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.

As Tribes Fight Pipeline, Internal AFL-CIO Letter Exposes 'Very Real Split'

By Jon Queally - Common Dreams, September 22, 2016

The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, generated waves of criticism by standing against the Standing Rock Sioux and supportive allies last week when it endorsed the Dakota Access Pipeline – a project opponents say threatens tribal sovereignty, regional water resources, and sacred burial grounds while also undermining efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.

Yet while a public statement by AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka stirred widespread backlash, what has not been seen by the general public is an internal letter which preceded that statement—a letter which not only reveals a deeper and growing rift within the federation, but one that also helps expose the troubling distance between the needs of workers and priorities of policy-makers on a planet where runaway temperatures are said to be changing everything.

Trumka said the pipeline deserved the AFL-CIO's support because it was "providing over 4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs" and argued that "attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved."

In turn, many of the tribes and their progressive allies saw the statement as a short-sighted, if predictable, position on behalf of the federation's building trade unions. Norman Solomon, writing on these pages, didn't mince words when he said Trumka's remarks amounted to "union leadership for a dead planet" that could easily be mistaken for the "standard flackery" of the oil and gas industry. On Monday of this week, a coalition of AFL-CIO constituency organizations, made up of groups normally supportive of the federation, bucked Trumka's public stance by declaring their own opposition to the pipeline.

But many of those outside critics of the AFL-CIO didn't know the half of it. That's because none of them have likely seen a much more harshly-worded letter, obtained by Common Dreams, which was circulated internally among the federation's leadership ahead of Trumka's statement.

The five-page letter (pdf), dated September 14th, is addressed to Trumka and copied to all presidents of the AFL-CIO's 56 affiliated unions. It was sent by Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), which represents 14 separate building and construction unions within the federation.

In the letter, McGarvey questions top leadership for not taking a firmer position in defense of the union members working on Dakota Access and calls out other AFL-CIO member unions—specifically the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the National Nurses United (NNU), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the American Postal Workers Union (APWU)—for aligning with "environmental extremists" opposed to the pipeline and participating in a "misinformation campaign" alongside "professional agitators" and members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Solidarity Forever? - Last week the AFL-CIO broke my heart, releasing a statement supporting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline

By Brendan Orsinger - Medium, September 21, 2016

My grandma Gloria is 92-years old and the single greatest influence in my life. She has inspired me through the way she has led her life. She has strengthened my moral fabric as a human being and shaped what I believe to be right. She has given me the gift of music, and understanding and deep appreciation for justice, solidarity, and unions. Through the stories she’s told with great passion and conviction, she’s the reason I feel so moved and empowered to act.

Among her accomplishments, she:

  1. Alone raised three young children after being widowed when my grandfather Arthur died very suddenly.
  2. Graduated from law school at the age of 60, and was elected keynote speaker by her classmates.
  3. Worked on passage of and was present at the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and has one of the pens!).

Gloria came to Washington, DC to work for the Congress of Industrial Organizations, or the CIO, where she met my grandfather. After a secretive office romance, they snuck away one Friday afternoon to Alexandria Courthouse in Virginia to exchange their vows. When my grandfather Arthur passed away, it was their colleagues and union members who surrounded her with love and support and made sure she had a job to support her three small children.

In the 1960’s grandma Gloria was a legislative representative for the IUE, or the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America. They exist today as the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers — Communications Workers of America, or IUE-CWA. She worked with members of Congress and the White House during that time for passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. She was invited to the signings of both pieces of landmark legislation. She believed deeply in equality, and when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963 and shared his dream, she was there with my mother.

She later would go on to work for AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.) Then for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC.

The labor movement runs in my blood through four generations, going back to my great-grandmother, Rose.

Gloria was influenced by her mother Rose, who worked in the garment district in New York. She worked for a dress factory/sweatshop and after seeing a need for improvement of conditions, became a member of the IWW or the Industrial Workers of the World — also affectionally known as the “Wobblies”. Under the IWW, she specifically worked with the International Ladies Garment Union.

Back then, conditions were really bad. There were stories of women with out means for childcare who would be forced to work with their babies beside them, asleep on the dirty floor covered with garment lint. There were no laws or protections for these women, so the doors were locked to force higher productivity. These were the same conditions that led to the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire in New York City that killed 145 workers.

It was my great-grandmother Rose who became a leader on then picket lines to demand the right to a reasonable wage and better working conditions. She ensured during strikes that the picket lines were held and never crossed. When the police tried to open the line to let the “scabs” through. Rose was punched by a cop after she warned him, “Don’t you put your hands on my girls!”. It’s unclear if the slap she landed on his cheek prior provoked the officer to violence.

There are so many stories like this I have heard from my grandmother about her “Mommy Rose”, but there are two in particular that stuck with me last Friday afternoon and Monday morning in the rain when I stood outside the headquarters of the AFL-CIO yelling and singing until I had lost my voice and my megaphone died — and even then, with no voice I sat outside in the rain and whistled union songs my grandmother taught me.

Dakota Access Foes Call on AFL-CIO to Retract Support of Pipeline

By Mark Hand - CounterPunch, September 20, 2016

The AFL-CIO is coming under attack from trade unions and their supporters angry about the organization’s support of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through Native American land in North Dakota.

Demonstrators stood outside the AFL-CIO’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19 calling on the union federation to renounce its support for the oil pipeline project. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in a Sept. 15 statement, called on Native Americans and the federal government not to “hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay” and asked the Obama administration to let construction on the pipeline continue.

“This is unacceptable behavior for the AFL-CIO, which has a rich history of supporting the right causes — civil rights, voting rights,” Brendan Orsinger, an activist and organizer, said in an interview at the demonstration. “My grandmother worked with unions to harness that people power and put pressure on Congress to help pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and 1965. My great-grandmother worked on the picket lines.”

The president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) came out with an even stronger statement against Native Americans opposed to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. “LIUNA is a champion of the right to peacefully demonstrate, however, extremists have escalated the demonstrations well beyond lawful civil disobedience,” Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA, said in a statement. O’Sullivan said he found it frustrating that Native Americans “have disregarded the evidence and the review process to vilify a project.”

Other labor unions have expressed solidarity with Native Americans in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, proposed by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners. The Amalgamated Transit Union condemned “the ongoing violent attacks on the Standing Rock Sioux and others who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline” and noted “these attacks by a private security company bring back horrific memories of the notorious Pinkertons, who used clubs, dogs and bullets to break up peaceful worker protests.” The Communications Workers of America issued a statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ” as they fight to protect their community, their land and their water supply.”

“The AFL-CIO has a proud history of working with oppressed people to gain their rights and worker rights and they need to stake a strong stand on indigenous rights,” Orsinger said. “They have a seal on their headquarters of a black hand and a white hand shaking. It bothers me that they are betraying their history and their moral high ground.”

Activists are hoping to apply enough pressure on the AFL-CIO so the federation finds it politically infeasible to support projects such as Dakota Access. “As many jobs as they may get from this pipeline construction, it is dwarfed by the amount of jobs they will lose elsewhere from the public turning against them,” Orsigner said.

The Dakota Access Pipeline project is a proposed 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline designed to connect the Bakken production area in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline would transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels per day or more, which could represent approximately half of Bakken current daily crude oil production.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Sept. 16 ordered Energy Transfer Partners to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline for 20 miles on both sides of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River near the tribe’s reservation, while the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s appeal of its denied motion to do so is considered.

AFL-CIO to Planet Earth: Drop Dead!

By Norman Soloman - CounterPunch, September 19, 2016

At a meeting with the deputy political director of the AFL-CIO during my campaign for Congress, she looked across her desk and told me that I could get major union support by coming out in favor of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

That was five years ago. Since then, the nation’s biggest labor federation has continued to serve the fossil fuel industry. Call it union leadership for a dead planet.

Last week, the AFL-CIO put out a statement from its president, Richard Trumka, under the headline “Dakota Access Pipeline Provides High-Quality Jobs.” The rhetoric was standard flackery for energy conglomerates, declaring “it is fundamentally unfair to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is steadfast against the Dakota Access pipeline: “We will not rest until our lands, people, waters, and sacred sites are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline.”

In sharp contrast to the AFL-CIO’s top echelon, some unions really want to restrain climate change and are now vocally opposing the Dakota pipeline.

Communications Workers of America has expressed solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe “as they fight to protect their community, their land and their water supply.”

At National Nurses United, Co-President Jean Ross cites “an obligation to step up climate action to protect public health and the future for the generations to follow us.”

Ross said: “We commend the leaders and members of the Standing Rock Sioux, the many First Nation allies who have joined them, and the environmentalists and other supporters who have participated in the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline.”

NNU points out that “the proposed 1,172-mile pipeline would carry nearly a half million barrels of dirty crude oil every day across four states.” Ross says that such projects “pose a continual threat to public health from the extraction process through the transport to the refinery.”

As for the AFL-CIO’s support for the pipeline, NNU’s director of environmental health and social justice was blunt. “We’re deeply disappointed in our labor federation siding with those that would endanger and harm the land, the water, the lives of the people along the pipeline path and the health of the planet itself in the name of profits,” Fernando Losada said.

He added that the Dakota pipeline is part of “a drive to extract fossil fuel that is untenable for the future of the planet.”

The nurses union is part of the AFL-CIO, but dominant forces within the federation are committed to corporate energy priorities. Losada said that “some elements in the AFL-CIO” have caused a stance that “is a narrow position in the alleged interests of their members for some short-term jobs.”

Compare that narrow position to a recent statement from Communications Workers of America: “The labor movement is rooted in the simple and powerful idea of solidarity with all struggles for dignity, justice and respect. CWA will continue to fight against the interests of the 1% and corporate greed and firmly stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the environmental and cultural degradation of their community.”

A venerable labor song has a question for the leaders of the AFL-CIO: Which side are you on?

When it comes to planetary survival, the answer from the top of the AFL-CIO hierarchy remains: We’re on the wrong side.

A New Economic System for a World in Rapid Disintegration

By C.J. Polychroniou and Lily Sage - Truthout, September 8, 2016

We live in ominously dangerous times. The world capitalist system -- having fueled colonialism, imperialism and the constant intensification of labor power exploitation for roughly 500 years -- now threatens the planet with an ecological collapse of unprecedented proportions. Unsustainable resource exploitation, water pollution (the transformation of lakes, rivers and oceans into garbage dumps) and massive economic inequality are at the root of the possibly irreversible collapse of industrial civilization. Meanwhile, however, too many of us remain caught up in abstract and ahistorical predictions of collapse that fail to offer an alternative realistic vision of a future socio-economic order.

Simultaneously, the phenomenon of global warming, driven mainly by the dynamics and contradictions of a fossil-based economy, has prepared the soil for the eruption of new sources of conflict with the manifestation of historically unique destabilizing social forces. Climate change directly threatens billions of people and most other beings -- besides the occasional cockroach, diadem or tardigrade -- with outright extinction brought on by droughts, floods and other "natural" disasters.

Nonetheless, the catastrophic scenario sketched out behind the operations of global capitalism does not merely represent the other side of a wild socio-economic system bent on constant and abstract growth in pursuit of ever greater rates of profit. The so-called Golden Age of capitalism ended decades ago and the system has now run into a brick wall, as it appears to have reached a point where it is no longer capable of sustaining a constant momentum of growth to keep the economy reproducing itself at a pace that generates higher standards of living for the next generation.

Indeed, the productivity rates in the advanced industrialized regions of the world (such as the US, Europe and Japan) since the eruption of the financial crisis of 2007-08 are far slower than those of previous decades, thereby confirming the claims of various experts who argue that we have reached the end of the age of growth.

Moreover, in spite of all the talk about the marvelous and awe-inspiring accomplishments of the high-tech revolution, these innovations pale in comparison to the innovations of the Industrial Revolution. The new technologies reach billions of people, generating mythical fortunes for founders and investors, but increasingly employ only a handful of privileged workers. In the meantime, the problems of massive unemployment, increased inequality, growing economic insecurity, and dangerous levels of public and corporate debt are mounting.

In this context, the present crisis facing the world economy as a whole "consists precisely in the fact," as Antonio Gramsci put it in his Prison Notebooks, "that the old is dying and the new cannot be born," and all of the above represent the "morbid symptoms" of this antinomy that the great Italian revolutionary underscored as being part of this interregnum.

Thousands of prisoners strike ‘to end slavery’ across the United States

By Ann Montague - Socialist Action, September 18, 2016

Sept. 9 saw thousands of incarcerated men and women go on strike to take a stand against civil and environmental injustice in their respective prisons. The multi-state strike was organized both inside and outside of the prisons.

Some unions have begun addressing the twin issues of racial justice and economic justice with all their members. These discussions have moved from mere individual solutions to the need to end “institutional racism.” There is no clearer example of institutional racism than the prison system.

Michelle Alexander, in her book “The New Jim Crow,” wrote, “I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow. No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities as the U.S.” Since the beginning of the so-called drug war in 1982, the U.S. penal population exploded from 300,000 to more than two million in less than 30 years.

The National Prison Strike calls attention to the 13th Amendment of the Constitution—generally believed to have ended slavery in 1865. But there was a loophole, which says, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” It was a common practice in 1865 for plantation owners to lease Black convicts out of the prisons to work their fields, and today prisons are a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Inmates in federal and state prisons run recycling plants, fight fires in California and Georgia, and run call centers for state agencies. They make uniforms for McDonalds, prepare artisanal cheeses for Whole Foods, run call centers for AT&T. Think of a major corporation, and they are getting free labor from prisoners. That is why the National Prisoner Strike was a “Call To End Slavery In America.”

EcoUnionist News #122

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 20, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistle Blowers:

EcoUnionist News #122 - #NoDAPL Update

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 20, 2016

The following unions have issued statements in solidarity with those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline; we will add additional unions to this list as we become aware of their having taken a similar stand:

  1. New York State Nurses Association - September 1, 2016
  2. IWW - September 3, 2016
  3. Border Agricultural Workers - September 7, 2016
  4. Amalgamated Transport Union - September 9, 2016
  5. Communications Workers of America - September 9, 2016
  6. National Nurses United - September 9, 2016
  7. ILWU Local 19 - September 12, 2016
  8. Oregon Public Employees Union (SEIU Local 503) - September 12, 2016
  9. United Electrical Workers - September 12, 2016
  10. ILWU Pacific Coast Pensioners Association - September 13, 2016
  11. National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) - September 16, 2016
  12. California Faculty Association - ca. September 17, 2016
  13. AFL-CIO Labor Coalition for Community Action, (includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work) - September 19, 2016

(This may not be a complete list, but we will endeavor to correct any oversights as we find them. If you know of additional unions who have joined this list, please contact us at euc@iww.org.)

On the other hand, some unions insist on staying on the wrong side of history:

In Response, union members are encouraged to sign this appeal (instructions included within).

Dakota Access Pipeline Halted Again!:

Direct Actions against the Pipeline Construction Continue:

And Solidarity Actions Take Place All Over:

Capital Blight News #122

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 20, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Pages