The Anti-Democratic Nature Of Big Unions

By Burkely Herrman - Industrial Worker, November 2013

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.

Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and fallen and bruised itself, and risen again; been seized by the throat and choked and clubbed into insensibility; enjoined by courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, shot down by regulars, traduced by the press,  frowned upon by public opinion, deceived by politicians, threatened by priests, repudiated by renegades, preyed upon by grafters, infested by spies, deserted by cowards, betrayed by traitors, bled by leeches, and sold out by leaders, but notwithstanding all this, and all these, it is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known.”  – American union leader and socialist Eugene Debs, 1904

In the age of Obama, unions have had an even more diminished role than before. Despite this, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has shown that a slim majority, or 51 percent, approves of “organized labor…up a full 10 percentage points from two  years ago” and also “labor unions had the highest approval ratings among women, people of color, and young people between the ages of 18 and 29 [but not] whites and retirees.” The right-wing has launched a massive attack on unions as can be seen in the “right-to-work” bills in recent  years and other measures. As a result, the  big unions, part of the labor aristocracy, like the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation have backed the Democratic Party, the second-most capitalistic party in American politics. In electoral battles  with the Republicans, the unions fund ads to help out their favored candidates: big business Democrats. Along with the agents of oligarchy, these unions applauded when the Wall Street marketing creation named Barack Obama was elected as U.S. President in 2008, and continued to support him throughout his presidency. Some of the only sticking points have been the protectionist multinational-empowering investor-rights agreements that promote “trade” like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States-Dominican Republic-Central  America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the United States–Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), the Panama–United States Trade Promotion Agreement (TLC), the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), among many others. At the same time, these unions have not tried very hard to reverse trends that have caused unionization in the American economy to be on the decline. From here, it is important to discuss what the subservience of the labor aristocracy means to working-class and middle-class Americans.

Recall the Wisconsin uprising of 2011.  According to his website, Governor Scott  Walker wanted to “create an atmosphere  where business can thrive and success  will follow” and the unions were in his  way. One of the state’s biggest unions decided to back some of the cuts sought  by anti-union stalwart Governor Walker, in the infamous 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, at first, only opposing a provision limiting collective bargaining of public employees. Later, they changed their position after Walker rejected their compromise, as reported in the Milwalkee Journal Sentinel. Numerous protesters demonstrated a different view by calling for the defeat of the whole bill, not just one provision. Once Act 10 had passed, the unions pushed the next step: recalling Governor Walker. Almost a million signed a petition to recall him. However in the primaries, big labor’s favorite candidate Kathleen Falk was defeated by Tom Barrett. Barrett was a Democratic machine politician who Walker had defeated in 2010, but the unions backed him anyway along with corporatists like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The website watchdog.org reported that Barrett was “sticking  by a plan that could mean up to $14,000 in compensation cuts for state workers…[and] ‘rightsize’…state government and put public-worker pay and benefits more in line with private-sector compensation.” This follows what Barrett planned to do in 2010, as outlined in his report, “Tom Barrett’s Plan to Create Wisconsin Jobs”: “simplify[ing] regulations and streamline the regulatory process to lighten the burden on business.” Additionally, the report “Tom Barrett’s Plan to Put Madison on a Diet” was slated to “introduc[e]…technologies and revising processes to lessen the need for replacement employees…[and] keep…compensation and sick/leave accrual for state employees in line  with the private sector, including wages, health care, pension, retirement age, job security, and overtime pay.” Due to this, he only gave lip service to the unions, making protesters disenchanted along  with conducting a horrible campaign that didn’t mention Act 10. As a result, the propaganda machine, in part funded by the Koch Brothers, propelled Scott Walker to victory. The concentration of capital had sadly won against people power.

The Obama Dirty Energy Doctrine - Part 1: A Petroleum-Based National Security Policy

By Burkely Herrman - Interesting Blogger, November 3, 2013

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.

Already, I am mad as hell, and can’t take it anymore. Then, the President of my home country goes before the UN, and tells them that we are an imperialist country. In this speech, part of what outlined the new Obama Doctrine, noted the following American policy for the rest of his 3 years in office:

“…let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presiden[cy]…The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region…We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy. We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people….when it’s necessary, defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action. And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction…we’ll continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity…these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the region…Now, the notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.”(1)

Is Professional Activism Getting in the Way of Real Change?

By Henia Belalia - www.alternet.org, November 1st, 2013

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.

With budgets and voices so loud, professionals’ messages overshadow the call for uprisings coming from the trenches.

It’s disconcerting to find so few faces in the prominent ranks of the environmental movement that reflect the realities and experiences of those bearing the brunt of climate collapse. Estimates show that since 1990 more than 90% of natural disasters have occurred in poor countries and that, globally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by air, soil and water pollution. Numbers also demonstrate that low-income households are hit the hardest by disasters, due to factors such as  poor infrastructure and economic instability.

Yet those making strategic decisions are sitting in air-conditioned board rooms, hoping their conversations will pave the way for profound systemic change. Those most impacted by socioeconomic ills and environmental degradation are rarely present at those tables. This disconnect is quite alarming. Those of us frustrated with this scenario have turned to a deeper analysis and framework over the last decade— that of climate justice. Defining climage justice is a work in progress; honoring and integrating it are  lifelong struggles.

To tackle the root (read: radical) causes of the climate crisis, we must first acknowledge that environmental degradation exacerbates existing economic, racial and social injustices—an  interconnectedness that should define our analysis and actions. To truly win, land and justice defenders must recognize overlapping systems of oppression within this capitalist structure, and take strategic cues from the communities most impacted by colonization, militarism and poverty. That means building movements across issues and beyond divides based on race, class and gender, while elevating the voices that have been historically marginalized: indigenous peoples, communities of color, women, LGBTQ people, and the low-income population. To do so will take a profound decolonization of minds and professional institutions.

Rising Tide and Allies Shut Down Port of Vancouver

Portland Rising Tide North American - Monday, November 4th, 2013

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.

Vancouver and Portland Rising Tide are joining with other friends, allies, and activists in the Pacific Northwest to shut down the Port of Vancouver, Washington, right now in solidarity with the ILWU.

This from Portland Rising Tide’s Facebook page: “Good morning Port of Vancouver, if you can’t keep your grain terminal safe for workers, how can you make an oil terminal safe? You can’t so this morning Rising Tide is shutting you down!”

The ILWU has been locked out of a grain shipment terminal by United Grain. “United Grain and its Japanese owners at Mitsui have failed to negotiate in good faith with the men and women of the ILWU for months and instead chose to aggressively prepare for a lockout, spending enormous resources on an out-of-state security firm,” according to a statement made by ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent earlier this year.

On July 15, 2011, hundreds of ILWU protestors blockaded a mile-long train coming into the terminal in protest. The struggle has continued through numerous actions of resistance, including this June, when ILWU members blocked a transport van from leaving the port.

Today, the ILWU’s struggle in the area is spilling over into a new terminal as Rising Tide activists are calling out the unaccountable and irresponsible behavior of the Port of Vancouver in both the ILWU lockout and the approval of a new oil terminal. The terminal would process 380,000 barrels of oil coming in by rail from the Bakken shale and probably the tar sands.

Many activists have pointed to recent oil disasters, such as the explosion of an oil train in Lac-Megantic, Canada, that incinerated the entire town square.

Emergency Mobilization Against Gentrification in Oakland!

By x363464 - November 6, 2013

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.

EMERGENCY ENVIRONMENTAL/ANTI-GENTRIFICATION MOBILIZATION TOMORROW NOVEMBER 7TH AT 3PM! JACK LONDON AQUATIC CENTER!

PLEASE COPY, PASTE, AND SHARE!

3100 NEW "ECO" CONDOS TO GENTRIFY THE 5TH AVE MARINA / CHINATOWN AND DESTROY THE OAKLAND ESTUARY UNLESS THEY ARE STOPPED!

Emergency Mobilization to resist the Oak to Ninth project this Thursday November 7, 2013 3PM, Jack London Aquatic Center, 115 Embarcadero Oakland: public "outreach" meeting to introduce Phase 1 design & schedule.

Governor Jerry Brown is waging a war on on the environment and the working class! We must draw the line in Oakland!

http://oaklandchamber.blogspot.com/2013/10/brooklyn-basin-outreach-and-information.html

The Oak to Ninth Project is the definition of gentrification. "The Oak to Ninth Project would wall off the waterfront, demolish the historic Ninth Avenue Terminal, build housing next to I-880, and create yet more traffic congestion. This deal, which its opponents point out received virtually no coverage in the corporate media, has been called 'shady.' "[1] To add insult to injury they are calling it the "Brooklyn Basin" [2]

The project would build into the estuary which the Sierra Club once again uses their privilege to compromise the environment and state "Rather than approving the developer's request for 3,100 units, the Council should insist on the environmentally superior project of just 540 units."

In 2006 opposition was raised The League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, the Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt (CALM), and the Green Party. They were met with a demand to collect 18,700 signatures in 30 days for the plan for the a referendum [5] They ended up collecting 25,000 but were shut down and in response filed a lawsuit in Superior Court.

“After mounting an enormous and successful effort to alert the public and collect signatures, the Referendum Committee faces an impossible situation,” president of the League of Women Voters of Oakland Helen Hutchison said in a prepared statement announcing the lawsuit. “The city gave us the authorized documents several days into the brief 30-day signature gathering period. Then when we turned in the signatures, they said, ‘we supplied the wrong documents so the referendum petition is invalid.’ Invalidating our petition for this reason completely undermines the right to petition for referendum on a city action"

This project is being pushed forward by Gov. Jerry Brown who recently received an award from the Blue Green Alliance and the Sierra Club for "catalyzing the clean energy economy" This was a complete farce considering Jerry Brown has been attacking unions and the environment for some time now [3] This project may be exactly why he is working to dismantle the California Environmental Quality Act for infill housing development! [4] In the Environmental Impact Report it states:

"The Court Order found that the EIR failed to comply with CEQA by not including a sufficient analysis of the cumulative land use/plans and policies impacts of the proposed project."

Earth First! and the IWW, Part 4 - I Knew Nothin' Till I Met Judi

By x344543 - Industrial Worker, November 2013

"Every once in a while a new radical movement arises and illustrates the social firmament so suddenly and so dazzlingly that many people are caught off guard and wonder: “What’s going on here? Who are these new radicals, and what do they want?...

"This new movement...starts delivering real blows to the power and prestige of the ruling exploiters and their governmental stooges. This in turn inevitably arouses the hostility of the guardians of the status quo...who raise a hue and cry for the punishment and suppression of the trouble making upstarts...

"The new movement, with wild songs and high humor, captures the imagination of masses of young rebels, spreads like wildfire, turns up everywhere, gets blamed for everything interesting that happens, and all the while writes page after page in the annals of freedom and justice for all..."

These words were written by IWW member Franklin Rosemont in one of his four articles about Earth First! In the May 1988 edition of the Industrial Worker. In doing so, he brought the IWW squarely into the middle of a firestorm of controversy, and not just on the left, but in timber dependent rural communities as well.

On the left, Earth First! had been (with some justification) excoriated for the reactionary sounding positions taken by Dave Foreman, Ed Abbey, and Chris Manes on starvation among Africans, limiting immigration, and AIDS being "nature's" remedy for excess population, all of which were based on the wrongheaded notion that Thomas Malthus's views on population and starvation had any merit or any relevance to the environment (they don't).

Timber dependent communities lambasted Earth First! for entirely different reasons. Obviously, the bosses hated Earth First! because the latter threatened their profits. Timber workers--many of whom suffered from a sort of capitalist induced "Stockholm Syndrome", not the least of which was made worse by collaborationist business unions (where they existed at all)--echoed the bosses rhetoric, particularly when the capitalists used the word "jobs" when they actually meant profits. Earth First!'s association with tree spiking, and their stubborn refusal to jettison the tactic didn't help matters much.

Ironically, few on the left, and practically nobody in the corporate media paid any attention to what was going on in "ground zero" for the timber wars, California's northwestern redwood coast. Earth First! there had never used tree spiking, and they had gone to great lengths to express their sympathy for the timber workers' plight-identifying capitalist timber harvesting practices as the actual threat to the workers' livelihoods.

Capital Blight: To Wrench or Not to Wrench, a Response

By x344543 - October 29, 2013

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.

A few days ago, I read To Wrench or Not to Wrench: A Brief History of Direct Action in the Environmental Movement and its Potential Consequences, Ethical Implications, and Effectiveness, by By Jeriah Bowser, of the Hampton Institute with particular interest, because it deals with a subject with which I have a good deal of familiarity. Having worked alongside Judi Bari and her fellow Earth First! - IWW Local #1 organizers, I learned a good deal from listening to the ongoing and evolving discussions and debates over strategy and tactics within both Earth First! and the IWW, and so Bowser's article immediately caught my attention.

To be certain, I wanted to make sure I read his piece very carefully, because the subject he covers is particularly contentious and--in my humble opinion--often misconstrued in any number of frustrating ways. I found some things to agree with in Hampton's piece, but there are some glaring errors and oversights in his argument, not to mention some very dangerous and damaging mistakes as well.

For starters, Bowser establishes a false dichotomy between environmental (or other) groups which "engage in direct action" and those that "stick to the democratic process". There are many that do both and see no contradiction in doing so. There is an old debate about "working within the system" versus "tearing the (rotten) system down". Certainly the IWW advocates the later in regards to capitalism ("capitalism cannot be reformed") philosophically, but as a matter of day-to-day survival the IWW is not adverse to working within established systems to make small gains, knowing full well that ultimately the IWW's intended end, the abolition of wage slavery and the establishment of a cooperative commonwealth (that lives in harmony with the Earth) cannot be achieved within the context of capitalism, no matter how much one tries to reform it. Often times, the IWW alsoadvocates working outside the system through direct action, specifically at the point of production. Most times, the IWW favors the latter, but sometimes the boundaries aren't entirely clear. The same holds true with radical environmentalists.

On the flip side, Bowser either naively or even dangerously lumps all forms of "direct acton" together and all groups that engage in a whole range of direct action tactics into a single grouping. Specifically he conflates Earth First!, Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) into one category. I suppose that's essentially accurate on a certain level, and it's been a good long time since I have been an "active" Earth First!er (however that is defined), but when I was active in Earth First! (1995-98), we never engaged in or advocated some of the tactics commonly associated with either ALF or ELF, including, especially arson. Arson was not only not condoned, the Earth First! groups I worked with specifically eschewed such tactics as counterproductive and self destructive. To my knowledge, that is still the case, even if Earth First! favorably reports on the activities of ELF and ALF.

Bowser also makes few distinctions between the veritable aresnal of direct action tactics that exist, simply labeling "tree sitting, blocking logging roads, and street protests" as "passive, non-violent" civil disobedience, then mentioning "tree spiking, or driving huge nails into trees" as an escalation of Earth First!'s militancy. He then goes on to declare that the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) escalated those tactics by "defacing" billboards (although, perhaps "culture jamming" would be a more accurate term, because simple defacement and repurposing the message into an anti-capitalist or ironic satire is substantially more meaningful) followed by "burning" (or) "cutting them down". I know of no proven examples of the latter, but I'll accept that I don't know everything and take the author at their word. However, the author then goes on to state that "arson slowly emerged as the preferred method of resistance, however, and was co-opted by other emerging environmental and animal rights groups- most notably the ELF and ALF," as if there were a logical and linear progression from one to the other, which is a dubious argument.

How Science is Telling us All to Revolt: Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data; and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

By Naomi Klein - New Statesman, October 29, 2013

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 December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Land of the fearful, Home of the Banksters

By Burkley Herrmann - Interesting Blogger, October 18, 2013

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.

That good ‘ole Star-Spangled Banner, part of the American myth, is incorporated into what is taught in elementary and middle schools. Slave-owner and lawyer Francis Scott Key wrote what would become the Star-Spangled Banner in 1814 as he watched the British ships bomb Fort McHenry in Baltimore: “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?…That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion/A home and a country, should leave us no more?…Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just/And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”" While this includes passages from verses past the first, these views have been imbued into the American tradition in the imperialistic policies of the US government and much more. From this is it important to ask a question: is the United States really a home of the free?

In the well-known book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, William Blum already wrote about this in a chapter titled ‘A Day in the Life of a Free Country.’ I wanted to give an update to this, and put in a modern update, and answer the question I asked at the end of the first paragraph. This goes beyond laws that have been proposed but rather looks at actions that have been taken by the authorities which include laws at certain points. Here’s some news that will make one question if the US is really the land of the free:

A Workers’ ‘Green Ban’ on Fracking?

Ira Berkovic of Workers' Climate Action reports from a workshop at this summer's anti-fracking protest camp - Originally Published at Red Pepper Blog, 9 September 2013

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.

A workshop on 'work and transition' at the Reclaim The Power protest camp in Balcombe, Sussex, was part of an ongoing conversation between the labour and climate movements. It is a conversation which, in Britain, has involved the historic links between the Reclaim the Streets movement and striking dock workers in the 1990s.  Lucas Aerospace workers’ transition plan in the 1970s, which proposed to repurpose their socially and ecologically unsustainable factories to produce socially necessary goods.

With the climate movement reviving in the context of the government’s newfound mania for expanding fossil fuel energy generation and 'extreme energy' solutions like fracking, it is a conversation which must be had again with a new generation of activists.

The workshop aimed to give activists who might not have engaged with the labour movement before to learn about trade unions and workers’ organisations, and to discuss questions around workers’ agency in fighting climate change and the potential for worker-led models of transition.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of transport union TSSA, spoke about the links between the fight for a top-quality, publicly-owned transport system and the fight against climate change. Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) assistant general secretary Chris Baugh introduced the Campaign Against Climate Change’s 'One Million Climate Jobs' pamphlet, a campaigning publication which argues for investment in and expansion of 'green collar' jobs in sustainable, socially-necessary industries like transport, social housing construction, and renewable energy.

PCS officer Clara Paillard recounted her experiences as a workplace environmental rep fighting for sustainability in the workplace, making links with local environmental campaigners to fight the construction of a privately-operated, for-profit waste incinerator in their local area. Green Party activist Derek Wall discussed models from economic theory, including Karl Marx and Elinor Ostrom, which could help develop a vision for democratic collectivism and a sustainable future.

I spoke to tell the story of Workers’ Climate Action (WCA), a direct-action solidarity network active between 2006 and 2010 which aimed to bring a working-class political approach to the climate movement and radical ecological politics to the labour movement. WCA sought to make links with workers in high-emissions industries like energy and aviation, because we knew that a conversation about transition was only possible from within a framework of basic solidarity with workers’ day-to-day struggles.

Small-group discussion in the workshop covered a range of topics. It would be disingenuous to deny the difficulty of discussing the potential power of aviation, construction, and energy workers in a workshop made up of participants who had little or no experience of working in such industries. However, with participants working as teachers, journalists, and in local government – all sectors and industries with high levels of trade union organisation – there was plenty of opportunity to discuss applying workplace and union-focused models of environmental activism to participants’ own workplaces and experiences, rather than seeing them solely as something we can engage some alien worker 'other' with.

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