US Workers Demand Investment in Urban Public Transport

Statement from the International Transportworker Federation (ITF) - May 21, 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.

Around 1,000 public transport workers from 40 states gathered in Washington DC, USA on 20 May to demand more investment in metros and buses in the country’s cities and towns.

At the rally, leaders of two ITF affiliates – the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) – joined their members, legislators in the US Senate and Congress and other ‘Fund Transit’ campaign supporters to demand that the federal puts more money into better, safer transport for workers and passengers.

It was the centerpiece of a series of national activities for the ATU’s May Transit Action Month.

Afterwards campaigners descended on Capitol Hill offices to visit Members of Congress to urge increased funding for public transport in the nation’s transportation funding law, which is set to expire 1 October. The trust fund enabled by the legislation will run out of money to pay for highway and transit projects in August.

Addressing the workers at the rally, Mac Urata, ITF inland transport section secretary, said: “You are not alone in your fight.

Public transit systems and their workers are under attack all over the world because of privatisation and deregulation.

Workers’ rights and working conditions are being undermined and the travelling public see multinationals making profits while integrated transport systems are broken up.

The ITF and its affiliates stand together with you in your campaign.

Capital Blight - The Ghosts of Ayn Rand

By x344534, May 25, 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.

My path to green syndicalism was anything but a straight line. I was initially ignorant of anarchism and libertarian socialism, because what gets labeled "libertarian" in the United States of America is actually anything but anarchist or libertarian, but instead is the most extreme and dogmatic brand of capitalism.

Let's be absolutely clear here. Capitalism cannot survive without the state. It takes a massive, centralized, armed-to-the-teeth, authoritarian government to enforce business contracts, "private property" rights, virtual "intellectual property" rights (the idea that ideas can be owned and controlled), rent, usury, and the notion that corporations are individual people. Nobody in their right mind would voluntarily consent to a system of institutionalized inequality which results in starvation, homelessness, disease, squalor, wage slavery, sexism, racism, and ecological degradation if they had the freedom (yes, you heard me correctly, I said "FREEDOM!" that ever ubiquitous buzzword that capitalist ideologues cast so effortlessly about in defense of their way of life which is anything but free to those forced into subservience under its dictates) to choose.

What initially blocked my path to real libertarianism, meaning libertarian socialism was the twisted demented pretzel logic of the so called "libertarian" capitalists in their polysyllabic but ultimately empty peonage to their Laissez-faire capitalist religion.

One individual in particular, Bryan Caplan--who lived in the dorm room next to mine at the (state-funded) University of California at Berkeley--even tried to "convert" me to his faith by handing me a reading list if his holy prophets: Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, F. A. Hayak, Robert Nozick, and--of course--Ayn Rand.

Naturally, I didn't bite. I had a good deal of exposure to the demented nonsense of Rand already, and any philosophy or economic theory that supported this crazy dingbat's contention that there's any "virtue" in selfishness or that big corporate business is "a persecuted minority" couldn't have anything useful to say to me.

Thanks to a combination of my intelligence, inquisitiveness, stubbornness, and some plain good luck, I found thinkers and philosophers who offered clues to real libertarian ideas. These included Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Vandana Shiva, Rudolf Rocker, Christipher Alexander, bell hooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Neil Peart (yes, that's correct, the drummer and lyricist of Rush), Chuck D (of Public Enemy), Graham Purchase, John Bellamy Foster, Carl Sagan, William Least Heat Moon, Bakunin, Marx, Engels, and Kropotkin (among others). Then, I met Judi Bari.

Judi Bari clarified matters for me greatly and showed me how one could be a radical environmentalist and an advocate for class struggle at the same time. Plus, she kept mentioning this group called, "the IWW."

I had no idea who the IWW was or what it stood for. For all I knew they were the International Socialist Organization (whom I was well acquainted with, but not at all interested in joining). Then, one day when seeking out a workers' collective to try and join as an alternative to the horribly depressing and soul killing capitalist retail job I had managed to get after graduating from that fabled weapons laboratory we call a "public university", a spokesperson from a network of such shops clued me in to what the IWW was and is.

I had heard Noam Chomsky (who would later join the IWW himself) describe himself as an "anarcho syndicalist" and a "libertarian socialist", but never fully understood what those terms meant or what an economy and political system organized around those ideas would look like. The IWW revealed to me how that would work in practice.

And, thanks to the influence of Judi Bari and Earth First!, the IWW was (and is) in many ways the first organization to promote green syndicalist ideas in practice (though the IWW is not limited to those concepts).

Over the following years, I came to realize how easy it was to prove just how flawed the thinking of so-called "libertarian" capitalists actually are, and really all I need to have done was read the following passage from the Preamble to the IWW Constitution:

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

As time passed and I gained life-experience I saw that capitalism and freedom are actually incompatible. Just to be sure, I read anarchist and socialist literature voraciously and the knowledge that I gained from doing so validated my experiences. My deepening understanding of the interconnectedness of the environment further showed me the flawed pseudoscience that the Ludwig Von Mises "Austrian" school of economics actually is, and I came to realize that ever more fully as I wrote my own book about the green syndicalist organizing efforts of Judi Bari.

As for Caplan, I assumed he'd passed into obscurity (after all, disciples of Ayn Rand are a dime a dozen. The capitalist class spares few expenses in funding ministries of propaganda to promote itself, and said ideologues serve that function all too effectively, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy about most of them). In this particular case, I was mistaken.

Chapter 15 : Hang Down Your Head John Campbell

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

You came from Australia, You married one of the Murphys,
They owned Pacific Lumber, And all of the redwood trees…
As soon as you hit the big time, You made good your life,
You didn’t need the Murphys, So you divorced your wife.

—lyrics excerpted from Hang Down Your Head John Campbell, by Darryl Cherney, 1990. [1]

While the G-P and L-P mill workers faced uncertain futures in Mendocino County, Charles Hurwitz was having his way in Humboldt County. Indeed, the first third of 1989 did not go well for the adversaries of Maxxam. For his services in helping facilitate the takeover and convincing the Texas raider to boost lumber production to help service the takeover debt, Hurwitz promoted John Campbell to the role of Pacific Lumber president, effective January 1, 1989, replacing the retiring William Leone. Campbell would remain in Scotia, thus making it the first time in almost 15 years that the P-L president would have his office in the capitol of its lumber operations. Executive vice president for sales and marketing at the company’s Mill Valley site and Hurwitz supporter Thomas B Malarkey was promoted to company vice chairman. Both Campbell and Malarkey were elected to the board of directors. The moves signified Hurwitz’s determination to retain his hold over Humboldt County. [2] It no doubt appealed to Hurwitz that under Campbell’s watch, P-L’s operating income had increased to approximately $54 million in 1988. [3] Hurwitz himself had made a hefty sum that year, earning over $3.95 million—up from $723,150 the year before—and the total didn’t even include an additional $668,345 he received when he terminated P-L’s bonus plan or the $309,375 worth of stock he received on top of everything else. [4]

Judi Bari Day: May 24, 2014

By Karen Pickett - Indybay.org, May 20, 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.

Join us to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the bombing of Judi Bari & Darryl Cherney & attack on Earth First! - With a Speak-Out, Sing-Out, and show of solidarity

Sat., May 24 -- Gather @ 11:30 am at Park Blvd @ E.33rd, near MacArthur, Oakland, California
To mark the moment of the bombing: 12 noon

Bring musical instruments, poems & your voice.

A bit of history: Earth First! activists Judi Bari & Darryl Cherney were subjects of a bomb attack in Oakland on May 24, 1990 as they were organizing for Redwood Summer. They were charged with bombing themselves by the FBI & OPD; Earth First! was smeared, & a serious investigation was never done. Judi & Darryl sued the FBI & OPD for civil rights violations, winning the case in 2002. Judi Bari died in 1997. Activists continue to investigate the bombing.

Judi famously said [when asked by an FBI representative if there was anything the FBI could do to restore Bari's confidence in them as an investigative agency], “Find the bomber and fire him!”

We will never forget.

We will never give up.

"If Gezi never happened, the anger at mass murder at Soma could not have burst forth from the people"

An Interview with IWW member Yusuf Cemel - Libcom.Org, May 20, 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.

1) Can you describe the general atmosphere in Turkey at the moment? Where do you see the protests going from here? Any predictions for what the summer might hold?

The protests are going on. I just came from one of them. Remarkably the cops didn't attack us this time around.

But I’m sure the government is preparing a political attack on us, because Soma unveiled the AKP’s real face to people who are workers, people who voted for the AKP: the AKP is a rich people’s party. The AKP is collaborating with the bosses against workers. The AKP is covering and helping all bosses.

You can’t believe what they did. People in Soma people hissed and protested at Tayyip’s words. Because he said that the people who protest him are bad-mannered and presumptuous. Then a lot of the people of Soma started to protest him. Then the despot beat someone in a supermarket while saying “Why are you running away, İsraeli semen?” You can watch it here. The AKP’s spokesman denied these words. But we know what we heard. After that the bodyguards attacked this guy.

But now, the guy who was beaten by Tayyip has started to say “He was helping me”.* Can you understand the fear? Can you understand pressure on this guy? Maybe they offered to bribe him while they were threatening him? This is not a dictatorship. This is a regime becoming despotic. An under-secretary of the despot kicked a miner’s relative. I could tell you a lot more about the disgusting affairs during Soma.

The government dispatched some Islamic dervishes into Soma. They told people in Soma that they shouldn’t riot and they should obey the government. You know Marx said “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” This is exactly what’s happening here.

Now, we are trying to expose the AKP’s behaviour to the workers who voted for them. But the demonstrations are not useful for this purpose. We need different facilities. Such as mass strikes, such as a self-organized workers’ movement etc.

Coal's Death Tally Goes Far Beyond Turkish Mine

By Chris Williams - System Change not Climate Change and Socialist Worker, May 19, 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.

Think about the last time you got to the top of a mountain one mile high. Now think about descending that distance below the surface of the earth, foot by dark foot, far below all life, light or oxygen. You go down there to dig.

What you’re digging for, deep in the hot, fetid, bowels of the earth, is carbonized life forms, millions of years in the making, turned to a type of rock that ignites and burns; one that your prime minister and energy analysts tell you will help the economic future of your country.

But you don’t go there primarily to dig or because it’s going to expand the economy. It’s much more personal than that—and much less voluntary. You go there because you have to; because it’s how you survive. Or, in the twisted parlance of the day, in a country where mining deaths are a regular occurrence, it’s how you “make a living.” Digging is just something you do as a means to another end.

How else would there be over 92,000 people from your country, ready to make that descent every day? Knowingly entering such an alien, inherently dangerous environment, where invisible, odorless, colorless, poisonous and explosive gases lurk? Where death and injury are a constant risk, in a country where the death rate among miners is higher than in China; a country where, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute, miners suffered over 13,000 injuries in 2013 alone.

The death toll from Turkey’s latest horrifying mining catastrophe, one of the worst industrial tragedies in recent world history, has risen above 300—all human beings who were there to “make a living.” The disaster affects every single one of the 100,000 residents of the nearby town of Soma—from which many of the miners hail and where coal mining is all there is left after neoliberal policies devastated agriculture and other aspects of the local economy.

In the face of such all-encompassing and sudden calamity befalling a community, there are certain responses one could expect from any member of the human species.

The first is to express the most basic of human emotions: sympathy, empathy and deep sadness for the tragic loss of life. To his eternal shame, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP, by its initials in Turkish), which is heavily connected to private mining interests, couldn’t even manage that.

Rather than offering his heartfelt condolences to the injured and their relatives, friends and comrades, desperately searching for glimmers of hope in the darkness, and news of their loved ones, he despicably minimized the horrifying loss of life by comparison to century and a half-old mining disasters in Britain and claimed “these accidents are usual.” There’s simply no excuse one can conjure for such cold-hearted contempt for the working people of Turkey. Particularly as Erdoğan was reiterating a similarly callous sentiment from 2010, after 30 miners lost their lives in an explosion in a mine near Zonguldak city: “Death is the destiny of the miners”.

Turkish mine disaster: Unions Take Strike Action, Blaming ‘Murderous’ Lack of Safety and Privatisation

By John Millington - Red Pepper, May 15, 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.

Turkish trade unions staged a one day strike on Thursday (May 15) in protest at the Soma mine disaster which has left over 200 dead. An as yet unexplained explosion took the lives of 246 miners and around 700 may still be trapped underground.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the area but had his car attacked as hundreds of protesters and angry relatives besieged his car. Unions in Turkey have put the blame for the disaster at the feet of the mine owners and the government for privatising the industry, labelling them “murderers.”

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions in Turkey who took part in the one day stoppage called on people to wear black and demand answers. “It is a workplace murder, not an industrial accident,” a statement read. “Hundreds of our brothers working in Soma mines have been forced to work in inhuman production process in order to make maximum profit since the matter of promoting workers’ health and security measures are considered in accordance with the pros and cons of expenditures. It means they have been left for dead since the beginning.”

The Public Workers Confederation told the BBC: “Those who pursue privatisation… policies, who threaten workers’ lives to reduce cost… are the culprits of the Soma massacre and they must be held accountable.” Global union INDUSTRIALL demanded the government comply with basic International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards on health and safety to prevent further deaths in the future. “We once again call upon the political authorities to take the lives of mineworkers seriously and to place it above profit,” a statement read.

And the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing 90 million workers across the world, denounced the Turkish government and a “murderous lack of safety measures” leading to the deaths. They said: “The WFTU denounces the Government of Turkey and the companies exploiting the mines for their murderous lack of safety measures and demands the end of privatization of the people’s wealth, the natural resources, the modernization of the technology used in the mines, the immediate implementation of safety controls and the application of all necessary measures in all mines to protect the lives of the working people.

“The World Federation of Trade Unions expresses its condolences to the families and the loved ones of the victims and demands the immediate full compensation of the victims’ families and the injured workers.”

Five Liberal Tendencies That Plagued Occupy

By Mark Bray - Roar Magazine, May 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. 

In a country so devoid of genuinely left politics as the United States, it was little surprise that Occupy Wall Street (OWS), the most dynamic American social movement in decades, surged to the fore of national politics riding a robust wave of liberal euphoria. As I argue in Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street, OWS never would have attained historic proportions without tapping into the pervasive despair that plagued left-liberal and progressive circles after Obama’s failure to live up to the “savior of the left” hype that was so recklessly bestowed upon him in 2008.

But it was liberal support for a movement that a core organizing group of anarchists and anti-capitalist anti-authoritarians shifted in an autonomous, directly democratic, non-electoral, class struggle, direct-action-oriented direction that made OWS popular, radical, and radicalizing. Without the anarchists it would have been ineffectual; without the liberals it would have been irrelevant. By carving out space for liberals and progressives to engage with anarchist praxis, OWS made a profound contribution to the development of anti-authoritarianism in the USA and beyond.

However, some of the most debilitating obstacles that we encountered stemmed from a number of liberal tendencies infecting a predominantly radical anti-capitalist organizing network. No, I’m not talking about attempts to turn Occupy into a voter-registration drive for the Democratic Party, or run “Occupy candidates” in local elections, or morph the movement into a new, hip political party that “breaks all the rules.” No, those tendencies were always peripheral and idiosyncratic within OWS, and they were cloaked in the stench of putrefying electoralism.

Instead, I’m referring to unacknowledged, internalized perspectives and orientations infected with liberalism through their constant exposure to the individualistic, capitalist climate we endure in this country. I hope that by examining a handful of them (space and time do not permit a complete list), we can better resist them next time.

Cascadia Forest Defenders Take Over Billboard On I-5

Press Release – Cascadia Forest Defenders, May 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. 

In the early hours of the morning on May 14, 2014, members of Cascadia Forest Defenders climbed a billboard on I5, to drop a banner protesting raw log export in Oregon. The billboard, formerly carrying a message promoting the Best Western hotel chain, now reads: “Big Timber Sends Jobs Overseas. Stop Raw Log Export.”

Due to the economic recession in 2008 and the subsequent crash of the housing market, the demand for lumber in the US plummeted. Timber companies saw a rising demand for logs coming from China and started increasing the amount of raw log exports dramatically. From 2009 to 2013, raw log export from Oregon and Washington more than quadrupled, going from 1,000,000 cubic meters in 2009 to 6,000,000 cubic meters in 2013. Exporting raw logs instead of lumber means that those logs never pass through US sawmills. Instead they are sent to China to be milled there.

Log and chip exports, which make up a third of Oregon’s annual timber harvest, are responsible for the loss of thousands of domestic manufacturing jobs each year. Lane County, for example, where Weyerhaeuser is the largest private landowner and the region’s main log exporter, saw a 75 percent increase in the timber harvest from 2009 to 2012 and a concurrent 14 percent decrease in wood products manufacturing jobs. “We are constantly hearing the propaganda from the timber industry that environmentalists and the spotted owl are responsible for the loss of timber jobs in our state. But we want Oregonians to know that the timber industry is making decisions for corporate profit and against their own workers. These big companies are sabotaging their own mills to make a buck,” says Ben Jones.

Cascadia Forest Defenders also opposes Wyden’s current bill regarding the O&C lands, which would double the cut on Western Oregon BLM forests, eliminate the “survey and manage” safety net for threatened species, and eliminate public comment by getting rid of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA process). CFD realizes the issue of this bill is intertwined with the issue of log export. Because of an increase in raw log export from private forestland, counties are suffering economically, and the logging industry is responding by pressuring politicians to ramp up the cut on public land.

White Castle, a timber sale that Cascadia Forest Defenders occupied for 10 months before it went under litigation, is one of the Variable Retention Harvest clearcuts that Wyden advocates for in his O&C bill. “We don’t want to see our last 5% of never-before-logged forest clearcut. And we don’t want to hear the excuse that we need more old growth clearcuts on public land because the mills don’t have enough timber. Look at the facts. The mills don’t have enough timber because it’s all on a boat to China,” says Maria Farinacci of CFD.

This action is in solidarity with the Friends of Newport, who are currently fighting to stop a new log export terminal from being built on their shores. Erin Grady of CFD says, “Log export is bad for environmentalists, it’s bad for workers, it’s bad for logging towns and it’s bad for coastal communities. It’s bad for everyone but the landowners and the CEOs of big timber, and that is something we all need to call into question.” The billboard can be seen driving North on I-5 between the 30th St. and Glenwood Blvd exits.

Well Worker Safety and Statistics

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH – Manager of Science and Communications, FracTracker Alliance, May 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. 

The population most at risk from accidents and incidents near unconventional drilling operations are the drillers and contractors within the industry. While that statement may seem quite obvious, let’s explore some of the numbers behind how often these workers are in harm’s way and why.

O&G Risks

Oil and Gas Worker Fatalities over Time

Fig. 1. Number of oil and gas worker fatalities over time
Data Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014

Drilling operations, whether conventional or unconventional (aka fracking), run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Workers may be on site for several hours or even days at a time. Simply the amount of time spent on the job inherently increases one’s chances of health and safety concerns. Working in the extraction field is traditionally risky business. In 2012, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction jobs experienced an overall 15.9 deaths for every 100,000 workers, the second highest rate among American businesses. (Only Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting jobs had a higher rate.)

According to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the oil and gas industry employed 188,003 workers in 2012 in the U.S., a jump from 120,328 in 2003. Preliminary data indicate that the upward employment trend continued in 2013. However, between 2003 and 2012, a total of 1,077 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job (Fig. 1).

Causes of Injuries and Fatalities in Oil and Gas Field

Reasons for O&G Fatalities 2003-12. Aggregated from Table 1.

Fig. 2. Reasons for O&G Fatalities 2003-12. Aggregated from Table 1.

Like many industrial operations, here are some of the reasons why oil and gas workers may be hurt or killed according to OSHA:

  • Vehicle Accidents
  • Struck-By/ Caught-In/ Caught-Between Equipment
  • Explosions and Fires
  • Falls
  • Confined Spaces
  • Chemical Exposures

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