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.

To our working-class brothers and sisters across the world Invitation to the International Joint Action in November in Tokyo and Seoul

By Doro-Chiba/KCTU - Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, October 23, 2016

Neoliberalism has led to a rapid increase in irregular workers and indirect employment all over the world, as well as the strengthening of monopoly, the deepening of wealth polarization, more and more privatization, and the oppression of the labor union movement.

Moreover, the intensified competition among capitalist powers has brought about the impending crisis of conflict and war, especially in Northeast Asia.

Workers of the world! We, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Seoul Regional Council and three unions in Japan (Doro-Chiba, Kan-Nama and Minato-Godo), have decided to organize a Workers’ International Solidarity Action in November against the merciless capitalists’ oppression of the labor movement and the growing crisis of imperialist war in Northeast Asia and the Middle East.

Neoliberalism, which is controlled by the “1%” monopoly capitalists, totally deprives workers of their freedom. While the number of irregular workers and indirectly employed workers increases, public services (transportation, education, medical care, municipality, etc.) are shrinking, being privatized, and transformed into mere tools for profiteering.

Above all, the capitalists’ greed has forced the world into economic depression and the collapse of the world economy, and is drawing the world into the disaster of impending imperialist war (a world war and nuclear war).

In face of the first crisis ever to seriously threaten the survival of mankind, the international solidarity of workers is the only way to defend the world.

We workers of the world must stand together in a united struggle under the banner of international solidarity.

In 1995, South Korean workers established the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) to unite workers and stand in the vanguard of their struggles, overcoming the harsh repression of state power and capital that had existed on labor movements for a long period of time. Since then, KCTU has been relentlessly fighting and continuously moving forward.

The workers of KCTU keep fighting without fear even to die in their struggle. They go on strikes regardless of the risks of being fired or arrested. In fact, our comrade Han Sang-gyun, President of KCTU, recently received an unprecedented sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and now strives behind bars. Despite such a brutal rule of the present regime that speaks only for big capital and the far right wing, the workers never waver in their efforts and continue fighting on militantly.

This coming September, workers in South Korea are preparing to wage another robust general strike led by the public sector union. Also, 200,000 workers from all over the country will gather together in a massive protest at the People’s All-out Rally in Seoul. There the working class people will vigorously launch the decisive battle to fight back against the oppressive rule of the government and capitalism. This will pave the way for further general strikes and then link up with the struggle of the presidential election in 2017. All these militant struggles will create a new turning point toward the fundamental transformation of South Korean society.

Doro-Chiba has been carrying on the struggle against the division and privatization of Japan National Railway. It was the greatest attack on the labor movement in the Japanese postwar period. But Doro-Chiba’s 30-year consistent struggle has eventually succeeded in forcing even the reactionary Supreme Court to admit that the JR and the state power itself had committed unfair labor practices. Doro-Chiba thus achieved a historic breakthrough and started a fresh fight against JR East Company for the withdrawal and reinstatement of fired 1,047 railway workers.

The Shinzo Abe government shamelessly concealed the risk of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident, and is forcing the evacuees to move back into their hometowns where radiation levels remain dangerously high. In order to proceed with the so-called “Reconstruction of Fukushima,” Abe is desperately trying to reopen the railway line in Fukushima. Doro-Mito, a fraternal union of Doro-Chiba, has been at the forefront of the struggle to fight against the operation of contaminated trains and radiation-exposed work through repeated strikes.

In 2010, Kan-Nama waged a general strike in the ready-made mixed concrete industry for 139 days, which violently shook the monopoly in the construction industry and the domination of big cement manufacturers. The workers of Kan-Nama made a great effort to establish a labor union in every workplace and are today still striving hard to organize hundreds of thousands of workers.

Minato-Godo organizes the workers of small- and medium-sized enterprises in its community. Minato-Godo has been working hard to take back workers’ right to organize, and has succeeded in creating a strongly fortified community that can fight together against common enemies.

Now the Abe administration has launched a full-scale attack on workers. Intent on tearing up the pacifist clause of the Constitution and rushing head-on into war, Abe moves forward with further revising labor laws that force all workers into a state of unstable employment in the name of “Working-Style Reform.” We are determined to stand up against the ruthless attacks of the Abe government. We hold a National Workers’ Rally on November 6th and join our forces in an all-out effort to fight back.

The danger of nuclear war in Northeast Asia is imminent. The international solidarity between Korean and Japanese workers forged since the November Rally in 2003 is now more important than ever before. We believe it is vital to expand this into a worldwide workers’ solidarity movement. Therefore, we will link the Workers Rally in Tokyo on November 6th with the Workers’ Rally/People’s All-out Rally in Seoul on November 12th and November 13th, and ask you all to join these rallies in both countries. The capitalist assault on the working class transcends borders and has common features all around the world. Our enemy is one and the same. The working class of the world must be united to overcome every attempt to divide us. Join us in Japan and South Korea in a union of workers across races, nationalities, and borders! Let us launch a movement for fundamentally transforming society that has plunged into economic depression, large-scale unemployment, poverty, and war!

The Ecosocialist Imperative

By Hannah Holleman - Left Voice, October 13, 2016

Her work has appeared in numerous publications on subjects including imperialism and colonialism, political economy ecology, ecological justice, feminism, advertising and propaganda, financialization, mass incarceration, and social theory.

She is a featured speaker at a regional socialist educational conference, The Solution is Socialism, to be held at Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut on October 22.

David Kiely, a socialist youth organizer in Connecticut, interviews Hannah Holleman on the ecosocialist imperative.

1. You argue in a recent article,“De-naturalizing Ecological Disaster: Colonialism, Racism, and the Global Dust Bowl of the 1930s”, that predominant conceptions of environmental justice are too shallow and that the environmental movement needs at its center a deeper understanding of, and commitment to, real ecological justice. Can you explain what you mean and why this is so important?

Many focus on environmental injustice as the unequal distribution of outcomes of environmental harm. Colonized or formerly colonized peoples are homogenized and described as “stakeholders” in environmental conflicts. Mainstream environmental organizations, those on the privileged side of the segregated environmental movement globally, and more linked to power, are encouraged to diversify their staff and memberships and pay attention to issues of “justice.” However, the deeper aspects of social domination required to maintain the economic, social, and environmental status quo often are denied, minimized, or simply ignored.

Ignoring the systemic and historical injustice that makes current inequalities possible allows environmentalists and other activists, as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes, “to safely put aside present responsibility for continued harm done by that past and questions of reparations, restitution, and reordering society,” when discussing current, interrelated environmental and social problems.[i] Superficial approaches to addressing racism, indigenous oppression, and other forms of social domination preclude the possibility of a deeper solidarity across historical social divisions. However, this kind of solidarity is exactly what we need to build a movement capable of challenging the status quo and making systemic, lasting change that is socially and ecologically restorative and just.

‘Get A Life’: Clinton Bashed Anti-Fracking Activists During Private Labor Meeting

By Kevin Gosztola - Shadow Proof, October 15, 2016

At a private meeting with the Building Trades Council, Hillary Clinton bashed environmentalists who oppose natural gas fracking and insist the United States must keep all fossil fuels in the ground. She said these environmentalists need to “get a life.”

A transcript of a part of the meeting, which took place on September 9, 2015, was published by WikiLeaks. It was attached to an email from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s account, which he claims was hacked.

Clinton met with the Building Trades Council, which is part of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). She sought their endorsement, however, she wanted to be clear about what she was willing to support in the way of new pipeline construction. The labor organization is very pro-pipeline because its members work on pipelines.

“Bernie Sanders is getting lots of support from the most radical environmentalists because he’s out there every day bashing the Keystone pipeline,” Clinton stated. “And, you know, I’m not into it for that.”

“My view is I want to defend natural gas. I want to defend repairing and building the pipelines we need to fuel our economy. I want to defend fracking under the right circumstances,” Clinton added. She made it clear she was willing to defend new, modern energy sources.

Then, on environmentalists, Clinton shared, “I’m already at odds with the most organized and wildest. They come to my rallies and they yell at me and, you know, all the rest of it. They say, ‘Will you promise never to take any fossil fuels out of the earth ever again?’ No. I won’t promise that. Get a life, you know.”

People Vs Big Oil, Part I: Washington Victory Over Shell Oil Trains Signals A Turning Tide

By Matt Stannard - Occupy.Com, October 17, 2016

A Bad Month for the Earth-Burners

From Standing Rock Reservation to the Florida Everglades, 2016 has been an unprecedented year in people’s resistance to the fossil fuel economy. October especially has been a banner month: Mass convergence around the indigenous-led Dakota Access Pipeline protests, activists in three states audaciously (and illegally) shutting down three pipeline valve systems, and groups in the state of Washington forcing Shell to abandon a dangerous oil train unloading facility it had proposed in Anacortes in the northwest corner of the state. The earth-burners have had a difficult month.

I asked Rebecca Ponzio, Oil Campaign Director at the Washington Environmental Council, what it took to accomplish that last goal: How does a group of citizens stop one of the most powerful, frequently vile and ruthless companies from doing something as routine as unloading rail-transported crude oil?

“We sued,” she answered, and through the lawsuit, WEC, Earthjustice, and other groups “won the ability for a more thorough and comprehensive environmental review.” That Environmental Impact Statement in turn concluded: “The proposed project would result in an increased probability of rail accidents that could result in a release of oil to the environment and a subsequent fire or explosion... [that] could have unavoidable significant impacts.”

The EIS wasn’t bullshitting about that. Oil train transport is disastrous, and companies lie about their safety records. Shockingly, trains racing at unsafe speeds with volatile, difficult-to-contain oil is incredibly dangerous. Accident risk is extremely high. Magnitude of impact of such an accident is also extremely high.

“This review process created the space to really evaluate the impacts of the project and to engage the public on how this project would impact them – from Spokane, the Columbia River Gorge, through Vancouver and the entire Puget Sound," Ponzio said. And upon the release of the draft EIS, Shell pulled the project. “Once the public had the chance to engage and evaluate this project for themselves, the level of risk became clear and the opposition only grew in a way that couldn’t be ignored."

Puget Sound refinery officials claimed the decision was purely market-driven, but the subtext was clear: Activists had forced a scientific review, and the review cast the project in the worst possible light. Fighting back worked this time.

The Standing Rock Split

By Trish Kahle - Jacobin, October 19, 2016

The leadership of the AFL-CIO seems determined to meet the indigenous rebellion at Standing Rock with the most parochial view of trade unionism it can muster.

After Sean McGarvey, president of the building trades, sent a letter declaring those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline “environmental extremists” and “professional agitators,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka quickly followed up with a statement defending the pipeline and lashing out at protesters for “hold[ing] union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.” Trying to block each new pipeline, he concluded, was neither an “effective” way to set climate policy nor fair to the workers caught in the middle.

In doing so, Trumka and his ilk have advanced a jobs-versus-planet trope that, however common, is a manufactured falsehood. Accepting his and the building trades’ argument that pipeline construction “provides quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers” prevents us from asking key questions not just about climate change, but about the wellbeing of those skilled workers: how long will these workers be employed? How safe will their workplaces be? What kinds of communities will they live in? And how will their work impact their long-term health?

Construction work is, by its very nature, temporary. On this basis, LiUNA president Terry O’Sullivan has stridently criticized people who have questioned the sustainability of pipeline construction as an employment source. “In our business we go from one temporary job to another temporary job,” O’Sullivan explained last year at an American Petroleum Institute event, “and we string enough temporary jobs together and build proud structures as we do it to create a career.”

But oil pipeline work is its own kind of temporary. Even if we wanted to dredge up every drop of oil from the earth, even if we wanted to build every pipeline possible — and we can’t do either one — an unsustainable industry can’t produce sustainable, lasting careers. And in the meantime, each new method of extraction and transportation introduces new forms of accidents and new fatal risks. Heeding O’Sullivan’s call for unabated pipeline construction would mean continuing to sacrifice workers’ lives on the altar of the fossil-fuel industry.

You wouldn’t know it from O’Sullivan’s histrionic statements, but the volatile compounds workers dig up and ship are far more dangerous than any anti-pipeline protest. Workers in the building trades are nearly three times more likely to die on the job than the average American worker — and that figure is on the rise. In 2014, 874 construction workers were killed on the job — a 5.6 percent increase over the previous year, and the highest number since 2008. Extractive industries are even more lethal: workers in that sector die nearly five times more often than other workers.

EcoWobbles - EcoUnionist News #124

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, October 19, 2016

News of interest to green unionists:

Anti-Mining Campesino Shot Dead by Police in Peru - By No a la Mina, translated by Earth First! Journal, October 17, 2016 - At least one person died on Friday [October 14] in an Andean region of Peru after a confrontation between police and community members who blocked the main access road into the copper mine Las Bambas, one of the largest in the country, owned by MMG Ltd,  a subsidiary of Chinese firm Minmetals. The community members protested the large amounts of dust and noise which the trucks cause as they transport copper from the mine.

Enbridge cuts jobs in Houston and Canada - By Jordan Blum, FuelFix, October 19, 2016 - Calgary-based Enbridge on Wednesday eliminated 160 U.S. jobs, including about 45 in Houston, as part of the Canadian pipeline giant’s 5 percent workforce reduction overall.

For Peoples’ Food Sovereignty and against transnational corporations - By staff, La Via Campesina, October 14, 2016 - As we celebrate [Food Sovereignty Day], we push forward for a radical transformation towards a fair and decent food system for all, based on principles of food sovereignty, which recognizes peoples’ needs, accords dignity and respects nature, and put people above profits!

General Electric cutting 255 Houston jobs; keeping Channelview complex open - By Jordan Blum, FuelFix, October 17, 2016 - GE is among many local manufacturers that have cut jobs as the oil bust reduced the demand for equipment, components and other goods. Houston area manufacturers have cut 25,000 jobs — about one in 10 — since the summer of 2014, when oil prices began their slide.

Inside DuPont and Monsanto's Migrant Labor Camps - Special Investigation, By Robert Holly, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, In These Times, September 20, 2016 - An in-depth investigation reveals that multibillion-dollar Big Ag corporations—including DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto—as well as small-scale farmers routinely use labor recruiters who crowd migrant workers in housing riddled with health and safety violations, such as bed bug infestations and a lack of running water. A newly built public database of housing inspection records exposes the dramatic scope of the problem: When state inspectors visit migrant labor camps, they find violations as much as 60 percent of the time.

Klamath Irrigators Illegal Piggy Bank Broken Up - By Kirsten Stade, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, October 13, 2016; [related]: The Klamath's Irrigation Elite is busted! - By Felice Pace, KlamBlog, October 13, 2016 - A federal water agency misspent millions of dollars intended for fish and wildlife and drought relief in the Klamath Basin on irrigator subsidies, according to new audit report which confirms charges leveled last year by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The federal agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, disputes these findings and, while the payments have ended, it refuses to change its practices to prevent future abuse or to recoup moneys illegally spent.

Luminant cutting 132 Texas jobs with mine closure - By Jordan Blum, FuelFix, October 17, 2016 - As coal power plants continue to struggle financially with natural gas and renewable power gaining market share, many Texas coal plants are only operating during select summer and winter months when demand is strongest. As such, Luminant is closing one of the four lignite coal mines that feeds its Martin Lake power plant. Because of a collective bargaining agreement, some of the job cuts are coming from the other mines that will remain in production as Luminant consolidates operations.

Oakland Port Trucking Boss Embroiled in Controversy - By Darwin BondGraham, East Bay Express, October 18, 2016 - Illegal soil dumping, junk on Caltrans property, expensive labor and investor fraud lawsuits, and a recent eviction from Port property are just some of Bill Aboudi's problems.

Statoil reports injuries at the Sture terminal - By staff, OilVoice, October 13, 2016 - Five people were sent to Haukeland Hospital after having been exposed to H2S gas (hydrogen sulfide)...The five people were exposed to H2S gas while working at a treatment facility for oily water inside the terminal area.

There’s a Nationwide Boycott of Wendy’s Underway - By Michelle Chen, The Nation, October 10, 2016; [related]: “Boot the Braids!” rings out across campuses throughout the Midwest and Southeast!- By staff, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, October 14th, 2016 - For over a decade the small coalition of farmworkers and community activists have taken on the giants of Big Ag and built a new system of labor protection. Now they’re taking the fight to a Goliath in red pigtails. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)—an internationally renowned farmworker group (and leading early labor ally of one former presidential candidate)—is leading a nationwide boycott of Wendy’s, to pressure the fast-food giant to participate in a “worker-led social responsibility” system that links corporate accountability with labor justice from farm to table.

Travay pou Klima dan Moris; climate jobs in Mauritius - By Jonathan Neale, Global Climate Jobs, October 15, 2016 - The Centre for Alternative Research and Studies held the first workshop for trade unionists in Mauritius on climate jobs in August.

Workers In Green Certified Buildings Are Healthier And Happier - By Stephen Hanley, Green Building Elements, October 16, 2016 - People who work in a building certified green by the US Green Building Council enjoy several advantages over those who work in high performance buildings that are not green certified. Researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health and State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University studyied 109 workers at 10 buildings in 5 cities across the U.S. They discovered that working in a green certified buildings correlates with higher cognitive function scores, fewer sick building symptoms, and higher sleep quality scores.

Labor Leaders Support the Dakota Access Pipeline—But This Native Union Member Doesn’t

Article and Image by Brooke Anderson - Yes! Magazine, October 18, 2016

This article is part of a collaboration between YES! Magazine and Climate Workers that seeks to connect the experiences of workers with the urgency of the climate crisis.

As clashes over the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline continue in North Dakota, a related battle is brewing in the halls of organized labor. In a statement issued September 15, the nation’s largest federation of trade unions threw in its support for the controversial oil pipeline.

The president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) denounced the actions of the Standing Rock protectors, stating that “trying to make climate policy by attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved.”

Thousands of people, including members of over 200 tribes, have been camped at the construction site for months to stop the pipeline, which would move 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day across four states, threatening the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

As the controversy heated up, four unions representing pipeline workers denounced the water protectors, claiming they were illegal protesters who were committing dangerous actions while Illegally occupying private land. The AFL-CIO, which represents 55 unions and 12.5 million members, quickly followed suit.

Many union members were furious. Unions representing nurses, bus drivers, communications workers, and electrical workers issued statements in solidarity with the tribe and opposing the pipeline.

However, some critical voices have been missing from the conversation: those of indigenous union members themselves. One of those members is Melissa Stoner, a Native American Studies librarian at the Ethnic Studies Library at the University of California Berkeley and a member of American Federation of Teachers 1474, AFL-CIO.

I recently sat down with Stoner. She shared her experiences growing up on the Navajo Reservation, advocating for domestic violence survivors, falling in love with libraries, and wrestling with the contradictions of a labor movement divided on climate at a critical moment.

Water Protector Activists telling the story of the Pipeline Access Protest in Iowa!

Jobs in Scotland’s New Economy

By Jonathan Neale - Global Climate Jobs, October 16, 2016

Mika Minio Paluello has written a very useful and detailed report for the Scottish Green Party. It begins:

The North Sea oil industry says jobs are threatened by falling oil prices. But a better future for Scotland is possible. More and better jobs. A safer and more stable economy. Stronger communities. A long-term future as an energy exporter. Moving from energy colonialism to energy democracy.

This better future won’t come with tax cuts for oil corporations and trying to extract every last barrel. It means changing direction – towards a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. This will require a wholescale change of UK economic policy away from austerity and toward investment in the new economy.

This report shows that sustainable sectors in the new economy can employ significantly more people than currently work in fossil fuel industries. Scotland can create stable jobs for those who need them, wipe out fuel poverty, do its bit to stem climate change and re-localise economies.

We researched and analysed existing and potential employment in offshore wind and marine energy, forestry and sustainable biomass, retrofitting buildings, decommissioning the North Sea, synthetic gas, and training and research. Projections were built on conservative estimates of the jobs required for a rapid and ambitious energy transition.

We didn’t include new jobs in public transport, solar, waste, renewing the electricity grid, energy storage or climate adaptation.

Our calculations show that there are 156,000 workers employed in fossil fuel extraction in Scotland, of which one third are export-oriented jobs. The new economy could in comparison employ more than 200,000 in 2035.

The transition proposed is ambitious and would involve major hiring programmes and a drastic reduction in Scottish unemployment. This paper lays out the necessary policy proposals to maximise job creation and a just transition. These jobs in the new economy should be better jobs for the workers and for all of us: jobs in an industry which is growing not declining, which create a safer, rather than a more dangerous world. For workers employed in North Sea oil or part of the supply chain, concerns about job losses are legitimate. Hence we have analysed and compared not only job totals between fossil fuels and the new economy, but also the skills components and likely locations.

The transformation we are proposing involves reducing dependency on distant multinationals, and centring the public sector, workers and energy-users co-operatives as well as small and medium Scottish companies. Building a non-extractive future in every sense: the pollution stays in the ground, and the money and skills stay in the community.

Unions and shopfloor workers need to be at the centre of this transition, redesigning supply chains and guiding the transformation. Energy workers laid the foundations of parliamentary democracy in the UK, played a central role in the formation of unions and won crucial struggles over workplace rights. Today’s energy workers in Scotland will play a crucial role in building the new Scotland, both as individuals with essential skills and collective groups. We can’t afford to squander the creativity, knowledge and abilities of engineers, skilled trades and production workers.