California Climate Jobs Plan Continues to Gain Union Endorsements

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus - March 11, 2022

The California Climate Jobs Plan, popularly known as "the Pollin Report"--which has been described as a "sholvel ready just transition/Green New Deal" plan--and was immediately endorsed by nineteen California based labor unions, including three United Staeelworkers Union locals which primarily represent refinery workers upon its unveiling has since gained the support of many additional unions. The following unions (so far) have since endorsed the plan (knowing that while the plan isn't perfect, it's at least a step in a positive direction):

November 2021:

  • Inland Boatmen's Union (IBU), SF Bay Region (an affiliate of the ILWU)
  • Railroad Workers United
  • IWW San Francisco Bay Area General Membership Branch

February 2022:

  • International Lonshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Northern California District Council (NCDC)

The council is composed of delegates from the following ILWU Locals:

  • ILWU Local 6 (Bay Area Warehouse)
  • ILWU Local 10 (Bay Area Longshore)
  • ILWU Local 34 (Bay Area Shipping Clerks)
  • ILWU Local 75 (Bay Area Dock Security Guards)
  • ILWU Local 91 (Bay Area “Walking Bosses”)
  • ILWU Local 14 (Eureka; combined)
  • ILWU Local 18 (Sacramento; ditto)
  • ILWU Local 54 (Stockton)
  • Bay Area IBU (already endorsed individually)
  • and the pensioners from all of the above.

However, the NCDC's endorsement does not automatically mean that each of its constituent locals have individually endorsed the plan.

The more unions that endorse and take an active role in motivating the proposal either by lobbying at the California state level, engaging in public actions to promote the goals of the plan, or even engaging in workplace actions (whereaver relevant and practiceble), the greater chances the plan has of being realized.

(That said, it should be noted that this is not an IWW organizing project, although IWW members have been active in securing additional union endorsements).

A sample resolution (a copy of the text adopted by the SF Bay Area IBU) is available here.

Download the plan - here.

Union Advocates for Socialist Rifle Association Workers, Volunteers and Members

By Meggie Kessler - Industrial Worker, March 4, 2022

Members of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Socialist Rifle Association Workers United are experiencing increased productivity and better working conditions less than a year after forming their union.

Since workers at the Socialist Rifle Association organized as the Socialist Rifle Association Workers United with the IWW, they are seeing positive results from a union contract — also known as a “Collective Bargaining Agreement” — that has provided them with more rights and better representation.

“We’re guaranteed a seat at the table within the assembly to give our side of the issue, and that’s definitely a win for us,” says Lucas Hubbard, the Socialist Rifle Association’s communications director. “Without a union, we don’t get that right.”

Before the union’s inception, workers did not have any representation at management’s meetings — even when it was concerning their own jobs, according to Hubbard. After forming the union, however, workers saw an increase in their rights, from having representation at meetings with management to improved job security. 

“More than anything, the SRAWU has provided a sense of stability in our work,” says Sybil S, executive deputy of the Socialist Rifle Association. “The political nature of the organization means things can be volatile, and it’s nice to know that even if tensions are running high, we won’t need to worry about covering our backs.” 

Since forming SRAWU in 2021, workers have been more able to focus on what needs to be done because of ensured employment stability, according to Sybil. And that is what inspired Socialist Rifle Association workers to organize their union in the first place.

“The primary thing I’ve noticed is we’ve been better about coordinating goals and strategies,” says Sybil.

Better protocol has also improved day-to-day working conditions, according to Hubbard.

The Socialist Rifle Association and SRAWU are now aligned in their goals, according to Sybil: welcoming new members, providing useful programs to the membership and aiding communities in need.

“All while taking care of both the paid and volunteer staff that make those things possible,” she adds.

“Now that we have union reps and the ability to self-advocate a lot better, it’s definitely a more secure feeling,” says Hubbard. “Our second CBA is on the horizon. It’s time for us to start thinking about that.”

Hoping to unionize your workplace? Contact the IWW!

Co-ops, Climate, and Capital

By RK Upadhya - Science for the People, March 2022

Cooperatives are generally seen as a radical and upstart form of organization, and a way for progressives and leftists to immediately implement democratic and egalitarian ideas on how the economy ought to be run. Thus, at first glance, rural electric cooperatives (RECs) seem to be one of the most promising institutions in the modern United States. Over 900 of these localized, nonprofit, democratically-governed, and consumer-owned utilities exist across virtually the entirety of the American countryside. These RECs control nearly half of the country’s power distribution system, which delivers electricity to their roughly 40 million members.1 Such a vast network should be well positioned to become the backbone of a society that has moved beyond capitalism and its compulsions for ever-greater profits, ever-increasing concentrations of wealth, and ever-deepening social and economic inequalities.

Furthermore, in contrast to most other types of co-ops, RECs are natural monopolies; due to the prohibitive costs of building independent power lines, as well as government regulations, the rights of power distribution in any given area are generally held by a single utility. In most cases, anybody who wants electricity in the service territory of a REC must become a member of the co-op. Insulated from capitalist competition, and with guaranteed yearly revenues in the millions, RECs are thus in a substantially more stable situation than the typical small metropolitan co-op.2 Indeed, with their stability and scope, RECs resemble local governments more than anything else, further underscoring their potential as a vehicle of radically democratic and collective practices around technology and local economic development—a potential that is ever more urgent today, given the role of electricity in the climate crisis.3

And yet, as thoroughly analyzed in Abby Spinak’s 2014 PhD dissertation, RECs have largely not lived up to this vast promise. Most RECs are indistinguishable in their day-to-day operations and guiding visions from their for-profit counterparts: they see themselves as single-issue businesses run by competent managers and specialized workers, whose sole purpose is to provide electricity.4 Democracy figures little in this vision, and broader socioeconomic and political ambitions even less so—a fact reflected in abysmally low voting rates, and in how RECs not only depend disproportionately on fossil fuels, but have actively lobbied against climate action and clean power regulations.5

Part of the reason for why RECs act as technocracies rather than as community institutions lies in their history, where they were developed and shaped by the US government more as forces of capitalist entrenchment, rather than as proper cooperatives built by and for local communities. Furthermore, as the dynamics of recent campaigns around RECs show, the forces of capitalism tend to exclude ordinary working-class people from social movements and democratic and cooperative institutions. For RECs and similar organizations to truly flourish and unlock their radical potential, it is necessary for them to actively push back against capital and its anti-democratic and anti-cooperative impulses.

Voodoo Doughnut Workers Still Seeking Safe Working Conditions

By Dylan Andersen - Industrial Worker, February 25, 2022

March of 2022 marks the two-year anniversary of workers at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland unionizing with the Industrial Workers of the World’s Doughnut Workers United. Looking back, Voodoo Doughnut worker and DWU organizer Samantha Bryce recognizes the union’s victories, but also its determination to further improve working conditions.

When DWU was founded, one of the union’s concerns was protecting workers from physical violence. 

“We were robbed by a man with a hatchet,” says Bryce. “We’ve had many individuals come in and smash things up, harass employees and threaten them physically.” 

DWU was able to pressure Voodoo Doughnut to hire security, but management yet refuses to adequately address workers’ safety concerns. 

“Unfortunately, the company has since cut back on the amount of time they employ safety crews,” explains Bryce. “That’s something that we definitely hope to encourage them to improve.”

Another working condition that DWU is preparing to push for improvements to is the temperature and air quality inside of the store during summer months. Last summer, a heat wave struck Portland and management did not meet the union’s demands for safety measures to protect workers from temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, as well as smoke exposure from nearby forest fires.

“We had a couple of people pass out on the shop floor while working at those temperatures,” says Bryce. “We had someone break out in hives across their whole body and people getting nosebleeds. So we did go on strike, and we brought those issues to the company and said, ‘You’re not providing anything.’ Their response was, ‘Well, we gave you wet rags!’ The company then proceeded to fire employees who refused to report to work in 115-degree temperatures, leading to a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that Voodoo Doughnut management had acted unfairly.”

COP26 Corporate Sponsors: A Barrier To A Just Transition

By Earth Strike UK - Earth Strike, February 18, 2022

In November last year, representatives and leaders of most of the world’s governments met in Glasgow to discuss how to respond to the climate crisis, and hopefully make a deal that would save us from the worst effects of climate change. They failed. While the conference did end with an agreement, it was not sufficient to keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C.

COP26 was supported by a wide variety of major multinational corporations, whose involvement, if not directly responsible for the failure of the conference, at least gives an insight into the deeply flawed approach of those in power that did ultimately result in COP26 (and every other climate conference before it) ending so disastrously.

Twenty three corporations are listed as supporting the conference in some capacity, either as Principal Partners, Partners, or Providers. These corporate sponsors provided financial support as well as services in kind. While it’s difficult to know how much each of these corporations paid, we know that their contributions did not go unrewarded.

In exchange, they received a variety of perks in the form of publicity, networking and marketing opportunities. This is most apparent for the eleven Principal Partners, whose logos feature on the COP26 website, appearing at the bottom of almost every page. This is all in addition to the marketing and promotional material they created for themselves.

The Principal Partners were given exhibition space inside the ‘green zone’, the part of the conference that was accessible to the public, as well as the opportunity to hold events as part of the official green zone program.

The business case for being a COP sponsor is clear, and has little to do with effecting genuine, meaningful change. Sponsorship of COP26 was an opportunity for corporations to present themselves as environmentally conscious (softening their image and maybe gaining an edge with environmentally minded consumers), while also allowing them to guide climate and environmental policy in a way that is profitable to them.

Despite their involvement in COP26, and their apparent desire to address the climate crisis, these corporations continue to produce enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. A recent investigation by the Ferret, an independent non-profit media cooperative in Scotland, found that the eleven Principal Partners alone were responsible for 350 million tonnes of C02 emissions in 2020, more than the total produced within the UK that year — although the companies claim that some of these emissions may have been counted more than once.

The sponsors claim to have bold plans for decarbonisation. They also point towards reductions in CO2 emissions they have already made, however these reductions are not always what they seem.

Take the case of Scottish Power. It proudly claims that all the energy it generates comes from wind power, however it achieved this by selling its fossil fuel investments to Drax, which runs the highly polluting biomass power station in Yorkshire, for £702 million in 2018. In effect, not only did Scottish Power fail to reduce the total amount of carbon emissions being produced, but profited from its continuation.

The fact that environmental destruction can be obscured by the sale of fossil fuel assets from one corporation to another proves that the corporate sponsors cannot be viewed in isolation. They are all part of a self-sustaining and self-reinforcing network of capitalism. Even if we were to accept Scottish Power’s claim of only producing renewable energy, we should remember that it is a subsidiary of the Spanish company Iberdrola, which has built four new gas power plants in Mexico since 2019.

Likewise, Microsoft has committed to go “carbon negative” by 2030, meaning that it would pull more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than it emits. This pledge is significantly undermined by the services it provides to the oil and gas industry. In 2019, Microsoft partnered with the oil giant ExxonMobil to provide software to improve the efficiency of its operations in the Permian Basin oil field. It is estimated that Microsoft services could allow ExxonMobil to extract 50,000 more barrels of oil per day by 2025 than it otherwise would have.

DLA Piper, a multinational legal firm and COP26 provider, likes to boast its support for corporate environmental initiatives, decarbonisation and the renewable energy industry. But it also provides direct practical support for the oil, gas and mining industries through legal representation and consultancy. DLA Piper enables oil and gas exploration, extraction and transportation by supporting licensing bids, financing, asset acquisition, arbitration, and dispute resolution within the industry.

Multinational corporations operate in a complex network of capital, tied together by ownership, commerce and consultancy. Even if at first glance a corporation doesn’t seem to be harmful, it still plays its part in keeping the process going.

Green Union Organizing: Avoiding the "Jobs versus Environment" Trap

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, February 7, 2022

Note to readers: the intended audience for this piece includes environmental justice activists and/or workers sympathetic to them (and it should go without saying that there may be some overlap between the two):

As the climate and ecological crises deepen front line and working class communities are rising up to oppose the continued capitalist extractivism that continues to render their communities, homes, and sacred lands in to sacrifice zones.

Although this is not a new phenomena, it has been happening more and more. Typically, one of the favorite tricks in the capitalist playbook is to mobilize their employees--very often unionized employees, particularly those represented by conservative [2] business unions [1]--to parrot their corporate talking points, (at public hearings or in various forms of media) and usually these frame the issue as one of community and environment versus workers and jobs. Usually such spin is mostly false, but often the conservative business union officials and the rank file members buy into it. To make matters worse, the mainstream press, which inevitably serves capitalist interests, dutifly repeats and spreads the narrative. Such efforts are intended to isolate the community opposition, and either induce agencies, tasked with regulating the corporations in question, to take the corporate side, or--more likely--to provide cover for regulators already tacitly under industry capture to affirm their favorability towards the industry. The bosses know this trick often works, and they have been using it for over a half century. The trick isn't infallible, however, and this text is intended as a beginning guide on neutralizing its effects.

Coal River Mountain Watch Workers Ratify First Collective Agreement

By Communications Department - IWW, January 28, 2022

Workers at Coal River Mountain Watch have ratified their first union contract in a unanimous vote.

The 2-year contract, which takes effect Feb 1, 2022, includes a raise for union members, an assurance of at least one month notification to members in the event of layoffs (something that wasn't previously done when funding ended), a process to ensure that travel costs are paid for upfront by the employer for speaking engagements, and job duties clarifications.

Coal River Mountain Watch is a small but respected organization in the southern coalfields, created in 1998 in response to the fear and frustration of people living near or downstream from enormous mountaintop removal sites. From humble beginnings as a small group of volunteers working to organize Southern WV residents to fight for social, economic, and environmental justice, the nonprofit has become a major force in opposition to mountaintop removal.

Workers at non-profits like Coal River Mountain Watch risk their physical and mental safety in the course of doing their job, and they deserve to have a say in how these organizations are run. Even when there may be general agreement around most issues in the workplace between employees and management, negotiating a contract allows workers an opportunity to learn how to function and operate as a union.

“I’m beyond proud to be in a union now, and I’m beyond proud to work for an organization that values my rights as a worker. Here’s to a brighter future for West Virginia and the brave souls who try to make it a better place to live.” — Junior Walk, Coal River Mountain Watch staff member

“I was really happy with how this process turned out. Vernon, the Executive Director, was quick to respond to our requests for information and in only three bargaining sessions, totalling less than five hours altogether, we had a solid draft contract. It signifies to other employers in progressive organizations that this process does not have to be complicated and that unionizing can have significant benefits for an organization's long-term missions.” — Brendan Muckian-Bates, Industrial Workers of the World Organizer

“I think it's really important, after OVEC's stalling to negotiate with the union and ultimately dissolving, that the Coal River Mountain Watch Board voluntarily recognized the union and that Vernon was so quick to respond to the union's requests. Coal River Mountain Watch is highly regarded among many progressive and environmental activists both inside and outside Appalachia. They've been the targets of the coal industry's ire for decades, with employees sometimes having to fear for their life because of this work. However, with this organization now unionized, I think it speaks to the need for all non-profits to formally recognize and negotiate with their staff's union when one is presented. Many workers at these non-profits risk their physical and mental safety to continue to do this work, and they deserve to have a say in how these organizations are run.” — Brendan Muckian-Bates, Industrial Workers of the World Organizer

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a labor union representing nearly 9,000 workers across North America. Established in 1905, the IWW is known for its high standards of democracy, transparency, multinationalism, and active use of the right to strike.

Green Unionism against Precarity

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, January 1, 2022

Editor's Note: all but one or two of the links in this article link to multiple articles, located on the IWW Environmental Union Caucus site, categorized by topic. Therefore, it is to the reader's interest to explore all of the articles brought forth by each link, at their convenience (and that body of information is ever evolving over time).

An edited version of this article appears in New Politics 72.

In a real sense, under capitalism, all workers are "precarious", meaning that they can be downsized, replaced, deskilled, outsourced, etc. It's simply a matter of degrees.

The ultimate peak in precarity is "gig work" (which has actually always existed; the names simply keep changing, but the concept is the same).

Unions represent a check against precarity, though this occurs on a graduated scale. The stronger the union, the less the workers' precarity.

Union strength manifests in various ways: it can result from a well organized, international, militant democratic union (ideal, but rare, with few real world examples, such as ILWU, and the IWW, of course), though more often than not it's a result of concentration of elite craft workers in skilled trades unions, which represents a strong guard against precarity, but only for workers in the union, in which case, solidarity is limited.

Other checks against precarity include high demand for skilled craft workers in rare supply, High demand for hard to replace workers (such as workers that required skilled credentials, such as teachers or transport workers), or tight labor markets (which exist in our semi-post COVID-19 world, due to a combination of factors spelled out in the Vox article).

This is nothing more than class struggle 101, as expertly phrased by Karl Marx, et. al.

There are new forms of precarity emerging due to climate catastrophe (brought on by capitalism). Workers find themselves facing new health and safety hazards and/or threats to their working environment.

Voodoo Doughnut Reaches Settlement With Staff Over Unfair Labor Practices

By Communications Department - Industrial Workers of the World, December 17, 2021

NLRB Investigation Found Voodoo Doughnuts Illegally Fired Strikers, Surveilled and Retaliated Against Staff During Union Election

Portland, OR --- American Doughnut chain Voodoo Doughnut has reached a settlement with employees, represented by IWW, after a National Labor Relations Board investigation determined the company was guilty of illegally firing striking workers, retaliation, and surveillance during the course of a union certification election.

In June of 2021, twelve workers went on strike due to growing concerns of temperatures inside the Old Town location of Voodoo Doughnut. Workers informed Voodoo Doughnut of the strike, which lasted for two days during Oregon's record breaking heat wave where temperatures rose to, or above, 115 degrees. The goal of the strike was to protect workers', while simultaneously encouraging the company to address the growing concern around these dangerous working conditions. As each striking worker returned following the heat wave, they were terminated on the basis of workplace abandonment.

"DWU's goals have always been to provide mutual aid to all Voodoo Doughnut staff in need, improve work and safety conditions, negotiating with the company towards a living wage, and creating a democratic workplace environment where the workers' voices are heard and valued. These are moral and just goals, and Doughnut Workers United would like to thank our community for all of your continued support! We are all the working class, and together we can build a better future for us all!" said DWU member Mark Medina

COP26: We Only Want the Earth

By IWW Ireland - IWW UK, November 7, 2021

World leaders gathering in Glasgow for COP26 are more concerned with the theatrics of playing to the media than the climate catastrophe.

The vocal pledges and emotive speeches hold little weight against the refusal to hold large corporations to account. Despite a planet which is slowly eating itself alive, world leaders repeatedly hold back when it comes to holding their profit driven capitalist projects to account. Instead, they are opting for wishful thinking as exemplified by the Trevi fountain stunt.

As members of the Industrial Workers of the World gather to protest in support of our earth, we do so knowingly that what is actually called for is the immediate end of capitalism and that of the power structures which keep it intact. Nothing short of the complete destruction of global capitalism, here and now, will prevent us from free-falling into an irreversible environmental catastrophe for the world and all its inhabitants.

Due to the unjust structures in our world, it is those at the lower ends of capitalist hierarchies that are most affected by climate distress. Those in lower-profit countries, people of colour, women, the trans community, those who are disabled and the working class have an increased chance of experiencing the negative impact of climate change.

Simultaneously, it is those least affected who cause the most damage to our planet. During the first lockdown, when everyone stopped, carbon emissions only decreased by 3%. 71% of global emissions are produced by 100 companies including Amazon and the US Military.

For ourselves, as revolutionary syndicalists, it is our belief that the working class ultimately has the power and strength to end this nightmare for all. From the outset as a revolutionary union, our principles and vision refuses to compromise.

“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.

“Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organise as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”

COP26 is a piece of theatre. As members mobilise on the streets of Glasgow, in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and across the world, we do so without hesitation at the importance of the challenges that lay ahead of our earth. There must be no ceasefire in the class war as our mission remains as important as it was back in 1905. Only organising industrially, within the workplace, within our communities, our streets and home can begin to form the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

You can play your part by joining the IWW today where you work or live and encourage others to do likewise.

From the words of James Connolly, founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, we echo today, “Our demands are most moderate, We only want the earth!

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