will limit hydroelectricity. Salmon, already threatened, will become increasingly vulnerable, with at least a third of their habitat destroyed by century’s end.

Additionally, the impact on the region’s forests will be immense. We can expect increased damage due to proliferating insect attacks from the mountain pine beetle and others, slowed tree growth, and a bloom of forest fires.1

This will all be exasperated by the increased population demands, as people from regions even worse off come to the Pacific Northwest. In the next fifty years, the Portland metro area could grow to as many as 4 – 6 million, from the current level of just under a million. Increasing numbers of ‘climate refugees’ in the region will likely lead to more authoritarian police enforcement. Police play a role of ensuring race and class divisions, often through brutality and murder. This will likely increase with more desperate people.

On the coasts, ocean acidification accompanying climate change is already impacting oyster and other sea life populations and will continue to affect all marine life, as coastal erosion and sea levels increase.

North Portland is most vulnerable to flooding, as the Columbia River floods natural areas such as the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the airport, and potentially up to two miles of North Portland in the decades and centuries to come.2

As much as climate change will affect the ecological integrity of our region, it will continue to be much more devastating to people living in parts of the world not responsible for producing greenhouse gases. The largely white, European people of the so-called global North dominate and exploit the people of the South. It is primarily poor people of color, not contributing to global warming, who will endure its most devastating effects. It is mostly they who will continue to suffer and die. That’s the racist nature of climate change.

The Global Climate Strike: Why We Can't Wait

By Ben Manski and Jill Stein - Popular Resistance, September 24, 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 world’s capitals will not end the old economy or deliver the new one.  We can’t wait any longer because every day of waiting reduces our window for action. We need not wait because we already hold the knowledge needed for creating the new economy. And because a global climate strike can stop the machine responsible for creating the climate crisis, the most powerful person may be you.

You may think that Wall Street will change course and lead our economy in a new, climate-neutral direction. Or you may expect Washington D.C. — or Beijing, New Delhi, Brussels or Moscow — to decisively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect people and the planet.

If so, read no further.

But if you are unwilling to entrust your future to the money men and the political class, then consider this: Regardless of who you are, the person who holds the most power in the world to end the climate crisis may be you.

One way to guarantee an end to the climate crisis is to stop doing the things that are heating the planet. Stop  fossil fuel production and use. Stop greenhouse gas emissions. Stop rainforest devastation. And since the corporate and political capitals of the world are unwilling to stop themselves, we must stop them ourselves.

We can stop them by refusing our participation and cooperation. We can stop them by withholding our labor. By folding our arms we can halt the machine responsible for the climate crisis and create the space for the new, green economy to take root. We should go on strike.

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