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.

It’s Time for Disaster Communism

By Rahula Janowski - The Indypendent, October 13, 2017

The fires here are still uncontained. Over 8,000 people have already lost everything and while I pray that no one else loses their home or is harmed in the fires, that looks unlikely. Where are all these people supposed to go? There is no affordable housing here in the Bay area.

It’s time for some disaster communism, disaster socialism, some disaster anarchism. We know the speculators are drooling and champing at the bit right now. There are so many ways for them to make a profit from a tragedy. If we move forward in an individualist way, in a capitalist way, each family’s loss and struggle will be theirs alone. It will be horrific. It will not end well for anyone except those for whom things always end well, those who can use money to wipe their butts but never have a dime to spare.

What if we took a different route?

What if we expropriated every housing unit in San Francisco that is currently unoccupied for all but two vacation weeks a year and housed people whose homes in from Santa Rosa were incinerated? What if every illegal Airbnb unit was handed over to displaced families? What if law enforcement came under immense public pressure to ignore property laws and refused to evict squatters?

The 600-foot Millennial Tower in San Francisco has made headlines as it slowly sinks and leans by the centimeter against the skyline. The minuscule tilt has sent wealthy condo owners dialing their attorneys. But maybe, for those displaced, life in a leaning tower will be better than a shelter, a chance to experience a little lopsided luxury for a while?  

What if we socialized our housing or, at a minimum, all our unoccupied housing?

The possibilities are endless and it’s time. It’s time to shift gears. I mean, it’s been time. If the bankers, developers, landlords, the capitalists who have done so much harm already can see this crisis as an opportunity, maybe we should too — a chance to build a new world from the ashes of the old.

Time for Disaster Socialism

By Nato Green - San Francisco Examiner, October 15, 2017

The fires are not contained. The bodies haven’t been found. It’s time to talk about politics …

During and in the immediate aftermath of tragedies, we are told it’s not the time for politics. As a nation, we love the spectacle of what author Teju Cole called “the white-savior industrial complex,” in which justice is replaced by a “big emotional experience that validates privilege.” While we take a respite from breathing this week, let’s try justice instead.

On the West Coast, our historically unprecedented drought was followed by historically unprecedented fires. The South and the Caribbean are being ravaged by historically unprecedented hurricanes. It’s either God’s wrath for squandering a perfectly good planet, or our own squandering a perfectly good planet — and it’s becoming uninhabitable.

Try as they might, politicians did not summon fires, storms or earthquakes. However, our craven politics certainly increased the likelihood that these calamities would occur and be horrendous. Politics ensured the inadequacy of the disaster response and, we may confidently anticipate, utter neglect of the effort necessary to rebuild and restore people and lands so traumatized or to mitigate further disasters.

Scientists told us this was coming, and we didn’t listen, because driving was too fun and the beef too delicious. We know what happens next. It’s what Naomi Klein called “disaster capitalism.” Corporations made fortunes ignoring the risks and now will make another fortune on the back end. Capitalism is a protection racket. While we heal and grieve, savvy businessmen seek to use our collective anguish to further privatize and profit and deregulate in the name of recovery. After Hurricane Katrina, for example, the Louisiana legislature handed the public school system to the charter school industry, with predictably wretched results for students.

The market can’t be allowed to lead the response to the fires, because the market is the problem. We knew that impending climate change meant these related cataclysms. Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t want to ban oil drilling or fracking. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that half of the increase in forest fires is from climate change. Yet, just last year, Gov. Brown vetoed SB 1463, a bipartisan bill to improve inspection of power lines and address higher risk of wildfires because of neglected power lines next to dead trees. Reports have suggested that PG&E power lines were the probable spark of the fires, which spread so ferociously because California is getting hotter and drier.

Fixing, regulating and preventing are a known and ongoing cost, whereas betting against worst-case scenarios is lucrative business for a quarterly return.

In Santa Rosa, more than 2,800 homes have been destroyed in a region with insufficient affordable housing; the city was trying to figure out how to build another 5,000 units. In one rental listing in Santa Rosa, the landlord hiked the rent more than 30 percent immediately after the fire started. Left to its own devices, will the market build the housing needed by the people affected? Or will it build for rich future residents and let those who lost everything fend for themselves?

We need a People’s Fire Recovery Plan, a “disaster socialism” to answer disaster capitalism. The people and land affected by the fires need to get whatever help they need, regardless of cost. The crisis is an occasion to demand what we needed last week — aggressive regulatory oversight to protect public health and safety, adequate funding of public services for first, second and third responders, physical and mental health care. Burning down a lot of real estate means there’s plenty of space to rebuild affordable housing and public transit. We need urban planning that prepares for more ecological adversity.

The old Industrial Workers of the World union song “Solidarity Forever” had a fitting lyric: “We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.” In 2017 California, we are learning the hard way that the Wobblies meant literal ashes. Get ready for the birthing.

The King is Dead

By Anna Goldstein - 350.org, October 18, 2011

“It’s really difficult to understand a moment in history when you are in it.”
—Shaun King

Kumi Naidoo, the great South African human rights and environmental leader, happened to be in Seattle on September 26, the day the Department of Ecology denied a key permit for the Millenium coal export terminal. I told him the good news, and he related the story of a recent victory in South Africa. But Kumi was a bit jet lagged and world weary, reluctant to celebrate too much. It’s important to recognize the victories to keep up morale, he said, but so often they turn out to be temporary. We rarely win definitively or permanently. And the next battle is never far behind.

Anyone who’s joined the climate fight can feel this. But there’s an opposite effect on the other side of the Sisyphean hill. (Do we have a myth for this, or do we need a new one?) The Millenium coal export project–a climate disaster as big as the Keystone XL pipeline–will never be built. Coal export from the West Coast is never coming back. The coal industry is never coming back. We’ve won much more than a permanent victory against these projects.

Earlier this week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proclaimed “the war on coal is over” and announced plans to roll back President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. One hates this “war” talk, a cynical political ploy to manipulate workers and communities who depend on coal economically. The fight to overcome the concentrated, abusive political and economic power of the coal industry is a fight for people, for jobs, for communities, for a decent future for our kids.

But if you must have it that way, Mr. Pruitt, then yes, the “war on coal” is ending. And coal is losing. These last spasms of resurgence under Trump are pure political theater, without economic foundation. And the coal export saga in the Northwest was a decisive battle, a late stand for a dying proposition.

When the coal export boondoggle first hit the news in 2010, the chairman of Peabody Energy, giddy with illusions of limitless markets in Asia, gushed that “coal’s best days are ahead.” By 2016, Peabody had lost 99.9% of its value and filed for bankruptcy, as did most of the North American coal giants.

They were, of course, in big trouble when they started this misadventure. Coal prices and markets had begun a steep decline in the U.S.–the product of fierce opposition, stiff competition from cleaner energy sources, growing momentum to address the climate crisis, and renewed enforcement of basic public health protections after the lax Bush years. Peabody has now “emerged” from bankruptcy, meaning they reneged on enough commitments, screwed enough workers, abandoned enough communities, and wriggled out of enough cleanup obligations to get their stock ticker back up off the floor. But they can’t escape the fundamental economic, technological, and human forces at work here. Their era is ending, because we must end it; and now that we’ve developed better, safer, cheaper ways meet our energy needs, we know we can.

Why Are Women Prisoners Battling California Wildfires for as Little as $1 a Day?

Jaime Lowe and Romarilyn Ralston interviewed by Amy Goodman and Juan González - Democracy Now, October 18, 2011

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we end today’s show in California, where raging wildfires have killed at least 41 people and scorched more than 200,000 acres—roughly the size of New York City. The fires are now the deadliest in California since record keeping began. At least 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate, with about 75,000 displaced after their homes and businesses were destroyed.

More than 11,000 firefighters are battling the blazes, and a number of them are prisoners, including many women inmates. In this clip from the film The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, an inmate with an all-woman crew describes being sent to fight a raging fire in Marin County.

INMATE FIREFIGHTER: My first day here, when I first got to camp, I got thrown on a fire. We had just got through orientation, and the horn went off. And I got thrown on the bus, and off we went, chasing the smoke. We’re driving up the mountain and seeing dirty burn everywhere. All of a sudden, there’s a 40-foot wall of flame on both sides of me.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from PBS’s Independent Lens, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes.

To find out more about these firefighters, we’re joined by two guests. In Fullerton, California, Romarilyn Ralston is with us, of California Coalition for Women Prisoners, the L.A. chapter, program coordinator for Project Rebound at Cal State University. Romarilyn experienced 23 years of incarceration. While she was incarcerated, she was a fire camp trainer and a clerk for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

And in Los Angeles, journalist and author Jaime Lowe is with us. Her recent story in The New York Times Magazine is headlined “The Incarcerated Women Who Fight California’s Wildfires.”

Romarilyn, if you could start off by telling us who is on the front lines? People might be surprised to hear that prisoners, among them women prisoners, are fighting California’s wildfires right now.

How Milk with Dignity got a historic agreement

Enrique "Kike" Balcazar interviewed by Owen La Farge - Socialist Worker, October 19, 2011

WHAT WERE the most important victories that came with the signing of the Milk with Dignity agreement Ben & Jerry's?

FOR MANY years, the priority of dairy workers here in Vermont has been to improve working and living conditions on the farms. We had to build our way up to winning this agreement. First, we organized to secure things like drivers licenses for immigrants in Vermont and stopping the collaboration of police with immigration authorities.

In 2014, we started to speak with Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream about how they could behave more responsibility and lead the way in improving working conditions. The workers designed a program called "Milk with Dignity."

The program was created and led by dairy workers in Vermont. It has five essential elements, including a code of conduct that sets out standards that establish respect and dignity for workers in the areas of decent wages, hours of work, health and safety, and dignified housing.

AND ALL of this is included in the agreement that Ben & Jerry's signed?

YES. IN addition to the code of conduct, the program establishes a plan to educate workers when they start so they can learn about their rights and how to defend them.

Another important element of Milk with Dignity is that an independent third party will interview the workers and oversee the execution of the program. Farmworkers will also be able to call a 24/7 hotline to make complaints and to improve communication inside the dairy farms.

WHY DID Ben & Jerry's sign the agreement two years after initially saying that they supported the agreement?

WE ORGANIZED well, and we defined what we wanted clearly, and we knew that Milk with Dignity represented a new day for the workers. So we never stopped organizing, and with the support of students, faith groups, sister organizations, consumers and workers, we pushed Ben & Jerry's to sign the deal.

Ben & Jerry's has taken steps towards social responsibility in areas such as the environment and animal rights. So I believe Ben & Jerry's understood it was time to do right by the workers.

Final Straw: Autonomous Northern California Fire Relief Efforts

By Final Straw - It's Going Down, October 18, 2011

Listen and Download Here

I’d like to share a Final Straw Radio mini-episode, a conversation with Emilio of the currently unofficial Sonoma County IWW, or Industrial Workers of the World. This chapter doesn’t yet have an official charter but they were in the process or organizing one when the fires in Northern California started last week and have used this as a platform for fund-raising and trying to work out solidarity relief in Santa Rosa, the seat of Sonoma County.

For this chat, Emilio and I talk about the weather patterns of northern coastal California, relief efforts by the Red Cross and other NGO’s around shelter and care distribution, what their nascent chapter of the IWW is trying to do and related topics. To find more about their chapter, you can go onto Fedbook and stay tuned in the conversation for their relief phone number, a few material needs you can provide from a distance and ways to get involved if you’re in the area.

‘The People of Puerto Rico are Dying’ Say 50 Nurses Returning from Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico

By Martha Wallner and Kari Jones - Common Dreams, October 18, 2011

WASHINGTON - A large delegation of 50 volunteer registered nurses from across the U.S. returns this week from Puerto Rico after a two-week disaster relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Maria, describing an ineffective federal response that has led to deadly conditions including extreme lack of food, water and medicine; people living in houses infested with black mold; and water-borne illnesses such as leptospirosis that are already claiming lives.

“The people over here in Puerto Rico are dying. We have a healthcare crisis right now,” said National Nurses United (NNU) vice president and Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) volunteer Cathy Kennedy, RN. “Nurses have been going out into communities, where all they ask for is water and food. And when you have to make a decision of who’s going to get the food today or the water — we shouldn’t have to do that. The United States is the richest country in the world; Puerto Rico is part of the United States.”

The returning nurses are part of the Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a disaster relief program sponsored by National Nurses United, and are among 300 union members the AFL-CIO organized for the relief mission to Puerto Rico.

For interviews with RNs who have returned from the two-week mission please call: 510-433-2759 or 510-273-2264.

The RN volunteers were shocked at the perilous conditions residents were enduring a full three weeks after Hurricane Maria. From the outskirts of San Juan to isolated mountain towns, they encountered many residents had yet to be assisted by the U.S. government's relief effort. Many were staying in houses that had been destroyed by the hurricane, flooded, roofless, cut off from electricity, food and clean water. Residents often told the nurses they were the first people offering them assistance. In addition to providing medical care, the RNs instructed residents on how to decontaminate their water and remove black mold from their homes. They also visited community radio stations where they provided health tips and water decontamination instructions on the air.

"These communities are at great risk of water borne illness epidemics. They need clean water that is safe to drink," said Erin Carrera, RN UC San Francisco. "It is outrageous that we are leaving our fellow Americans with essentially no aid. Many more will die if we don't step up."

Nurse testimonies include:

“Today our team traveled into the center of island into the mountain towns of Utuado. These towns are so isolated that relief efforts have not made it into these areas. It was due to impassable roads. But the local community cleared most of the roads. People said we were the first relief group to come into the area … They’re struggling to get basics such as food, water and medicine.” — Roxanna Garcia, RN

“We couldn’t believe this is part of the United States. We did home visits in a low-income community with the public health liaisons who identify those in need and help them do basic blood pressure checks, blood sugar checks, refill their meds, etc. They have already had chronic diseases going on and now their environment is full of hazardous materials and sanitation is so poor.” — Hau  Yau, RN

“What our nurses witnessed daily is the harsh reality of a woefully inadequate government response and the brutal, inhumane impact on the Puerto Rican people. The Trump Administration, FEMA, and Congress must act immediately,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of NNU’s RNRN program.

On October 11, National Nurses United sent a letter to all members of Congress pressing them to “take immediate action to prevent a further public health calamity in Puerto Rico”.

“The response to the crisis in Puerto Rico from the U.S. federal government has been unacceptable for the wealthiest country in the world,” wrote NNU RN Co-Presidents Deborah Burger and Jean Ross, citing eyewitness accounts by RNs on the ground, and the ongoing crisis of lack of water, food, and other emergencies faced by the island’s 3.5 million residents.

NNU is calling on the federal government to  supply greater technological and logistics support to Puerto Rico, immediately provide generators for hospitals and other essential infrastructure, install temporary telecommunications connections in remote areas, and deploy boots on the ground to help clear roads and deliver humanitarian aid. NNU has also called on the federal government to grant all Puerto Ricans immediate eligibility for Medicaid to insure that residents there receive the care they need in the midst of this public health crisis.

RNRN has more than 12 years of experience in providing disaster medical aid following global emergencies dating back to Hurricane Katrina and the deadly South Asia tsunami. Most recently, RNRN volunteers worked in a convention center in Houston and other locales in South Texas after Hurricane Harvey.

Puerto Rico's disaster was years in the making

By Brian Sullivan - Socialist Worker, October 18, 2011

ON THE morning of September 29, a 78-year-old retiree named Luis Alberto Ruiz Irizarry, overcome by the despair that has enveloped Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, tried to hang himself in his Caguas backyard.

His daughter found him hanging from a tree behind their home, but with over 70 percent of cell towers down across the island, she couldn't call an ambulance for help. Neighbors helped her pull his body down and rushed him to the local hospital in their own jeep, while his wife pumped his chest in the back seat.

They were lucky that the hospital was among the half on the island that were still open at the time, but it, too, was teetering on the brink. Running dangerously low on water and fuel for its backup generators, hospitals were strictly rationing the use of essential equipment such as dialysis machines, much less air conditioners.

As a result, in the stiflingly hot weeks since Hurricane Maria made landfall, temperatures in hospitals reached unsafe levels. Doctors and nurses have been warning that unless something changes, disaster is imminent.

How did we get to this point? How could Puerto Rico, a territory of the world's richest country, be so vulnerable to the destruction of Hurricane Maria, and so unequipped to deal with the crisis in the aftermath?

At the root of the current crisis is the debt that has been suffocating the island for years, a debt that has roots in Puerto Rico's history as a disenfranchised colony of the United States.

Agroecology, a way of life, struggle, and resistance against capitalism!

By staff - La Via Campesina, October 17, 2011

Synthesis

Agroecology: a way of life, struggle and resistance against capitalism. Agroecology is the basis for peasant agriculture and food sovereignty. Agroecology continues to be open to debate and dispute; from the perspective of our movements, it is the guarantee, care and protection of our Mother Earth. For that reason, it is transversal in all the spaces of the land, subsoil, territory, water and space.

The cosmovision and epistemology of our peoples tell us that agroecological practices are the center of our ancestors’ production, since they are the coexistence of all living beings. The land does not belong to us; we belong to the land. We are balance and equity, solidarity, integrity, diversity, territorial defense, the ‘buen vivir’, the dialogue between ways of knowing, expressed through the peasant-to-peasant method.

We do not want sustainable development, we want sustainable life. Agroecology gives our identity back to us. Women played a historic role in the evolution of peasant and indigenous agriculture.

Our processes of agroecological training make use of the Latin American Agroecological Institutes (IALA) training centers, through the learning routes that CLOC-LVC has built in the continent. Agroecology is a multidimensional space of social processes, sharing, culture, and art that we can only find in our territories.
All support processes for agroecology should be led by organizations of peasant families, indigenous peoples, farm workers and family farmers, including men and women, with the greatest possible participation of young people.

Agroecology and peasant seeds are mutually dependent, because agroecology is incompatible with genetic engineering, there can be no agroecology with agrochemicals or with the transnational agribusiness corporations.

The theories of Marx and Engels (including the division between the countryside and the city) and indigenous cosmovisions are similar and complementary in agroecological thought and in the unity between culture and the dialogue of ways of knowing. Our agroecological proposal regenerates agroecosystems, including plant, animal and soil biodiversity, as well as indigenous cultures with their diverse ways of producing in harmony with Mother Earth.

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