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Wrong Again!

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 6, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Our regular readers know that we tend to be quite critical of the business unions and the big green NGOs for their continued slavish alliance with capitalism, and knowing this, they should not be shocked that--once again--the increasingly ineffectual and coopted Blue Green Alliance is in our sights.

In case you didn't know, the Blue Green Alliance is a coalition of business unions and environmental organizations that ostensibly advocates for building bridges between the labor movement and the environmental movement, with a specific focus towards "green jobs" and "sustainable development". Each year, the alliance issues a "Right Stuff Award" to "business, government, environmental, labor, and community leaders who promote a sustainable economy and environment". This year, they say, their awards will honor "leaders for their work on building a 21st century energy infrastructure."

Based on their choice of Obama's Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, one has to be wondering if the Blue Green Alliance knows what century they're in, or perhaps whether or not the Alliance has an oddball definition of what 21st century infrastructure is, exactly. You see, the last time I checked, Ernest Moniz has deep ties to the fossil fuel, fracking and nuclear industries. He has served on advisory boards for oil giant BP and General Electric, and was a trustee of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, a Saudi Aramco-backed nonprofit organization. In 2011, Moniz was the chief author of an influential study for MIT on the future of natural gas. According to a new report by the Public Accountability Initiative, Moniz failed to disclose that he had taken a lucrative position at a pro-drilling firm called ICF International just days before a key natural gas "fracking" study was released.

This doesn't sound very green to me. If anything, it's more like a greenwash. Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the so-called Blue Green Alliance.

Last year, at this time, members of the Bay Area IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus joined in others in protesting the Blue Green Alliance giving a "Right Stuff" Award to California Governor Jerry Brown, who supports fracking, wants to water down the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and was the chief advocate for California Proposition 1 (which a majority of gullible voters just passed), a billion dollar corporate welfare program for frackers and corporate agribusiness. Brown is also a union buster, having ordered Oakland Police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets on anti-war demonstrators and ILWU members protesting George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003, while he was serving as mayor of Oakland. At that time, he also pushed for charter schools, which was an overt attack on the already beleaguered and maligned teachers' unions, who're not responsible for the sorry state of Oakland's public schools, the blame for which should be rightfully placed on the systemic attack on unions and public institutions by the capitalist class.

There are countless more deserving candidates for recognition for real work bridging the supposed gap between workers and the environment including, but certainly not limited to:

  • The rank and file members of various railroad unions, particularly those who belong to Railroad Workers United who successfully fought off an attempt by BNSF (which was endorsed by the class collaborationist leadership of the UTU affiliated union SMART--who supports Keystone X-L, by the way) to reduce crew size on trains from 2 to 1. (This is a victory for workers and the environment that the Blue Green Alliance ignored completely);
  • 350 Seattle, who issued a resolution in solidarity with the rail workers in their fight against the aforementioned attempt to ramrod a concessionary contract down the latter's throats;
  • National Nurses United, who has taken stances against fracking, tar sands, extreme energy, and against Keystone XL, and who are currently declaring they will go on strike in order to protest the lack of adequate preparation for the Ebola crisis by private, for profit hospitals which are part of the insane so-called "health care system" that exists here in the old U S of A;
  • Movement Generation, who're based in the San Francisco Bay Area and have been working diligently to build coalitions between Bay Area labor unions (many of whom are part of the Blue Green Alliance) and frontline communities affected by fossil fuels, such as the Bay Area refinery corridor. Unlike the Alliance, Movement Generation is outspoken in their opposition to fracking and extreme energy and have even produced a satirical video exposing the "extreme energy means jobs" myth called Keystone XL has a Job for You.
  • Speaking of those front-line communities, there are far too many to include in an exhaustive list, but the Bay Area refinery corridor, in the most recent election, the local chapters of Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environment Network, Urban Tilth, and Idle No More recently teamed up with the Richmond Progressive Alliance and the Sunflower Alliance, two coalitions including these frontline community groups, union members, and progressives (for all of their faults) and successfully fought off a machine Democrat attempt, funded by Chevron, to wrest control of the Richmond city government from anyone not in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry. While the IWW is certainly not a sympathizer with electoralist strategies, at the very least, these groups are still far more deserving than an industry insider like Moniz.
  • On the opposite coast, the Vermont Workers' Center joined in with students, Vermont Rising Tide, Just Power, and 350 Vermont a sit in at Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin's office to protest the latter's support for a natural gas pipeline which will facilitate fracking and tar sands mining. Since Shumlin is cut from the same cloth as Moniz, however, it's likely that the Blue Green Alliance would give him a Right Stuff award before issuing one to the Vermont Workers Center.
  • Likewise, the Alliance probably has little sympathy for Labors Union member Tim Norgren who has defied the leadership of his international leadership by authoring an open letter against fossil fuel exports, arguing that, contrary to the claims made by the LIUNA, Building Trades, and their capitalist puppet masters, the claims that they will create jobs are completely bogus. On the other hand, these unions' officialdom continue to slavishly support fracking and Keystone XL, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that there is nothing to be gained by doing so.
  • The Blue Green Alliance also seems to have forgotten about the Labor Network for Sustainability, who continue to advocate for Just Transition in communities that have hitherto been dependent upon coal, oil, and gas extraction.
  • Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, an international coalition of unions and environmentalists, who advocates shifting from fossil fuels to renewables, also seems to have been overlooked.
  • And I would be remiss in not plugging the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, or the IWW in general for that matter, for their tireless efforts in supporting, participating in, or even initiating all of the above efforts, not to mention our participation in the People's Climate March, Flood Wall Street, Energy Justice Summer, Fearless Summer, RAMPs,, or the organizing efforts by the United Campaign Workers, Mobile Rail, or Whole Foods--all of which have a green component to them. And let's not forget, if myself and two Earth First!ers (Mikal Jakubal and Andy Caffery) hadn't met in a cabin in Humboldt County, California 16 years ago to strategize how to combine the efforts to stop Maxxam Corporation from clearcutting Headwaters Forest there and busting the Steelworkers Union at Kaiser Aluminum in Washington state, there wouldn't be a Blue Green Alliance (no matter how far they've fallen from our lofty goals once the opportunistic bureaucrats in both the green and blue movements co-opted our efforts).

One might counter by pointing out that Moniz is but one of seven honorees, and that he is receiving an award in his specific category, which is "government official", however, seeing as how the Obama Administration has actually been quite hostile to both unions (just ask the teachers' unions) and the environment (Obama supports the suicidal "All of the Above" energy policy), real champions of workers and the environment would question the existence of that category at all. I won't even comment on the inclusion of the "business" category!

In any case, that's a red herring. The real problem that the Blue-Green Alliance has with the more deserving candidates is that they are either anti-capitalist by default, or openly anti-capitalist. Since the Blue-Green Alliance has become yet another front for the capitalist class, led principally by the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO bureaucracy, any challenge to capitalism is strictly verboten. However, as we've point out out numerous times, capitalism is inherently anti-ecological (and certainly no friend of the worker). 

Last year a group of us organized a protest against this mockery of true worker-environmental intersectionality. I think the time is ripe to do so again. With that in mind, a group of us will be protesting Thursday, November 13, 2014. The award dinner is at the Park 55 Wyndham Hotel, 55 Cyril Magnin Street between Ellis and Eddy, about one block from the Powell Street Bart Station in San Francisco. We plan to be there to greet attendees and hopefully the Secretary himself. We will be arriving at the hotel about 5:30 and will picket outside until 6:30 when the dinner begins. Be there!