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.

IWW blockades Street in front of Whole Foods Demanding Reinstatement for Worker

By DC Direct Action News - It's Going Down, January 14, 2017

Julia Flores is a 15 year employee of the P St Whole Foods who was fired from her job for organizing workers and informing them about such laws as the minimum wage. On the 13th of January, the IWW escalated the campaign demanding her job back by blocking the streets in front of another Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom.

Whole Foods is trying to claim that Julia stole an item worth less than $10 after working there for 15 years. Nobody is believing this spurious claim, but this is how Whole Foods is attempting to stave off legal proceedings for violating labor laws. Firing workers for attempting to organize a union is illegal but a common practice, employers always make up some other reason for firing and dare workers to prove otherwise in court.

In addition to the legal proceedings, the IWW is holding Whole Foods accountable to the public with actions like the Jan 13 street blockade and picket that educate the public, drive away business, and create public relations problems with the surrounding neighborhood. There is a strong probability that Whole Foods will be hearing from other businesses in the area whose customers had trouble getting to them.

Activists from DC Stampede (an animal rights group) joined the IWW in this protest as a solidarity matter. Whole Foods has come to the attention of DC Stampede and Direct Action Everywhere (XDXE) in the past for ripping off their customers with meat alleged to be “cruelty-free” that was proven by a video to be from ordinary factory farms. Still earlier, the P st Whole Foods (the one that fired Juilia) played a role in the gentrification of Shaw. They were the first grocery store in that area to keep dumpsters locked up and use compactors. They absolutely refused to give a single scrap of discarded food to homeless service organizations in that time period (circa 2007). Finally. anarchists raided the P st Whole Foods during the October Rebellion (fall 2007 IMF protests), expropriated a large amount of food, and served it to the needy. In short, Whole Foods should be considered a repeat offender, a “frequent flier” for social justice campaigns.

SOCIAL SELF-DEFENSE: Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 14, 2017

Introduction: These are times to try our souls

Donald Trump and a powerful collection of anti-social forces have taken control of the U.S. government. They seek permanent domination in service of their individual and class wealth and power. Trump’s presidency threatens immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, workers, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and many others. Indeed, it threatens all that holds us together as a society. We the people – society — need to defend ourselves against this threat and bring it to an end. We need what resisters to repressive regimes elsewhere have called “Social Self-Defense.”

The term “Social Self-Defense” is borrowed from the struggle against the authoritarian regime in Poland forty years ago.  In the midst of harsh repression, Polish activists formed a loose network to provide financial, legal, medical, and other help to people who had been persecuted by the police or unjustly dismissed from their work. Calling themselves the Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR), they aimed to “fight political, religious and ideological persecution”; to “oppose breaches of the law”; to “provide help for the persecuted”; to “safeguard civil liberties”; and to defend “human and civil rights.” KOR organized free trade unions to defend the rights of workers and citizens. Its members, who insisted on operating openly in public, were soon blacklisted, beaten, and imprisoned. They nonetheless persisted, and nurtured many of the networks, strategies, and ideas that came to fruition in Solidarity – and ultimately in the dissolution of repressive regimes in Poland and many other countries.[1]

From the day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, thousands of people began to resist his agenda. Demonstrations against Trump broke out in American cities; police chiefs, mayors, and governors declared they would not implement his attack on immigrants; thousands of people signed up to accompany threatened immigrants, religious minorities, and women; technical workers pledged they would not build data bases to facilitate discrimination and deportation. Discussion of how to resist the Trump regime broke out at dining room tables, emails among friends, social media, and community gatherings.

It is impossible to know whether the Trump regime will rapidly self-destruct; successfully impose a reign of terror that dominates the U.S. for years or decades to come; or deadlock indefinitely with anti-Trump forces. We do know that the future of the planet and its people depends on resisting and overcoming Trump’s agenda. The struggle against Trump and Trumpism is nothing less than the defense of society – Social Self-Defense.

Standing with Standing Rock

By Marty Goodman - Socialist Action, January 13, 2017

More than bitter winter weather lies ahead for hundreds of Native American nations and their supporters battling hazardous fossil-fuel pipelines on sacred Sioux land at the Standing Rock camp near Cannonball, North Dakota. A far more bitter struggle looms for Native American rights and climate justice with the incoming Trump administration. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for the Department of Energy, is a climate-change denier and sits on boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco, two companies involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Oil company execs are vowing to complete the pipeline despite a Dec. 4 decision by the Obama administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not give the go-ahead to Dakota Access Pipelines (DAPL) to dig pipelines under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a source of drinking water for the Sioux nation and millions downstream. The decision instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental study with community input, a process that could take one or two years.

On Dec. 13, the New York Daily News posted a recording it had received in which Mathew Ramsey, a top exec at Energy Transfer Partners, DAPL’s parent company, was said to be telling ETP staff, “I’ve got to tell you, election night changed everything.” Ramsey said on the recording, “We fully expect as soon as he is inaugurated this team is going to move to the final approvals, and DAPL will cross the lake.”

Vulture capitalist and President-elect Donald Trump has declared his support for the pipeline and is personally invested in DAPL for up to $1 million. Also invested are many of the corporations of Trump’s billionaire pals, such as Chase Morgan bank, the Bank of America, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo—which alone has invested $467 million. The pipeline will extend 1170 miles from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through sacred Sioux land to Illinois and ultimately to the Gulf Coast. The cost is $3.7 billion.

A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe contends that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other federal laws in allowing the pipeline to be dug under Lake Oahe. If the Army Corp’s permission to dig is restored, or if the federal court in North Dakota accepts DAPL’s arguments, pipeline construction could resume.

North Dakota’s laws are the strictest when it comes to allowing out of state public defenders to represent “water protectors” facing charges in court, now totaling at least 550. The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) of the National Lawyers Guild provides legal support but is overwhelmed and urges the state to relax its guidelines. Seventy-five North Dakota lawyers have been assigned 165 cases, but an additional 264 water protectors remain without lawyers.

The WPLC has also called for the dismissal of State Attorney Ladd Erickson for his inflammatory comments in court, referring to water protectors as staging “fake news” and “simply props for videos of stage events.” The hearings have been postponed, and the Trump administration’s actions will ultimately determine the continued relevance of the lawsuit. Whatever happens, the first rule of capitalism will still apply: ‘laws are meant to be broken’ … if they stand in the way of profits!

Originally, DAPL was to traverse an area close to the mostly white Bismarck, some 50 miles distant, but when the plan encountered opposition, the pipeline was rerouted to Standing Rock. DAPL is in violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the treaty of 1868. In the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of acres of Sioux land was seized to make way for a dam, with little or no compensation. In the treaties, the Sioux agreed to keep the area undeveloped and for hunting, but it is now ravaged by fossil-fuel polluters.

Demonstrating corporate contempt for the environment, a recent examination of oil spills in the last 30 years revealed over 8700 pipeline spills. On Dec. 13, two hours from Standing Rock, a pipeline spilled an estimated 176,000 gallons of crude into the Ash Coulee Creek. Sunoco Logistics, DAPL’s future operator, has the worst safety record of all. According to government statistics, it has had over 200 leaks since 2010. Last October, a Sunoco gas pipeline ruptured in Pennsylvania, spilling 55,000 gallons into the Susquehanna River.

The outrage at Standing Rock is a continuation of 500 years of the rape of Native American rights through massacres, racism, land theft, and forced displacement. DAPL is a textbook case of environmental racism and is in violation of international laws and agreements on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Union co-operatives: what they are and why we need them

By Simon Taylor - New Internationalist, January 12, 2017

Trade unionist Jimmy Reid described alienation as ‘the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making’. This frustration is endemic in contemporary neoliberalised economies, and according to commentators, including George Monbiot, it contributes to the rise of populist backlashes and disempowerment.

Unions play a vital role in counter-balancing alienation and frustration, responding to organizations imposing alienating practices on their workers. However, neoliberal policies have contributed to a long-term decline of union membership and influence in the Anglosphere and elsewhere.

But workers and unions can counter alienation and other negative effects of neoliberal policies – such as outsourcing, precarity and union decline – in new and imaginative ways.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union in the US is one of many good examples, responding to decades of deindustrialisation and declining union membership. They are developing worker co-operatives that place unions at the heart of enterprises, a model known as union co-ops. They have modified the resilient Mondragon worker co-op model by replacing its social council in co-operatives with more than 50 workers with a Union Bargaining Committee. The committee represents the worker co-operators interests as workers, while other structures represent their interests as owners. Worker representation structures are important according to Mondragon and the USW because there is an inherent risk in worker co-ops that when enterprises achieve scale, workforce engagement in decision making is diluted.

The benefits of worker co-ops have been discussed widely elsewhere. They include empowering workers by involving them in the crucial decision-making processes affecting their working lives, overcoming the alienating factor of lack of control. Indeed, the USW believes that worker co-operators are unlikely to offshore or outsource their own jobs, to design precarity into their employment, or to make themselves redundant in response to business downturns – all tools that neoliberalism makes attractive options regardless of the consequences to workers and communities.

The USW also believes that the active involvement of unions in worker-coops will result in higher union membership within the enterprise, thereby contributing to trade union renewal efforts in some measure. After all, placing unions at the heart of the enterprise allows them to find potential members in a way that is impossible in other contexts.

In a recent study, I examined union co-ops in the US, and Britain’s experience of union involvement with worker co-ops. It sought to determine whether UK unions should be noting the example of their US counterparts, and considered whether lessons can be drawn that should be applied to Britain’s context (and elsewhere).

In the study, I found that the USW’s and other organizations’ efforts to establish union co-ops in the US are ongoing. They have considered the role unions can play in establishing and supporting enterprises to become sustainable, while forging an effective bargaining and representational role.

In Britain, I found that unions often struggle to carve out a role for themselves in worker co-ops, choosing not to engage with them and favouring their traditional role in conventional employment models. Despite sharing common historical roots addressing the iniquities of industrialisation, union and co-operative movements have often nonetheless been wary bedfellows.

The closest parallel to the union co-op model found in Britain was the relationship between Suma Wholefoods (a worker co-op wholefood wholesaler) and the Bakers Union (BFAWU). Suma is a long-established business, and operates a flat pay structure – meaning all its worker/owners are paid the same. They sought to recognise a union, and came to an agreement with the BWAFU, working collaboratively wherever they can, only moving to opposite sides of the table when a dispute or issue arises. I found that the arrangement is working well, suggesting that both the BFAWU and the USW have successfully defined a beneficial role for themselves in worker co-ops. The BFAWU cite Suma as a good employment model to others, and would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other worker co-ops.

A sector that may be ripe for the union co-op model in Britain is adult social care, although it is noteworthy that the USW and others are developing union co-ops in the industrial sectors they organise in. Skills for Care, an organization working with employers to increase skill levels in the social care industry, report that the number of adult social care jobs in Britain in 2014 was estimated at 1.55 million, and since 2009 local authority jobs in the sector had shrunk by 50,000, while the private sector had grown by 225,000.

However, in my study I found that some unions seemed to be failing to target this growth area of employment in public services. Instead, they were choosing to adopt an ideological mantra that public services should be delivered by the public sector, or were oblivious to the opportunities presented by alternative models of work organisation.

Arguably their ideology or lack of interest flies in the face of the trajectory of the neoliberal assault on public services, and it abandons workers to largely non-unionised employers operating alienating work practises, and denying unions the oxygen of membership growth and innovative thought and action.

There are already examples in Italy, the US, Britain and elsewhere of how social care coops are successfully meeting rising social care demand in the private sector, often encouraging union membership and participation in the process.

Perhaps, it is time that the union movement in Britain and elsewhere took note of what the USW and others in the US are doing in respect of unionised worker co-ops. It’s worth considering how the union co-op model could be applied to their own context, how it may counter alienation amongst their members, and how it may contribute towards their renewal efforts.

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel

By Hilary Wainwright - Red Pepper, January 12, 2017

Back in the 1970s, with unemployment rising and British industry contracting, workers at the arms company Lucas Aerospace came up with a pioneering plan to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially-useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. The ‘Lucas Plan’ remains one of the most radical and forward thinking attempts ever made by workers to take the steering wheel and directly drive the direction of change.

Forty years later, we are facing a convergence of crises: militarism and nuclear weapons, climate chaos and the destruction of jobs by new technologies and automation. These crises mean we have to start thinking about technology as political, as the Lucas Aerospace workers did, and reopen the debate about industrial conversion and economic democracy.

‘What so inspires me about the Lucas Plan is the democratic egalitarianism which runs through its every part – the work processes, the products and even the very technology they propose.’

This egalitarian ethic inspired Laurence Hill to make the Lucas Plan the focus of this year’s annual gathering of Young Quakers in Lancaster, up the line from the Trident nuclear submarine yards in Barrow. Eurig Scandrett from the Scottish Green Party made it the theme for Green Party trade unionists because ‘it is the most inspiring example of workers on the shop floor who get self-organised and demand to make what humanity needs.’

The fact that the plan was defeated has not diluted its capacity to inspire. For Eurig Scandrett, its defeat demonstrated that ‘it is the vested interests of the military-industrial machine which is the problem, and that workers liberating their collective brain is where the solution lies.’

Protests in Mexico Push Country to Brink of Revolution and Nobody’s Talking About It

By Nick Bernabe - AntiMedia, January 10, 2017

San Diego, CA — Long-simmering social tensions in Mexico are threatening to boil over as failing neoliberal reforms to the country’s formerly nationalized gas sector are compounded by open corruption, stagnant standards of living, and rampant inflation.

The U.S. media has remained mostly mute on the situation in Mexico, even as the unfolding civil unrest has closed the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, California, several times in the past week. Ongoing “gasolinazo” protests in Mexico over a 20 percent rise in gas prices have led to over 400 arrests, 250 looted stores, and six deaths. Roads are being blockaded, borders closed, and government buildings are being sacked. Protests have remained relatively peaceful overall, except for several isolated violent acts, which activists have blamed on government infiltrators.

The few mainstream news reports that have covered the situation blame rising gas prices but fail to examine several other factors that are pushing Mexico to the brink of revolution.

ILWU pledges solidarity with Standing Rock

By Staff - ILWU Dispatcher, January 12, 2017

On December 6, the ILWU International Executive Board voted unanimously to adopt a statement of policy opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The controversial project is opposed by Native Americans across the continent because it threatens Native lands and water.

The pipeline’s original route would have crossed the Missouri River upstream from Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted because of concerns that an oil leak would contaminate the City’s water supply.Pipeline proponents want the oil to cross just a half-mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, buried underneath the tribe’s water supply.

The ongoing protest by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on their North Dakota reservation began in April, 2016. The effort has drawn world-wide attention and attracted thousands of Native American supporters and allies. It has become the largest protest gathering of Native Tribes in recent history.

International Executive Board Statement of Policy

“The Tribal Nations of the Great Plains rely on the waters of the life-giving Missouri River for present and future existence, and the Dakota Access Pipeline construction poses a very serious risk to that continued existence. The Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the safety of the areas of fish and wildlife, sacred sites and historical archeological resources that lie within and around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and associated lands,” declares the ILWU Statement of Policy.

The International Executive Board also approved a $10,000 donation to the Standing Rock Sioux from the solidarity fund. The Coast Longshore Committee added an additional $5,000 donation.

“The ILWU has never been afraid to take a stand on important political issues,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath

Support for the Standing Rock Sioux was first expressed by the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association that adopted a resolution in September of 2016.

Local 10’s Executive Board then passed a resolution on November 8 against the pipeline project and in support of increased funding for workers affected by any jobs lost on the pipeline. The resolution called on the labor movement to support a “just transition” for workers into renewable energy jobs, to help working families, combat climate change and promote investment in renewable energy.

EcoWobbles - EcoUnionist News #135

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 13, 2017

News of interest to green unionists:

As railroad business declines, talks with unions for Nebraska workers screech to a halt - By Russell Hubbard, Omaha World-Herald, January 8, 2017 - Union labor-contract negotiations for one of Nebraska’s key industries — freight railroads — have stalled after almost two years of fruitless bargaining.

Broad coalition helps solar win on 1 - By staff, Florida Solar United Neighborhoods, January 7, 2017 - The grassroots effort pushing for better solar policies quickly changed course to fighting Amendment 1. The group was a collaboration of Tea Party conservatives, business, labor groups, good government organizations, and environmentalists to defend solar.

Byrd Amendments Update: House Republicans from Coalfield Districts Introduce Resolution to Protect Black Lung Improvements from Obamacare Repeal - By Evan B. Smith, Devil in the Dust, January 6, 2017 - Lately the black lung provisions that are within the Affordable Care Act—called the “Byrd Amendments”—have (rightly) been getting a lot of media attention.  For example, there’s been coverage by CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Stat News (which was picked up by the Boston Globe and The Week), and many others.

Can We Expect More Flint Debacles In a Pruitt-Led EPA? - By Kirsten Stade, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, January 11, 2017 - While his views on climate change are well known, it is far less clear what approach Scott Pruitt, the Trump nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will bring to bread-and-butter matters such as anti-pollution enforcement and oversight of state programs. Today, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is calling on him to affirm that civil and criminal enforcement of federal air, water, toxic and other basic pollution laws will be a high priority in the EPA he seeks to lead.

Canada well on its way to a renewable-energy future - By Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Toronto Globe and Mail, December 24, 2016 - The bottom line: There is plenty of renewable-energy potential near current roads, power lines and population centres. Most of it is wind power, with plenty of hydro and solar as well. In fact, every province except Alberta and Ontario has a large surfeit – enough to be choosy about siting installations to minimize environmental side-effects.

China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020 - By Michael Forsythe, New York Times, January 5, 2017 - The agency said in a statement that China would create more than 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020, curb the growth of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and reduce the amount of soot that in recent days has blanketed Beijing and other Chinese cities in a noxious cloud of smog.

China is Leaving the U.S. Behind on Clean Energy Investment - By Joel Jaeger, Paul Joffe and Ranping Song, World Resources Institute, January 6, 2017 - Looking at the entire economy, not just foreign investment, China regularly outspends the United States on renewable energy. It invested more than $100 billion in clean energy in 2015, more than double U.S. investment, which spurred robust job growth. Of the 8.1 million renewable energy jobs that exist globally, 3.5 million are in China, compared to less than one million in the United States. And China’s National Energy Administration projects that new investment from 2016 to 2020 will create 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Climate Change Is A Global Loss For The Economy: Report - By Adam Johnston, Clean Technica, January 9, 2017 - Poorer countries will be the hardest hit economically by climate change. The report suggested that average income from 60% of citizens from the poorest nations will see a 70% decline at the end of the century, due to the effects of climate change. A warming world will also impact economic inputs. The analysis found crop yields, labor productivity, and labor supply decline sharply between 20C and 30C.

Coal country afraid Trump will repeal black lung benefits with Obamacare - By staff, CNN, January 2, 2017 - Former coal miners and their families in Kentucky, who voted for Donald Trump, are worried that the President-elect will repeal Obamacare, and the benefits for black lung that come with it.

#DayAgainstDenial Protests Across the U.S. Call Attention to Climate Change as Trump Cabinet Confirmation Hearings Begin - By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog, January 10, 2017 - “We need cabinet officials who recognize those realities and who will work for a just and rapid transition to renewable energy,” he added, “rather than denying the threats that we face and advancing the interests of the fossil-fuel industry.”

Demonetisation in India: Farmers' Groups write an open letter to the Prime Minister - By various, La Via Campesina, January 9, 2017 -  - Several farmers' groups in India have written a joint letter to the Prime Minister of India, highlighting the severe distress that exists in the countryside after the Indian Government withdrew nearly 86% of the currency in circulation overnight, in a supposed crackdown on corruption and 'black economy'.

The End of Indian Point and the Myths of Nuclear Power in America - By Karl Grossman, CounterPunch, January 11, 2017 - The engineer, employed at nuclear plants and for a major nuclear plant manufacturer, wanted to relate that even with the Indian Point news—“and I’d keep my fingers crossed that there is no disaster involving those aged Indian Point plants in those next three or four years”—nuclear power remains a “ticking time bomb.” Concerned about retaliation, he asked his name not be published.

Their Final Hours: Ten Years After the Sago Mine Disaster - By Nick Mullins, The Thoughtful Coal Miner, January 3, 2017 - On this day ten years ago, thirteen men were still trapped following the explosion that rocked their mine over 28 hour before. Rescue efforts were in a state of disarray. The company, and many politicians, were busy doing damage control in front of the press to preserve their image.

From the “Things that Make You Go Hmmm” Department… - By staff, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, January 9, 2017 - T’ruah (The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights) calls on burger giant to publicly “reject designation as official burger of Neo Nazis”

How postal workers removed the Staples - By Jamie Partridge, Socialist Worker, January 10, 2017 - A three-year battle against the outsourcing of living-wage, union postal jobs to the low-wage, nonunion Staples ended January 5 when USPS management informed the APWU that the "approved shipper" program in Staples Office Supply stores will be shut down by the end of February 2017. The union-initiated boycott of Staples was called off.

In Canada, a move to protect data from Trump - By Sarah Tory, High Country News, January 10, 2017 - On a Saturday morning in December, Henry Warwick trudged through the slushy streets of Toronto, Canada, to attend an event at the University of Toronto’s towering Robarts Library. He took the elevator to a room on the fourth floor where 150 people— mostly IT specialists, hackers, scholars, and activists—had assembled for the auspiciously titled “Guerrilla Archiving Event: Saving Environmental Data From Trump.”

Jarvis Tenure a Disaster for National Park Resources - By Kirsten Stade, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, January 11, 2017 - The vast trove of natural resources within our national park system is in far worse shape today than eight years ago, says Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which points to the turbulent tenure of National Park Service (NPS) Director Jonathan (Jon) Jarvis as the primary cause. After nearly eight often scandal-plagued years, Jarvis steps down today as the 18th NPS Director.

Lessons from the Republic Windows workers’ sit-in, eight years on - By Curtis Black, Chicago Reporter, January 5, 2017 - Eight years ago, Republic workers sat down, risked arrest, and forced big banks to come up with their severance pay.  They went on to reorganize their company as a workers cooperative.  It’s that kind of courageous and strategic confrontation with the status quo, focused on economic justice, that holds the best hope for progress in the age of Emanuel and Trump.

The long wait for work a terrifying, demoralizing slog - By Reid Southwick, Calgary Herald, December 26, 2016 - A stunning 60,000 Albertans — roughly the population of Airdrie — have been jobless for six months or more. They account for 2.5 per cent of the province’s labour force, the highest threshold in the country that Alberta shares with Newfoundland and Labrador.

Manatee Mortality Spiked in 2016 - By Kirsten Stade, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, January 11, 2017 - Last year was not a good year for Florida manatees, as deaths in 2016 rose to a recent high and the numbers killed by watercraft reached an all-time record, according to figures posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At the same time, manatee deaths related to toxic red-tide events are also starting to creep back up, more than tripling in the last year.

A massive gas-price hike in Mexico is leading to frustration, violence, and death - Aura Bogado, Grist, January 9, 2017 - Mexican citizens have taken to hijacking tankers, running over police, and blocking the U.S.-Mexico border in order to show their unhappiness. In response, police have arrested more than 1,500 people and killed at least four.

More Farmers, Better Food: A framework for British Agriculture - By staff, Land Workers Alliance, January 9, 2017 - The Landworkers’ Alliance have been working on an 8 point proposal that is integral to sustaining a healthy, vibrant and just farming sector. The UK’s small scale, ecological and family farms are at the heart of our rural culture and communities; they create employment, protect cherished landscapes and produce much of the food that we eat.

Most laid-off energy workers remain out of work - By Jordan Blum, FuelFix, January 9, 2017 - Nearly 90 percent of surveyed workers who lost their jobs during the oil bust either remain unemployed or opted to leave the oil and gas sector entirely, according to an ongoing study being conducted by University of Houston researchers.

Nationwide Layoff Watch: Biglaw Firm Tells Underperforming Office To Go Frack Itself - Staci Zaretsky, Above the Law, January 9, 2017 - Poor oil and gas performance continued through 2016, with Pennsylvania — the epicenter of the Marcellus shale industry for all intents and purposes — losing 32 percent of its jobs in this area over the course of the year. It was only a matter of time before a Biglaw firm fell prey to to the underperforming market, and one of the largest firms in the country is now waving the white flag of defeat.

Vermont Labor Council Initiates Social Self-Defense

By Traven Leyshon, president of the Green Mountain Labor Council, AFL-CIO and Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 10, 2017

Following on what was for many of us the surprise election of Trump, and the consolidation of a far-right Republican Congress, our small Vermont Green Mountain Central Labor Council called an Emergency Community Meeting. We knew that things were rapidly going to get really ugly for the labor movement. So we contacted our affiliates and community based allies with the message that, “There is a great need for all of us to come together to understand the attacks that will be coming down on our unions, workers rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ human rights, on black Americans, on climate justice,  on seniors, on the lgbtq community – in other words on the 99%. Going beyond fear and rage, we need to strategize how we’re going to work together to turn things around.”

Given the Holidays, our assumption was that this would not be the mass meeting that we would need to build later – but that we should start while the initial shock of the election was being registered to begin to shape an effective, strategic response to the developing situation. So we reserved a room that would hold up to 45 people, and sent out an email asking our labor, social movement, and community based allies to join in building the meeting. We also asked them to think through strategic responses that we might be able to unite on. We said that, “We don’t need a crystal ball to figure out what a Trump presidency has in store, especially with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate. The extreme right wing, pro-corporate agenda that we will be facing will methodically seek to divide us (as they successfully did in the 2016 election).

As people were just beginning to process the reality that this was not just another conservative Administration, that the Republicans would not be gradualist, we warned that, “priorities listed in the Trump/Ryan hundred day plan include: rolling back all of the recent pro-workers rights National Labor Relations Board decisions, initiating the process to deport over 2 million migrants and imposing a hiring freeze on all federal employees, removing roadblocks to dirty energy projects like Keystone KXL, DAPL and other oil and gas pipelines, and canceling payments to UN climate change programs. The impact of their policies would intensify racial oppression, roll back women’s rights, slash Medicare disability, victimize the lgbtq community, cut Medicaid funding (making the Vermont state budget scream), eliminate the subsidies that make Vermont Health Connect (Obamacare) more affordable, eventually abolish Medicare by replacing it with vouchers, privatize social security, pass national right to work (for less) legislation and defund unions (expect Friedrichs type court made law which would make the public sector open shop), outsource and privatize more public services, ban prevailing-wage laws…”.

Our press release emphasized the we were coming together “to affirm values of tolerance and social, economic and climate justice, while discussing actions we can take to protect our communities, defend democracy, and build a Vermont and country that works for everyone. ..(that) Representatives of labor, Black, immigrant, women’s, senior, gay and lesbian, climate, and racial justice organizations will speak… (that) It is not enough to define ourselves as the resistance. Defense needs to be married to offense.”

Despite the Holidays, our message went viral as our social movement allies answered that this was just what we needed. So we booked a larger venue which  turned out to be necessary as 140 people participated on December 12th (this in a town of 7,855 people!).

Only months before the Vermont Workers Center had organizing a conference around the theme of building one movement for people and the planet. While there was a decent turnout, it had not led to greater collaboration, and the discussion felt forced and artificial to many of the participants. Today that is no longer the case as people are seeking to build a powerful unity.  Thousands have turned out for emergency meetings across the country, concerned about hate crimes, the climate crisis, threats to civil liberties, and rollbacks to progressive gains under a Trump administration. Millions of people are looking for a way to fight back. But mass participation won’t lead to real power without organization and vision.

Our labor council opened the meeting arguing that we needed to develop a coalition of the willing, an alliance of unions and allies willing to fight the whole Trump agenda. That we need to unite our struggles for justice and become a unified front for environmental justice, to make Black Lives Matter, for workers rights, to make Native Lives Matter, for reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, immigrants rights, and peace. We said we need to build an army of resistance and create a vision of the future based on unity not hatred. We need to practice and nurture a culture of solidarity, of taking action not just because we feel empathy with the victims of bad policies, but because we understand that our liberation is bound up with theirs. Especially today, the labor battle cry “An injury to one is an injury to all” takes on new urgency.

Our panel featured speakers from racial justice, migrant, climate justice, senior, lgbtq, women’s, and faith organizations as well as unions.

There seemed to be broad agreement with the view that Trumpism is a symptom of the disease. Many people voted their cynicism about a system that left us behind, that wrought forty years of devastation on working-class communities, that privileges the rich and well connected while treating most of us as patsies. But whatever motivations may have led people to vote for Trump, there can be no doubt that their votes gave racism and sexism a pass. Still we have to find a way to appeal to alienated Trump voters that not only gives lip service to their interests, but actually wins them over.

The current economic/political system is failing for increasing numbers of people around the world – and the Far Right has been successful at seizing on the growing discontent as evidenced by Brexit, the rise of the Marine Le Pen in France, the radical right throughout Europe, and the coup in Brazil.

But it is also a consequence of the failure of the labor and social movements to formulate a credible transformative strategy, and to organize a concrete alternative to the failed policies that paved the way to Clinton’s defeat. We must know what we want, not just what we’re against.  We need to act morally, courageously, and strategically in pursuit of a clear progressive vision.

The agenda we are facing is methodically seeking to divide us. Established residents against immigrants. Tax payers against public sector workers.  The building trades against environmentalists, and so on. Trump will seek to inflict severe and demoralizing defeats by picking off one target at a time. We know that Nazi-era bromide about “First they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew…” In this case, there’s no mystery: First they’re coming for the undocumented. It will be a real fight for the soul of our nation.  We have to live by the imperative that If they come for one of us they come for all of us!

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