Reportback: Fighting the Trojan Horse of Hipster-Fascism in Portland

By Sascha Reid Ross - Earth First! Newswire, November 14, 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.

“No one surrounds themselves with Runes, totenkopfs and neofolk and REALLY likes the jews. They just pretend they do because they are cowards.”

– James Porrazzo, former leader of the American Front

At first, I didn’t think that I was going to the protest against the controversial neo-folk band Death in June, but the stars seemed to align. Having just finished reading that 3,500 page tome of Jewish scripture, the Babylonian Talmud, I felt like I had some extra time on my hands and needed to celebrate. As it happened, the protest took place the day before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which was the event that heralded the beginning of the Holocaust through the destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses, and the sending of 30,000 Jews to concentration camps. The following day was Armistice Day (Veterans Day), celebrating the end of World War I. It seemed like a good day to fight fascism, and Death in June is famous for their openly fascist approach.

Some who join me in coming from an ecological background might wonder, why would you protest Death in June, a subcultural neo-folk band that doesn’t really make any ecological claims? Why act against a musical act unless their music sucks? Why not protest somebody more mainstream who is using fascist propaganda, like Nicki Minaj? Then again, why fight people who are literally hipster-fascists, instead of fighting hipsters who are perpetrating gentrification and forwarding state capitalism (which seems, with its prison industry complex, to be almost indistinguishable from fascism).

To be honest, I’ve never listened to Death in June, though I generally dislike what I know about the cultish aspects of neo-folk. It’s not that big of a deal, and I don’t intend to give the band more attention than they’re worth (not a lot). What I’m most worried about, in fact, is the mass politics of the ecology movement becoming fascistic, and DIJ’s politics provide one among many models through which the infiltration of fascist ideas becomes possible.

After researching the band, my concerns mounted, and after a discussion with the band’s promoter, I felt further validated. The promoter assured me that the music is supposed to make me uncomfortable. As someone who lost family to the Holocaust and whose grandfather helped liberate a concentration camp, I felt more enraged than uncomfortable with the perspective provided by DIJ and their attachment to “leftist” Nazi ideology. On the other side of my family, my father was shuttled out of Birmingham to the countryside by his mother and aunt at the age of four as the Nazi bombs fell. Uncomfortable is not the appropriate word for two generations of historic trauma, but I didn’t want to over-react (and I still don’t). The promoter apologized, but promptly reiterated her stance about intentionally making descendants of Holocaust victims and their families feel uncomfortable.

I reminded the promoter and the venue that the Alhambra Theater, where the event was planned to take place, is named after the historic scene of the Spanish Reconquista, where the Christians defeated the Muslims in that portentous year, 1492. The Alhambra is a symbol of Crusades, Islamophobia, and the ensuing expulsion of the Jews and Spanish Inquisition, and the music venue would be forever be associated with politically right-wing ideas by inviting a reactionary band to play when no other venue in Oregon would let them play (according to their own promoter). My post and the ensuing comment thread, which the band’s promoter assured me were very reasonable and levelheaded, have since been deleted by the page’s administrator.

This is not to say that I believe in excommunications; I have friends who like the neo-folk scene. Debate has significantly affected my community, but I believe that people in the ecology movement need to abandon sectarianism and allow for a degree of open and positive debate. Who doesn’t have Wiccan friends, neo-pagan associates who enjoy performing at Renaissance Fairs? At the same time, we must be ware of mass political positions that unite these ideas in some misguided “need to preserve European culture (from immigrants).”

Your Next Bike Share Ride May Be Powered By Union Labor

By Amien Essef - In These Times, November 11, 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.

Only a decade ago, bike share programs were considered European. But just as the concept takes off in urban areas around the US, the workers who make it possible are unionizing.

After New York City workers organized the first ever bike share union in the US in September, three other cities—Washington, D.C., Boston, and most recently Chicago—have made significant progress on their own bike share worker organizing campaigns. A majority of workers in all three cities signed union authorization cards this fall; D.C. workers are negotiating a union election date while Boston and Chicago workers will vote whether or not to unionize within the next month.

The roughly 280 bike share workers in these four cities—who, despite the bike share services’ varying names, all work under the same owner, Alta Bicycle Share, which was recently bought by the real estate company REQX—may all soon be represented by the Transport Workers Union. TWU represents workers in more traditional public transit sectors like bus drivers and airline workers, but Local 100 now aims to lead a national campaign to organize rentable city bicycles like Citi Bike in New York and Divvy in Chicago.

“If it’s on wheels,” says TWU Local 100 director of education Nicholas Bedell, “we want to organize it.”

But the union didn’t actually launch the national campaign. According to workers, the headlines generated by a successful union drive in New York, where Local 100 is based, prompted workers in D.C., Boston and Chicago to contact TWU on their own accord.

Toxic Chemicals in Salons Linked to Adverse Health Effects, Including Cancer

By Anastasia Pantsios - EcoWatch, November 12, 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.

Issues that primarily impact women often end up on the back burner. Maybe that’s why the new study from Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) on the health impacts of exposure to salon chemicals on the (mostly) women who work in personal care salons is the first of its kind. The study, Beauty and Its Beast: Unlocking the Impact of Toxic Chemicals on Salon Workers, reveals that long-term exposure to products routinely used in salons leads to an array of negative health conditions frequently suffered by beauticians and other salon workers.

“Studies across the globe have found correlations between chemical exposures in salons and adverse health outcomes in employees,” said the study’s lead author Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for WVE. “However, until now, there has never been a comprehensive review of existing science that brings all the players onto one stage.”

“Salon workers, a population dominated by women, are exposed to a myriad of chemicals of concern every day in their workplaces,” says the study. “Hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application and numerous other salon products contain ingredients associated with asthma, dermatitis, neurological symptoms and even cancer. Salon workers absorb these chemicals through their skin and breathe them in as fumes build up in the air of the salon over the course of the workday. Research shows that salon workers are at greater risk for certain health problems compared to other occupations.”

Are Fracking Workers Being Poisoned on the Job?

By Michelle Chen - The Nation, November 10, 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.

Last week's Republican election victories will set the stage for more stagnation in Washington, but might also grease the skids for some of the most controversial energy ventures at ground zero in the climate change debate: the long-stalled Keystone XL Pipeline project, and the booming hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," industry. But one thing that might put the brakes on the dirty fuel rush is the mounting research evidence linking oil and gas extraction to massive health risks for workers and communities.

A new study published in Environmental Health reveals air pollution data on major, in some cases previously underestimated, health risks from toxic contamination at gas production sites related to fracking. Air samples gathered around "unconventional oil and gas" sites by community-based environmental research teams contained unsafe levels of several volatile compounds that "exceeded federal guidelines under several operational circumstances," and that "Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels."

This suggests fracking may bring risk of cancer, birth defects and long-term respiratory and cellular damage to local towns and farms. Building on other studies on drilling-related water contamination, the air pollution research may stoke growing opposition from communities near drilling sites, who must weigh the industry's promises of new investment and jobs against the potential cost to the human health.

The findings also raise questions about the safety of fracking-site workers, who may have far less legal recourse over potential health damage than do local homeowners. Many work contract jobs under harsh, isolated conditions, in a volatile industry where pressure to pump profits is high and labor protections weak.

Longtime Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship indicted

By Ken Ward Jr - The Charleston Gazette, November 13, 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.

Don Blankenship, the longtime chief executive officer of Massey Energy, was indicted Thursday on charges that he orchestrated the routine violation of key federal mine safety rules at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine prior to an April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners.

A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause willful violations of ventilation requirements and coal-dust control rules — meant to prevent deadly mine blasts —during a 15-month period prior to the worst coal-mining disaster in a generation.

The four-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court, also alleges that Blankenship led a conspiracy to cover up mine safety violations and hinder federal enforcement efforts by providing advance warning of government inspections.

“Blankenship knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing,” the indictment states. “Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money.”

The indictment also alleges that, after the explosion, Blankenship made false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the investing public about Massey’s safety practices before the explosion.

The three felonies and one misdemeanor carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years imprisonment, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a prepared statement. He would not comment beyond the prepared statement.

The indictment comes after a more than four-year investigation that began following the mine disaster on April 5, 2010, but expanded to examine a troubled safety record that critics have long argued put coal production and profits ahead of worker protection.

A Scourge for Coal Miners Stages a Brutal Comeback

By Ken Ward Jr - Yale Environment 360, November 11, 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.

In August, when former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited West Virginia to campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Shelley Moore Capito, the Democrat in the race was quick to remind voters what Romney had said a decade earlier about the coal industry.

“I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people, and that plant — that plant kills people,” Romney had said in 2003, standing outside a Massachusetts coal-fired power plant that was facing new environmental controls. The Democratic candidate’s campaign jumped on this, criticizing Capito for aligning herself with “someone who believes coal ‘kills people’” — a deeply unpopular sentiment in a state where coal has long been king.

The irony, of course, is that coal does kill people, most notably the workers who toil to mine it, and whose union — the United Mine Workers — would eventually endorse the Democrat in the West Virginia Senate contest.

Politicians and media pundits often conveniently forget that fact when they’re chattering away about the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules on coal-fired power plants or the latest study showing climate change’s impact on sea level rise.

Major mining disasters get a lot attention, especially if they involve heroic rescue efforts, with worried families gathered at a local church and quick-hit stories about long lists of safety violations and inadequate enforcement.

But most coal miners die alone, one at a time, either in roof falls or equipment accidents or — incredibly in this day and age — from black lung, a deadly but preventable disease that most Americans probably think is a thing of the past. Coal-mining disasters get historic markers. Black lung deaths just get headstones.

Just weeks after Romney’s Capito campaign appearance, yet another in a long line of studies showed conclusively that not only is black lung back, but that the worst form of the disease now affects a larger share of Appalachian coal miners than at any time since the early 1970s, shortly after a federal law meant to end the disease was passed.

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.

IPCC Warning Spurs Union Calls For Energy Democracy

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, November 7, 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.

On November 2, 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Synthesis Report, the final in the “Fifth Assessment Report” process. It builds on three reports released by the IPCC since early 2013.

The IPCC is a senior UN panel made up of thousands of climate scientists and this report marks its fifth ‘assessment’ since 1990 of the state of the climate and the present and future impacts of global warming.

The Synthesis Report reiterates what the IPCC has been telling us for a decade or more: “Climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.” The period from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years in the Northern Hemisphere. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years”.

The report may be the same as previous IPCC reports in terms of the main messages and conclusions, but one thing is different. The 20 years of political inaction around climate, with its sad mixture of back-slapping and back stabbing by negotiators at scores of summits and meetings, has now created a situation where only bold and transformative interventions offer any hope of controlling runaway global warming. Even relatively conservative commentators and analysts now accept this to be true. Among the most important of these interventions involves expanding and deepening social ownership and democratic control of the world’s energy systems—energy democracy. This is needed in order to facilitate an energy transition from fossil-based power to renewable energy, a transition of sufficient speed and scale to be able to seriously address the climate crisis.

Among those embracing energy democracy are a growing number of unions working in partnership with allies in different social movements. Not all unions are convinced that energy democracy is either desirable or possible—especially given the political and economic power of the oil, coal and gas companies. And those unions either supporting the idea or at least open to it are engaging in serious discussions regarding what energy democracy would look like and how it could, alongside addressing pollution and emissions, also seriously address energy poverty, create jobs and advance equality. But everyone involved in the trade union debates on climate change accepts that ‘business as usual’ is simply not an option and the energy system has to be transformed within two or three decades. The IPCC’s report has again sounded the alarm about climate change, but we cannot evacuate the building because we have nowhere else to go.

Bakken truckers often ‘haul heavy’ – Star Tribune

By Maya Rao - Star Tribune, November 9, 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.

– The dump truck rumbled over miles of unpaved roads in the hills just east of the Montana border, past the cattle and grain bins and haystacks, before arriving at the dirt pit. Bill Gore slid his truck onto the scale, inched up in line, and made a curving gesture to the man in the front-end loader.

That was the signal to pile the dirt on high, and the loader did: Gore’s five-axle truck pulled out of the pit north of Cartwright last week weighing 19,000 pounds more than its registered limit of 82,000 pounds.

“We try to run it as hard as we can,” said Gore, who’s been driving trucks here for four years.

Heavy trucks are the backbone of the ­Bakken oil fields, transporting the water, pipes, and sand needed to produce more than 1 million barrels of oil a day in western North Dakota. They move oil rigs from site to site, crude to pipelines and rail terminals, and dirt and construction materials to build the new roads, homes and businesses needed to serve the exploding population of new workers.

But the frenzied pace of the oil fields and spotty enforcement by authorities have encouraged the rise of overweight trucks. State authorities estimate that one-quarter of the Bakken’s water trucks alone are overloaded.

Trucks hauling larger loads than what they were designed for pose safety concerns because extra weight lessens their braking power and increases the potential damage they could cause in a collision. On the crowded Bakken roads, truck crashes that led to severe injuries jumped twelvefold during a recent four-year period. And 100,000-pound trucks, which are common in oil field traffic, take 25 percent longer to stop than 80,000 pound trucks, according to the Truck Safety Coalition.

Heavy trucks also degrade bridges more quickly and crumble prairie roads built for light farm traffic, prompting the state to make record investments in rebuilding roads and bridges and constructing new bypasses.

In McKenzie County, the state’s top oil-producer, the tiny Sheriff’s Office has a file cabinet containing enormous violations. A driver from an Alexandria, Minn., company was pulled over this summer while hauling a crane that was 61,300 pounds overweight. A trucker from a Clear Lake, Minn., firm was caught driving 76,100 pounds overweight while carrying an excavator.

Trucker Michael Fisher, who acknowledged driving overweight, said one problem is being able to adequately slow down.

“It’s the stopping power,” he said, adding that he tried to keep more distance from other vehicles. “Your brakes are set up to stop a certain amount of weight, and if you increase that, you have a lot more chance of something going wrong.”

The last barrel of oil on Burnaby Mountain

By Anonymous - Beating the Bounds, October 26, 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.

Sometimes the world narrows to a very fine point. A certain slant of light. The head of a needle you need to pass through. I don’t care right now about the National Energy Board of Canada (merely a corporate tool for shoehorning global energy projects into other people’s territories—a funnel for money from the public, to the private sector). I don’t care about this or that court of law, appeals and constitutional challenges. I don’t care about the drones, unmarked cars, or CSIS agents. I don’t even care that much about the rain.

I care about the people who have come together to stand in a forest, on a mountain, in the path of a pipeline. I care about them because of their passion and commitment, their awareness of the fact that they are standing at once against local destruction (a nature conservation area, the animals we meet here every day, right near the edge of a large city) and against global destruction (adding carbon to an already warming planet through new fossil fuel infrastructure—the last thing we should be doing, if we truly care about the continuation of life on this planet, in the near future). I care too, about the trees I can touch, the animals I can see, and the future commons we need to preserve for life to continue, for this planet to be a place of biological diversity and human sharing.

As has been our intention all along, we will occupy public land, a city park, and prevent Kinder Morgan from carrying out its destructive work—work opposed by local First Nations, opposed by the City of Burnaby, and opposed by the majority of Burnaby residents. While the case goes back and forth in the courts, out intention is to keep Kinder Morgan wrapped up dealing with us, either until a court somewhere sides with the people against this mega-corporation, or until the NEB’s December 1 deadline for KM’s complete application.

We are doing this to protect the local environment and people. And we are doing this because we know that people everywhere have to begin taking a stand against fossil fuel projects, and thus doing whatever we can to mitigate climate change. This is no time for new carbon projects. This is the time to build a new economy, based on new, renewable sources of energy, providing new, clean energy jobs. There is simply no benefit to the citizens of Burnaby to have this pipeline here—it benefits only the US-based Kinder Morgan, and the global market its oil will be sold on. And there is no benefit to our ailing global climate. The time to change course is now, and the many volunteers on Burnaby Mountain, and their many, many supporters in the community and around the world, have realized this, and they are taking direct action.

Pages