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 contact us or locate an active IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus (EUC) group (which report to their nearest chartered IWW branch), select "contact us" and you'll find a (more or less) current list of active EUC groups and/or one of our members will contact you.

If you're ready to get involved with the IWW EUC, select "join" and follow the instructions listed there.

If you'd like to learn more about what the IWW EUC does or what our general positions are on the issues that surround the intersection of revolutionary unionism, climate justice, and ecology, visit our "Green Unionism" library.

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If you are looking for the main IWW site, we have included a link for that as well.

Chapter 1 : An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

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

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

The mill men all insist on one thing: that the Government will grant the manufacturers protection from the lawless element of the I.W.W.’s”

—J. P. Weyerhaeuser, 1917

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might,
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
The union makes us strong…

—Lyrics excerpted from Solidarity Forever, by Ralph Chaplin, ca. 1915

The timber industry has, throughout nearly its entire history, been in the control of an elite minority of the very rich and powerful, and they have been especially avaricious, violent, and repressive towards all who would challenge their power. They have also—in spite of a barrage of slick propaganda trumpeting their careful management of the resource—depleted most of the virgin forests of the Pacific Northwest. Many environmental organizations can trace their origins to opposition to such practices, and in the struggles by environmentalists to preserve forestlands, timber workers have had a reputation for being their fiercest adversaries, and in many cases, this is true. Timber workers have a well deserved reputation for being outspoken about the pride of purpose in their job, as well as a deeply ingrained cultural machismo. Yet lumber harvesting and production is historically one of the ten most dangerous jobs in the industrialized world, and timber workers are among those most exploited by their employers. One would logically expect the timber workers to be highly resistant to such treatment, but in recent years they haven’t been. This wasn’t always so. To understand why, one must examine the industry’s origins.

Before the arrival of European-American settlers to the Pacific Northwest, the entire region stretching from northern California to Canada and Alaska from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains was dominated by coniferous old growth forests. At least 20 million acres of this land was forested, dominated by various species of trees, some of them hundreds of feet in height, over a dozen feet in diameter, and centuries or even millennia old.[1] In the southwestern part of this region, stretching from Big Sur to roughly what is now the Oregon state line, in a belt that was at least twenty miles wide for most of its expanse a very unique species of tree dominated, Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the California redwoods, some of them standing over 350 feet tall. Their close (and similarly large) cousins, Sequoiadendron giganteum, better known as the Giant Sequoia, only grew in a few isolated spots in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada foothills. These vast forests were far more then the trees, however. Hundreds, if not thousands of plant and animal species lived and flourished within these wooded habitats, and as far as is known, the indigenous population of the Americas had no significant lasting impact on California’s ancient redwood forests, nor did they have any lasting effect on the timberlands of the Pacific Northwest in general.[2] Like the Native Americans, the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest had remained left more or less untouched for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.

The coming of the white man changed all of that. The Russians first began exploiting the redwoods for the construction of Fort Ross in 1812, during their very brief settlement there.[3] As more Europeans arrived, the forests south of San Francisco were the first to be logged, usually through clearcutting, until these ancient stands were completely liquidated by 1860. In those days, loggers used hand saws, and felling an ancient redwood could take anywhere from two-to-five days to complete. The redwoods to the north of the Golden Gate in what is now Marin County were logged next, especially along rivers that allowed easy transportation by the available modes of the day. By this time, around 1881, the steam engine had replaced pack animals. Though this first wave of automation did not have a significant impact on the number of workers involved in the logging process, it greatly increased the impact logging had on the redwoods. Entire forests were liquidated, no matter how small the tree, because even the baby trees were used to build the skid roads used for hauling the larger ones. These forests were never replanted, and very few of them grew back, and in some cases, farmlands replaced them. By the beginning of the 20th Century, all but a few of these ancient trees were gone and logging operations migrated north to Sonoma County. One quarter century later, most of these old growth forests were likewise gone.[4]

Redwood Uprising: Introduction

By Steve Ongerth

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

I know, I know. I need to write a book about all this. Fighting to save the redwoods, building alliances with the loggers, getting car bombed and finding out what we’re up against not just the timber industry but also the FBI. Then coming back home and ending up back on the front lines again. I fully intend to write about it eventually, but it’s hard to write about something when you’re still in the middle of it.”

—Judi Bari, introduction to Timber Wars, 1994

“All this,” is a very complex and intriguing story (not to mention a call to action), and while most people have never heard it, a great many are at least partially aware of its defining moment.

On the morning of May 24, 1990, two activists, Judi Bari and her friend and comrade Darryl Cherney, set out from Oakland, California, while on a tour to organize support for a campaign they had organized called Redwood Summer. They were part of the radical environmental movement known as Earth First!, which had a reputation for militant tactics, including the sabotaging of logging and earth moving machinery as well as spiking trees—the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter logging operations. The previous year in Arizona, five environmentalists, including Peg Millett and Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman, had been arrested and charged by the FBI for a conspiracy to sabotage power lines in protest against nuclear power. Some welcomed Earth First!’s uncompromising reputation. Others denounced them as reckless, or even as terrorists.

According to the mainstream media, Earth First!’s radical agenda earned them the animosity of the timber workers whose jobs the environmentalists supposedly threatened. They were described as “outside agitators” (among many other things) who had “polarized” the timber dependent communities of northwestern California’s redwood region—historically known as the “Redwood Empire”, but more recently as the “North Coast”—with their militant and uncompromising “environmental extremism.” Their alleged hard-line anti-logging stances were seen as too extreme even by most environmentalists, and they supposedly stood upon the radical fringes of the ecology movement. Redwood Summer was reportedly planned as a summer-long campaign of direct actions by these “fringe” environmentalists to thwart the harvesting of old growth redwood timber in northwestern California, specifically Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma Counties.

On May 24, however, Bari’s and Cherney’s planned destination was Santa Cruz County, where—just one month previously—power lines had supposedly been sabotaged by unknown perpetrators calling themselves the “Earth Night Action Group”. Just before 11:55 AM a bomb in Bari’s car exploded, nearly killing her and injuring Cherney. Within minutes the FBI and Oakland Police arrived on the scene and arrested both of them as they were being transported to Highland Hospital. The authorities called them dangerous terrorists and accused the pair of knowingly transporting the bomb for use in some undetermined act of environmental sabotage when it had accidentally detonated. The media spun the event as the arrest of two potentially violent environmental extremists.

Activists Demand Independent Investigation After Cops Kill Protester in Atlanta

By Mike Ludwig - Truthout, January 19, 2023

Web editor's note: Tortuguita was a member of the IWW. Please add your name to this protest letter.

An activist was shot and killed by police on Wednesday during a violent raid of the protest camp and community gathering space that has blocked construction of an enormous police training facility known as “Cop City” on roughly 100 acres of public forest in southeast Atlanta.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation initially said a suspect was shot and killed after allegedly firing a gun and injuring a Georgia state trooper during the raid, but fellow protesters and community activists doubt the official narrative and are calling on journalists and legal observers to investigate. Tensions between police and the tree-sitting protesters (known as “forest defenders”) have been rising for months, and activists said they had previously demanded police stop bringing guns and other weapons into the forest to prevent needless injury and death.

Statements from activists identified the person who was killed by police as a protester named Manuel Teran, who also goes by the name Tortuguita. Teran is described as a “generous,” “kind” and “fierce” activist who was a trained medic and ran a mutual aid group as part of the forest defense community.

The killing came as multiple law enforcement agencies swarmed the area Wednesday morning in their latest attempt to “clear” the protest camp. The effort featured search dogs hunting for activists, bulldozers and both lethal and non-lethal weapons, according to statements and posts on social media from accounts associated with the “Stop Cop City” movement. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation claims a handgun and shell casings were found at the scene.

The reportedly wounded state patrol officer was not identified as of Thursday morning, with law enforcement claiming the officer was in stable condition after being treated at a hospital and releasing few other details.

IWW WISERA Environmental Committee and NARA IWW EUC Reading Group 1: Judi Bari, "Revolutionary Ecology"

Fellow Workers (and fellow travelers, too!)

We are inviting you to the inaugural session of our monthly, online reading group dedicated to discussing the work of and writings by IWW Organiser and Earth First! environmental activist Judi Bari.

The first text we will be reading is Revolutionary Ecology by Judi Bari, herself, written in 1993 at the height of her involvement in the struggles in northwestern California's old growth redwood forests.

You can read online or download a PDF of the text here: https://ecology.iww.org/texts/JudiBari/Revolutionary%20Ecology

You may also download a PDF of this document if you wish.

This meeting will be held on zoom.  Register here.

Stopping Cop City and Reconnecting with Abundance: Interview with Abundia Alvarado of Mariposas Rebeldes

By Abundia Alvarado and Dan Fischer - New Politics, January 14, 2023

Abundia Alvarado is a community organizer and a co-founder of Mariposas Rebeldes, a member of the movement to protect Weelaunee Forest and Stop Cop City, and a founder of FaunAcción, and El Molcajete. A Nahuatl and Apache trans femme migrant, she is currently based between Atlanta and Tennessee. In Atlanta, she helped launch an annual money-free gift-economy festival called the Dandelion Fest and is working on projects around the idea of the universe as a “Sacred Web of Abundance.” We spoke about Abundia’s life’s philosophy, its roots, and how it has shaped the trajectory of her organizing.

Since the interview was conducted last month, there have been some developments in Atlanta’s grassroots campaign to stop construction of a highly militarized police training facility, nicknamed “Cop City,” on 85 acres of the Weelaunee forest. On December 13 and 14, SWAT teams and police arrested twelve land defenders and six of them were given bogus “domestic terrorism” charges. All six have been bonded out of jail, but readers can contribute to their legal expenses through the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, follow the movement at Scenes from the Atlanta Forest, and organize solidarity events.

You’ve described your childhood surroundings near Monterrey, Mexico, as a “web of abundance”. Could you elaborate on some of the values you picked up in this environment – including from your Nahuatl and Apache family and from the local community as well as the broader ecosystem – which continue to inform your organizing?

I grew up in a neighborhood called Canteras in the outskirts of Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, the third largest city and center of the Mexican business and economy, located in the desert land, surrounded by a beautiful web of abundance that saved me from the daily horrible reality of extreme poverty. Canteras was full of different cacti—many of them edible like the nopales which have tunas (prickly pears)—that I collected almost all year round. There were different varieties of chiles, my favorites being the tiny yet potent piquin. For my sweet tooth, there were blackberries, mulberries, and many other desert foods and flowers. So even though we were food insecure at my household, I still ate so well and plentifully. Canteras’s web of abundance (or WoA, for short) was everything to me. I played in it all day, befriended animals and plants, and imagined other worlds outside the neighborhood and its physical and mental constraints. I relentlessly explored every inch of that land and learned something new every day from all the plants, animals, insects, fungi, etc, that were part of that particular WoA. There were a lot of waterways, little waterfalls, and pools to bathe in. It was heaven for a curious and very active little girl (although I didn’t yet identify as a girl outwardly).

This particular land where I was born and grew up was owned by a very rich landowner, but my mother helped organize 120 families to occupy it and settle there. The occupation was successful and the Canteras neighborhood was born.These 120 families were mostly Indigenous people from different parts of Mexico but mainly Nahuatl people like my father’s family. I learned about their cultures and traditions by paying attention to the staples they grew (such as corn, tomatoes, chilis (especially chile piquin), blackberries, mangoes, oranges, peanuts, bananas, and avocados), the way they cooked them and the dishes they made. My neighbors helped each other to grow food and shared the harvests. One value that was instilled in me during these early years was respect for all the plants, ecosystems, and animals, and always being aware of other species’ jurisdictions or territories. Canteras was also the home of many kinds of snakes like the rattlesnakes, copperhead, coralillo and the mysterious (mythical) Alicante snakes. My family was so lucky we never got bitten by a snake even though I encountered them every day in the mountains. I knew where they lived and hung out and was careful not to intrude then. That respect and awareness is something that I carry on with me and that informs my activism around animal rights. Regarding human jurisdictions, I was never good and always transgressed their boundaries.

An Ambiguous Paradise Built in Hell

By Dan Fischer - New Politics, January 7, 2023

Book Review of: Dilar Dirik, The Kurdish Women’s Movement: History, Theory, Practice (London: Pluto Press, 2022).

On November 20th, Turkey launched Operation Claw-Sword, a large-scale campaign of drone attacks killing civilians and militants in the predominantly Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq.1 Then, in Paris on December 23rd, a shooter murdered three Kurds in a disturbing echo of the city’s 2013 shooting that killed the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)’s co-founder Sakine Cansız and two other women.

While the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) suspended military cooperation with Washington, not for the first time, in protest of the assaults that the United States has allowed fellow NATO member Turkey to carry out, Parisian Kurds have also protested en masse against Western complicity in their people’s extermination. Some youths have set cars and garbage bins aflame, echoing the city’s yellow vests insurrections of recent years as well as the ongoing feminist uprisings in Iran where protesters, including non-Kurds, have adopted the Kurdish slogan of “Woman, Life, Freedom.”

Just as world leaders abandoned Jews during the Holocaust, and have kept Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal regime in power (as my co-author Javier Sethness and I previously argued in News and Letters, and as Omar Sabbour argued in these pages), they’ve also systematically approached the Kurds, the world’s largest stateless nation,2 from a deeply realpolitik position. For example, after infamously green-lighting Saddam Hussein’s massacre of Iraq’s Kurds and Shiites in 1991, Washington sent weaponry to Turkey throughout the 1990s enabling the deaths of tens of thousands. Although Washington has militarily supported the SDF since 2015 and has provided air cover in their attacks on ISIS strongholds, committing and covering up war crimes in the process, the United States’ leadership has no intention of permanently supporting Kurdish groups’ direct-democratic experiment of Rojava.

Moscow, meanwhile, has boosted its energy ties with Ankara and has entertained talks about Turkish use of Syrian airspace to bomb Kurdish towns, and, even more ominously, orchestrated a Erdoğan-Assad rapprochement that will likely spell catastrophe for Syrian Kurdish autonomy. Communities of various ethnicities have protested across Northern Syria in late December and early January. One of their concerns has been that Turkey will return Syrian refugees into the hands of the Assad regime.

Sadly, some loud and well-funded elements of the global left have for several years aided (what Leila al-Shami and Noam Chomsky among other signatories have criticized as) an “‘anti-imperialism’ of fools” which joins in the multipolar abandonment of the Kurds, Arabs and other Southwest Asian ethnicities and peoples. Such propagandists, along with right-wing allies, have tragically joined in the imperialist powers’ divide-and-conquer techniques, facilitating ethnic war, and have been complicit in the destruction of perhaps the brightest revolutionary hope since 1994’s Zapatista uprising. In this context, I write a bit hastily and imperfectly—but enthusiastically—to recommend Dilar Dirik’s study of Kurdish women’s resistance movements. It does not tell the whole story by any means, but it tells enough of the story to invite readers to take the nuanced and messy stance that Kurdish anarchist Zaher Baher has summarized: “Our attitude towards Rojava must be critical solidarity.”

Statement of Solidarity with Railroad Workers

By Staff - Industrial Worker, December 23, 2022

The Industrial Workers of the World stands with U.S. rank-and-file railroad workers as owners and politicians collude to strip them of their most basic rights. The right to withhold our labor is inviolable and cannot be prohibited. Further, we believe that an injury to one is an injury to all. We are disgusted by the hypocrisy of so-called leaders in the U.S. government, who enjoy the luxury of virtually unlimited paid sick leave while legislating against any paid sick leave at all for railroad workers, and we are unsurprised when even the progressive wing of the Democratic Party ultimately aligns with their class over the workers. IWW members throughout the country are prepared to support railroad workers in every way possible as they lead this fight.

We hold that the failure to reach an agreement is undeniably the fault of the owners, who have enriched themselves and their shareholders at immediate cost to the workers generating the profits. One study of financial reports and internal communications for all the major rail carriers shows their unbridled avarice and total disregard for their workforce. They are well aware that wages have been stagnant for years. This was by design. They know that workers have fled the industry due to its destruction of workers’ quality of life and the carrot-and-stick system that prevents their use of promised benefits. They know that injuries on the job have reached record highs in recent years due to understaffing and impossible demands placed on workers.

The agreement being imposed by Congress is unacceptable. Wage increases to compensate for the lack thereof in years past, as well as skyrocketing inflation and cost of living more recently, are inadequate. Workers have univocally demanded more predictable scheduling and safer working conditions. Paid sick leave was a compromise many workers may have been willing to accept. It is the owners and their lackeys in government who refuse to compromise. It is despicable.

We in the IWW encourage workers from all industries to stand together with railroad workers. United we are strong. Together we can win.

For more information on Railroad Workers United, please contact RWU General Secretary Jason Doering, via email or at 202-480-0587.

For anyone who faces detainment for exercising their right to strike, or who knows someone who does, the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee conducts public pressure campaigns and facilitates empowerment through solidarity. They can be contacted at IWOC@iww.org.

Additional statements of solidarity from members and local branches of the IWW throughout the U.S. are being prepared and issued even as mainstream media declares the “crisis averted.” For workers, the crisis only deepens. These conditions can be changed only when we stand together as one. Workers of the world: unite!

Railroad and UC Workers Solidarity

By Steve Ongerth (with suggestions from Baltimore Red)- IWW Environmental Union Caucus, December 6, 2022

I gave the following speech at a rally on the UC Berkeley Campus (a video of the rally follows)

Fellow Workers, Comrades, and Friends:

My name is Steve Ongerth. I am a union mariner of over a quarter century (I am a member of the IBU, an ILWU affiliate, and the IWW); I grew up in a railroad family, and I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1994.

I am here today to deliver a message on behalf of Railroad Workers United (of which I am a solidarity member):

The Class One freight railroad bosses:

  • Have been reaping record profits for 25 years, and yet...
  • they are moving less freight than at any time since 2006;
  • they are swimming in money, while industry is contracting when it should be expanding due to its efficiency, and its potential as a major climate solution;
  • meanwhile, during that time, 30% of workforce has been lost in the last 4-5 years;
  • in spite of the potential for rail as a climate solution, the freight bosses are hostile to expansion of passenger trains;
  • in fact, the greed of the capitalist railroad bosses has grown so egregious, that the Class Ones have possessed off every major shipping group with their BS, thus even turning much of the capitalist class against them;

The "deal" brokered by Biden and rammed down the throats of the working class by the Republicans and Democrats alike won't solve the problem.

This is not only naked class war, it's a recipe for the complete implosion and meltdown of the nation's rail system.

Climate Change As Class War: A Review

By Tom Wetzel - Ideas and Action, December 6, 2022

As the burning of fossil fuels continues to pump up the size of the carbon dioxide layer in the atmosphere, the global warming crisis becomes ever more acute. In its “Code Red for Humanity” warning in 2021, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth…”

But we’re losing the climate battle thus far. In Climate Change as Class War, Marxist geographer Matthew Huber argues that the climate movement is losing because it is rooted in the “professional class.” He argues that this class lacks the power to defeat the powerful capitalist interests that drag their heals against the kind of drastic cutting back of fossil-fuel burning that is needed. For Huber, the climate movement needs to be rooted in the working class to have sufficient power to enact radical structural reforms needed to effectively fight global warming. 

Huber analyses the existing climate movement as consisting of three layers. First, there are the “science communicators” like James Hansen who try to do popular education about climate change science. A second group are “policy technocrats” with expertise in law or policy studies and work in think tanks, the university world, or non-profits. Their orientation is to craft “smart” policy solutions. A third group are the “anti-system radicals” whose exposure to the science of environmental devastation “leads to a kind of political radicalization.” Huber views these groups as part of the “professional class” and tries to use his theory of this class to explain the politics of the climate movement. Huber pinpoints two features of the climate movement that he sees as sources of weakness: (1) The emphasis on high levels of personal consumption as a factor in global warming, thus leading to a “politics of less” — especially a feature of “degrowth” politics; and (2) an emphasis on science education. “Making climate politics purely about science evades the question of power. It allows us to attribute…inaction on climate change as simply due to misinformation rather than a lack of power.”

Huber appeals to the theory of the “Professional-Managerial Class” (proposed by Barbara and John Ehrenreich) to try to explain the origin of these features of the “professional class” climate movement. Here he points to the centrality of credentials which mediates the access of the “professional class” to the labor market. This includes “the existence of a specialized body of knowledge, accessible only by lengthy training,” degree and licensing programs, professional associations, which he regards as “forms of class organization.” This tends to encourage acceptance of meritocratic ideology which favors decision-making power for managers and professionals. This emphasis on the importance of knowledge and the role of professionals tends to favor the science education emphasis of the climate movement, as Huber sees it.

In the Ehrenreichs’ theory of the PMC their class position is based on their control over cultural and social reproduction. This is how teachers and writers are included in the class. Among both Marxists and libertarian socialists, however, class has historically been seen as an institutional group-to-group power relation in social production, as in Marx’s concept of capital as a social power relation. Looking at it from this point of view, I think the PMC theory tends to paper over a distinction between two different class groups. First, there is a group I call the bureaucratic control class. This group’s class position is based on their relative monopoly of decision-making power, via bureaucratic hierarchies that exist to control labor and run corporations and government agencies day-to-day. This includes not only salaried managers but high-end professionals who work closely with management to control labor and defend corporate interests, such as corporate lawyers, HR experts, and industrial engineers who design jobs and work organization. This class power relation is the basis of the clear antagonism between this layer and the working class. 

It’s noteworthy that school teachers, newspaper reporters, script writers, and nurses all form unions and occasionally go on strike. These lower level professional employees are not usually part of the management apparatus, and don’t manage other workers. As such, they have a structural position like the core working class of manual workers, not the bureaucratic control class. The people in this lower professional layer often have college degrees, and sometimes do show elitism towards the core manual working class. They also tend to have more autonomy in their work. However, the “skilled trades” in the early 20th century often showed elitism towards less skilled manual workers and often had relative autonomy in their work. But we generally regard skilled blue collar workers (such as tool and die makers) as part of the working class. 

Lower level professional employees may be tempted to middle class meritocratic ideology. As such they will be in a conflicted position, as they also share the subordination of the working class position. This is why Erik Olin Wright’s phrase “contradictory class location” is appropriate for this group — a point that Huber concedes.

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