Bakken Bomb Trains: Hell on Rails

By x356039 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 1, 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.

Over the past two years the volume of bakken crude oil, extracted from the tar sand fields of Alberta, Wyoming, Utah, North and South Dakota, has skyrocketed by an astonishing 900%. Thanks in part to the work of many brave communities in the line of fire and the logistical difficulties of building a continent-spanning pipeline the companies extracting this toxic material have sought out other methods for moving the volume of material they desire for export overseas to China and points beyond. The solution they have settled on is to move the bakken crude by oil trains, some stretching over a mile, owned by high-powered corporate captains of industry like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates from the point of extraction to the points of refinement and distribution.

They argue the materials being ripped from the Earth's crust are vitally necessary for energy independence and economic growth. What these self-interested short-sighted tycoons overlook is the truly massive cost in far more real terms than a mere bottom line such decisions are inflicting on people, communities, and the biosphere. In spite of the measured, massaged tones they use to assuage the fully-justified fears of the public there is little doubt the extraction, refinement, and movement of bakken crude by rail is a clear and present danger to all life in the path of these deadly horsemen.

The first and surest sign of the threat these bomb trains pose is the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. A small community located on Lake Megantic it is the sort of place, prior to the summer of 2013, one would never have expected to become associated with the worst rail disaster in Canadian history and one of the worst ever in North America. One fateful evening a bakken crude train was pulled off to a siding by its lone crew member so they could take a break from an extremely long shift and catch up on much needed sleep. During the night the brakes securing the train came loose and the train rolled off the track, tipping over and rupturing the tanks containing the highly volatile bakken crude. Thanks to the incredibly low flash point of bakken crude, due to the nature of the refining process, the entire train load went up in a flash obliterating a huge swath of Lac-Megantic. In the rushing inferno that followed 47 people's lives were mercilessly snuffed out, from young children to the elderly, without warning or any possibility of escape.

In the immediate wake firefighters from across Quebec and neighboring Maine were called in to bring the fires under control, do whatever they could for the survivors, and bury the dead. So great was the ferocity of the blaze following the disaster that nothing less than such a massive mobilization of emergency personnel would stand a chance. All were left stunned, shocked, and wondering how such a catastrophe could be visited on their homes with no warning of any kind. In the words of Tim Pellerin, fire chief for Rangeley, Maine, “It was like a World War II bombing zone. There was just block after block of everything incinerated. All that was left were foundations and chimneys. Everything burned. The buildings, the asphalt, the grass, the trees, the telephone poles. Just about everything was incinerated.” In the investigations following Lac-Megantic many facts came to light as to how so much harm could be caused, proving without question the devastation was no fluke but a very real, predictable possibility.

Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

By Indigenous Action - May 4, 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 ally industrial complex has been established by activists whose careers depend on the “issues” they work to address. These nonprofit capitalists advance their careers off  the struggles they ostensibly support. They often work in the guise of “grassroots” or “community-based” and are not necessarily tied to any organization.

They build organizational or individual capacity and power, establishing themselves comfortably among the top ranks in their hierarchy of oppression as they strive to become the ally “champions” of the most oppressed. While the exploitation of solidarity and support is nothing new, the commodification and exploitation of allyship is a growing trend in the activism industry.

Anyone who concerns themselves with anti-oppression struggles and collective liberation has at some point either participated in workshops, read ‘zines, or been parts of deep discussions on how to be a “good” ally. You can now pay hundreds of dollars to go to esoteric institutes for an allyship certificate in anti-oppression. You can go through workshops and receive an allyship badge. In order to commodify struggle it must first be objectified. This is exhibited in how “issues” are “framed” & “branded.” Where struggle is commodity, allyship is currency.

Ally has also become an identity, disembodied from any real mutual understanding of support.

The term ally has been rendered ineffective and meaningless.

Accomplices not allies.

ac·com·plice
noun: accomplice; plural noun: accomplices
a person who helps another commit a crime.

There exists a fiercely unrelenting desire to achieve total liberation, with the land and, together.

At some point there is a “we”, and we most likely will have to work together. This means, at the least, formulating mutual understandings that are not entirely antagonistic, otherwise we may find ourselves, our desires, and our struggles, to be incompatible.

There are certain understandings that may not be negotiable. There are contradictions that we must come to terms with and certainly we will do this on our own terms.
But we need to know who has our backs, or more appropriately: who is with us, at our sides?

The risks of an ally who provides support or solidarity (usually on a temporary basis) in a fight are much different than that of an accomplice. When we fight back or forward, together, becoming complicit in a struggle towards liberation, we are accomplices. Abolishing allyship can occur through the criminalization of support and solidarity.

While the strategies and tactics of asserting (or abolishing depending on your view) social power and political power may be diverse, there are some hard lessons that could bear not replicating.

Climate Populism and the People’s Climate March

By Out of the Woods - libcom.org, September 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.

Large demonstrations are planned to push for action on climate change. Here we discuss the potentials and pitfalls of climate populism.

This month, the UN Climate Summit 2014 will begin in New York City. After yet another disappointing round of global talks on climate change failed to produce even the most flimsy of agreements among participating countries, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited world leaders of UN member states as well as individuals and groups from finance, business, and ‘civil society’ to “catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will” in a voluntary meeting external to the UNFCCC process.1

As if sprung from the process itself, a large mobilization (née protest) emerged external to this already-external meeting, dubbed the People’s Climate March. While the UN Climate Summit is being touted as critical to the attempt by political and technocratic elites to (re)affirm capitalist hegemony on our climate futures,2 the People’s Climate March, we argue, must take this critical opportunity to invent ‘the people’ already coming into being through today’s climate crisis.

Rising Tide North America Statement of Solidarity with Palestine

By Rising Tide North America - August 8, 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.

Rising Tide North America is part of the global movement against climate chaos and for social and environmental justice. We believe climate change can only be addressed by exposing the intersections between the oppressions of humans and the earth. No effort to create a livable future will succeed without the empowerment of marginalized communities and the dismantling of the systems of oppression that keep us divided.

As such, we condemn the Israeli military’s attacks on the Palestinian people in Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank. We reject any attempt to isolate the attacks on the Palestinian people and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza from the intersectional global fight for climate justice. As the broad-based climate movement prepares to march in New York City, we call upon other groups and organizations committed to fighting the climate crisis to condemn publicly the Israeli military’s assault on Palestine.

In New York City, we will march with communities and groups who are working daily for community resilience against climate events like Superstorm Sandy and for food and environmental justice. We believe that from Palestine to New York City and beyond, our struggles for climate and social justice are all related.

In the movement for environmental and climate justice, we stand with those around the globe fighting war and occupation. Rising Tide North America is committed to opposing land grabs and resource exploitation by industries and state-sanctioned institutions. One of those institutions has been, and continues to be, imperial militaries which destroy communities, the environment, and the climate.

Militaries exploit land and natural resources to fuel their violent control and power over others. The unfettered burning of fossil fuels by militaries to wage war and violence on communities is exacerbating climate change and the impacts of droughts, extreme weather events, flooding, and sea level rise. This will lead to an increase in forced displacement and the number of climate refugees hoping to seek access to food, water, and homes elsewhere.

We recognize and reject that the United States financially and materially supports the Israeli military and countless other land grabs. As North American-based activists fighting against climate change, it is necessary to connect the colonization, capitalism and imperialism of our state and others with our daily work. The Israeli military’s actions actively support the corporations whose profits depend on the control and exploitation of land. As many regions of the world have so called ‘valuable’ natural resources, including the occupied Palestinian territories, we extend our solidarity with all who are impacted by resource extraction processes, and encroachments on their sovereignty and self-determination.

We recognize that the struggle to protect the land, water, and air from colonization, capitalism, and imperialism is a struggle that the people of Palestine face everyday. We extend our voices of solidarity to the people of Palestine who are facing unacceptable escalation of violence as they struggle to end the illegal occupation of their land.

Class Struggles, Climate Change, and the Origins of Modern Agriculture

By Out of the Woods - libcom.org, August 18, 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.

Class conflicts and colonial expansion in the context of the Little Ice Age lead to the emergence of capitalist agriculture and the transformation of social relations on a world scale.

The last half-millennium of the Earth's natural history has been a time of dramatic and accelerating change. One has to look to the beginning of the Holocene, with the climatic amelioration after the last ice age and the Neolithic agricultural revolution, to find a period which produced changes of comparable significance for human-environmental relations.1

A diverse range of agricultural practices and social relations proliferated between the Neolithic origins of farming and the early modern period which began some 500 years ago. But in order to explore the future of food production under climate change, it is this transition to modern agriculture which is of most interest. This question is intimately bound up with the origins of capitalism. Here, climate change and class relations combined, and through a series of food crises led to the transformation of world agriculture through enclosures and colonialism.

Green Anarchism: Towards the Abolition of Hierarchy

By Corin Bruce - Anarchist News, August 30, 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 last few decades new forms of activism have begun to emerge that concerned not merely the fate of human society, but of the non-human world – including non-human animals and the environment – as well. In their most radical forms, these struggles culminated in what has been termed by some as ‘eco’ or ‘green’ anarchism. Green anarchism can be taken to consist in any political doctrine that takes some of the key components of anarchist thought – whatever these are deemed to be – and applies them towards critiquing the interaction of humans with the non-human world. This definition is a good start, but is perhaps like many definitions of anarchism unsatisfactorily vague. This essay will propose a more specific definition of green anarchism, which will later be explained as the political doctrine that strives for the abolition of hierarchy in general.

In order for this to make sense, it will first be necessary to say some important things about social anarchism, and in particular its emphasis upon opposing social hierarchy, and from here this perspective will be applied to explain what is meant by green anarchism. I will then tie in some of the most exciting topics of green anarchist thinking – namely animal rights and social ecology – and for this reason I hope that this essay will provide a solid introduction to those that are new to the topic. I will then conclude with an adventurous assertion: green anarchism, as it is here understood, represents the most developed and the most coherent expression of anarchist thinking. I hope that the reader will be enticed (or outraged) enough by this claim to accompany me on an understanding of why I think it is fair.

The green anarchist perspective can be described as emerging from a more general anarchist outlook, which will be described here as ‘social anarchism’. Social anarchism: the view that all social hierarchy should be abolished. What is meant by ‘society’ will be taken to refer quite simply to the human world, whilst what is meant by ‘hierarchy’ is a system of domination that involves the subordination of the interests of one individual or group of individuals by another. Accordingly, we can see that social anarchism strives to eliminate hierarchy from the human world entirely, or in other words that it desires for human relations to be ordered amongst genuine equals, meaning that no one human should have the right to treat another – formally or informally – as their property.

Social anarchism has much in common with more orthodox strains of radical thought, such as classical anarchism, which tends primarily towards opposing the State, as well as Marxism, which maintains instead an economic focus on class and capitalism. Whilst social anarchism shares these aims in common, where it diverges from these ideologies is in its refusal to recognise the State or capitalism as being at the foundation of all that is wrong with today’s world. Rather, as according to a perspective that is broader and more radical, it regards the State and capitalism as being at the surface of a complex structure of domination that casts its roots much deeper: hierarchy.

"Total Recall," Water and the Values of the Group Called Value of Water Coalition

By Ellen Dannin - Truthout, September 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.

The Value of Water Coalition was formed by large, well-resourced water and wastewater organizations to change the way we think about water. The rest of us need to know that we may not like the way they think of us and our rights to water.

Remember Total Recall? It's the film in which the powerful shut off oxygen to punish the powerless, all the while hiding the truth that still functional ancient Martian technology could produce oxygen for all - had the elite not hidden the oxygen and the truth.

In this country, we use water with little thought of its special value. But recall that we sent rovers to Mars to search for water, because, as far as we know, life everywhere depends on water. If Mars once had flowing water, then Mars may also have had - or even have - life.

The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), one of the members of the Value of Water Coalition (VoW), reminds us of the many ways that water is essential for us all:

Water. It's the invisible thread that weaves together our daily lives. We often take it for granted and we easily forget that there is simply no substitute for water. Although Americans consume a lot of water, few people realize what is required to treat and deliver water every day or how wastewater is cleaned so that it can be safely reused or returned to the environment.

The typical American household uses 260 gallons of water every day, making our nation's water footprint among the largest of any country in the world.

Should We Care What the Value of Water Coalition Members Say About Water?

NAWC tells us we use a lot of water and should celebrate water, but NAWC and other VoW members fail to make clear how regular people should treat water. Should we conserve water? Or pay more for water and wastewater also known as sewage? If so, why? Do they want to raise prices so private water companies make bigger profits, or do they want us to invest in high quality water and water services for the benefit of us all? The VoW Coalition does a poor job in explaining its goals.

Perhaps the VoW could do a better job explaining its views if its members were people. Instead, its members are large organizations with some connection with water.

SMART Railroad Workers Rejection of Single Employee Crews is a Victory for Workers AND the Environment

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 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.

On Tuesday, September 10, 2014, the rank and file union members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers (SMART) General Committee GO—001 overwhelmingly voted down a concessionary proposal to reduce train crew size from 2 to 1 by a margin of 2 to 1 against the proposal.

The proposed change would have resulted in conductorless train operations over more than half of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), the second largest rail carrier in the U.S. According to Railroad Workers United, a coalition of rank and file union members from various railroad workers' unions, this was part of a campaign by the major rail carriers to weaken the already weak and divided rail unions further. Over the past half-century, the railroad bosses have taken advantage of the craft divisions among their workers to reduce crew sizes from a standard of 5 to 2. Now they're pushing to reduce that number to 1. The fact that BNSF was able to convince the leadership of one local to go along shows just how beaten down these unions are.

Fortunately, rank and file militants--some of them dues paying members of the IWW--formed RWU to beat back just such an offensive by the bosses, and--perhaps--turn the tide in what has hitherto been a one-sided class war waged against the workers by the bosses.

The RWU strategy mixed a whole variety of tactics, both old (including "silent agitators" and graffiti) and new (social media), many of them pioneered by the IWW:

Upon learning of the BNSF TA, RWU convened an “emergency meeting” of the Steering Committee and instantly mobilized the network. Thousands of buttons and sticker, flyers and leaflets, “Talking Points” and more were disseminated to BNSF railroad workers in the following weeks. A press release was issued that was picked up by a number of newspapers. RWU members spoke out on radio and TV stations, and organized rallies, pickets and demonstrations at numerous terminals, from large cities like Chicago and Seattle to small towns like Creston, Iowa. RWU members intervened in the debate at the SMART Convention in August, and held a series of telephone conference calls open to all railroad workers to voice their concerns, ask questions, and devise strategies and tactics. A regular e-newsletter with the latest flyers, leaflets, stickers, articles, songs, graffiti and cartoons were issued weekly.

In the end, the workers beat back the bosses attack, and this campaign should provide (the beginnings, at least, of) a model for rank and file workers in business unions to overcome entrenched bureaucratic interests that serve the bosses and not the workers. It can also serve as a model for the IWW's "dual card" strategy.

The vote was also a small victory for the environment and efforts to build bridges between environmental activists and workers. As has been widely reported, the accident that blew up Lac Magentic was the result of a single employee train, and while derailments involving two employee crude-by-rail trains have occurred, the chances of them happening are substantially greater if the crew size were to be reduced to one. Further, the push to reduce crew sizes is part of the ongoing efforts by the rail carriers to maximize their profits by cutting corners on labor costs, safety procedures, and best practices. The workers' victory will likely embolden them to take stronger stands against other initiatives by the bosses that would increase the risk of accident or derailment, and should the workers gain sufficient momentum, they can actually go on the offensive and force the carriers to increase safety, which will reduce environmental impacts significantly.

The BNSF Single Crew Initiative Defeated!

By J.P. Wright - Railroad Workers United Blog, September 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.

The members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers (SMART) General Committee GO—001 have spoken. In a loud and clear mandate, they have told the BNSF railway, their union leaders, and the world, that they do not support single employee train crews. By 2-to-1, the rank and file voted down a tentative agreement, that – had it been ratified – would have resulted in conductorless train operations over more than half of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), the second largest rail carrier in the U.S.

The major rail carriers have been seeking to run trains with a single employee for nearly a decade now. This latest attempt was by far the most blatant and confrontational effort to date. Railroad workers know that there are grave dangers and inefficiencies should such practice be implemented. According to Railroad Workers United General Secretary Ron Kaminkow, “Single employee train operations – with or without Positive Train Control (PTC) – would compromise the safety and security of train crews, motorists, pedestrians, trackside communities, the environment and the general public. Railroad workers are ready, willing and able to fight this concept with everything we have.”

In voting down this contract, the SMART GO-001 rank and file have won a decisive victory, not just for the trainmen and engineers on the BNSF, but for every railroad worker in North America. While the victory belongs to them, it is of course shared by all those who assisted – engineers (both UTU and BLET); union brothers and sisters from other crafts and carriers who rose to the occasion and helped out; family members who took part in pickets, rallies and demonstrations; fellow unionists and citizens who grasped the importance of the struggle and pitched in to help.

NYPD Detains Activists for Anti-Koch Light Graffiti at the Met

By Ben Davis - ArtNet News, September 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.

On Tuesday, three activists were detained by NYPD officers outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art after disrupting a gala honoring David H. Koch. The controversial billionaire was being fêted for his $65 million contribution to the newly reopened museum plaza, which prominently bears his name (see “Protesters Crash Koch Plaza Opening at the Met“). The three activists, Kyle Depew, Grayson Earle, and Yates McKee, were caught projecting images from a customized art truck onto the museum’s façade that read “The Met: Brought to you by the Tea Party” and “Koch = Climate Chaos”—references to Koch’s well-known role in funding right-wing and climate change denying groups.

The incident followed a protest earlier in the day by the tenacious Occupy Wall Street spin-off Occupy Museums, which by all accounts brought a good-spirited group of art activists to the newly opened David H. Koch Plaza to stage anti-Koch performances. Early in the evening, the activists unexpectedly had a chance to confront Koch himself on the steps of the museum, chanting “Shame on climate change denier” as he passed by on the way to his car.

After darkness had fallen, the NYC Light Brigade, known for spelling out activist slogans in illuminated lettering, moved into formation with signs that spelled out the phrase “Koch = Climate Chaos.”

Pages