#ShutItDown: Organizing to Strike for Climate Justice

By Patrick Young - Rising Tide, July 14, 2019

Throughout the 2018–2019 school year, young people around organized massive school climate strikes to demand that the world’s leaders take immediate action to address climate change. The strikes started first in Sweden, then spread throughout the European Union and around the world. By March, 15 tens of thousands of students in more than 100 countries around the world walked out of school as part of the first Global Climate Strike for Our Future issuing a strong challenge to the world’s leaders. Greta Thunberg, one of the strike’s leaders wrote in an open letter in the Guardian,

“We, the young, are deeply concerned about our future… We will no longer accept this injustice… We demand the world’s decision-makers take responsibility and solve this crisis. You have failed us in the past. If you continue failing in the future, we, the young people, will make change happen by ourselves. The youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.”

Inspired by these bold youth-led actions and motivated by the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, others in the climate movement have issued calls for climate strikes starting as soon as September of 2019. Starting on September 20, the students who have been organizing the weekly climate strikes are launching a major strike and week of actions. Then starting on September 27th, Earth Strike is calling for a general strike demanding immediate climate action from governments and corporations worldwide. WeRise2020, a widespread network of climate action groups across Europe is planning on mobilizing alongside EarthStrike starting on September 27th for four to six weeks of escalated actions before pausing to regroup for another wave of action.

These calls for climate strikes offer an inspiring vision for action at the scale and scope needed to disrupt the entrenched power structures that have created the climate crisis and continually blocked the serious measures needed to combat it. But beyond calls to walk out of school and work, truly effective climate strikes will require a strategy for mass participation and disruption to seriously threaten the entrenched power structures. It won’t be easy but by drawing on the lessons from previous mass strikes and tested organizing principles we believe that it is possible to build mass climate strikes that can offer a credible threat to the governments and corporations that have failed to address the climate crisis.

Earth Srike: Intersecting Labour and Environmental Movements

By various - Earth Strike and IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, 2019

The scientific consensus is clear. Climate change is happening. It is happening now and it’s impacts are only going to get worse.

Climate change is not a stand alone issue, it affects and exacerbates all of the existing inequalities and exploitations within our society. In our struggle to fight against climate change we stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting against racism, sexism and colonialism inherent within global capitalism.

Climate change will not be solved through individual lifestyle changes. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions. To tackle climate change therefore we must challenge the power of these companies and the governments that support them.

Simply shifting the concentration of wealth to other so-called “sustainable industries” will not change the over- consumptive and self destructive drive of capitalism that has caused climate change and the mass extinction of species. Nor will it remove the ability of those with wealth to buy political power and get away with their planet killing practices.

Whilst increasingly the global economy is becoming an automated and auto-managed machine, labour still has power. The current economic system depends on the participation of a large labour force for both the extraction of natural resources and to perpetuate the unsustainable cycle of global consumption.

History has demonstrated that when a significant amount of the labour force organises for industrial action they can bring the bosses to the negotiating table and extract real gains for the workers. Likewise the environmental movement has demonstrated that community-led organising and direct resistance to natural exploitation can successfully defend ecological and social justice.

By bringing these two movements together, ending our self-destructive participation in the techno-industrial complex and resisting the capitalist economics of infinite growth we can change the current system and prevent global environmental catastrophe.

Earth Strike is therefore uniting the green and red by building for a global general climate strike. The IWW Environmental Committee recognises the huge importance of this initiative and will play it’s part to support it.

Read the report (PDF).

Unions and Climate Strikes: How climate strikers can involve unions/union workers

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 2019

The following is text from a leaflet you can download intended for Climate and Earth Strike organizers who wish to engage unions, union workers, or workers in general in an effort to invite them to participate in the Climate and Earth Strikes from September 20-27, 2019. There is a generic version and an IWW specific version (below and right; click on the image to view and download a PDF of either or both).

Unions have engaged in strikes for the environment since the 1970s, known as green bans. However:

  • Generic LeafletWhile it is tempting to believe we can create enough buzz to convince enough workers to actually engage in work stoppages (actual workplace strikes) on September 20, 27, or any other date, we cannot guarantee it, even though some unions and union officials have suggested that a “strike” for the climate (e.g. Bruce Hamilton, Vice President of ATU) or at least for the Green New Deal (e.g. the Massachusetts Teacher’s Union) are exactly what are needed.
  • Things can change between now and September 2019 and we cannot predict how that will unfold.
  • We can recall the immigrant workers’ “general strike” on May 1, 2006, in which some unions, notably the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), participated as a possible forerunner, but again, we cannot guarantee it.
  • Anyone can call for a general strike, but actually organizing one is much more difficult, as Jane McAlevey points out here.
  • Some unions may participate, but won’t publicly announce their intent, because doing so could bring swift retribution from the bosses.
  • IWW Specific LeafletWhat we can do is urge workers to participate in the day(s) of action by attending events in the morning (before work), at lunch, or in the evening (after work); we can suggest they use a vacation day (but not a sick day). They can also sign a statement, draft a resolution for their union “in support”, or (if possible) hold a “stop work meeting” to discuss the issue. They can also conduct a social media campaign, such as taking a selfie with a sign saying they support the strike, and include a hashtag (this video from England has similar suggestions).
  • Meanwhile, those organizing day(s) of action can support unions in their day-to-day struggles and they can be prepared to pledge to defend any workers who actually get disciplined for participating in the strike (but this should not be dangled as an offer to pressure workers into joining).

There are a number of “green” unionists who are working on this, including (but not limited to):

The IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus will try and keep a record of who in the labor movement is (or who may be) participating in the strikes. Visit our website and enter these tags in the “search” engine (or enter the same hashtags on our social media pages) for news: #GreenBans; #EarthStrike; #ClimateStrike. Email euc@iww.org for more information.

Talking Shop: Burning Up

By staff - New Syndicalist, June 22, 2019

In this episode of Talking Shop, we interview Simon Pirani, the author of ‘Burning Up – A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption’. Simon is a writer, historian, and researcher on energy, as well as an activist involved in social and labour movements.

In ‘Burning Up’, Simon argues that, throughout the twentieth century, industrialisation, urbanisation and mass consumption were the driving forces for the technological changes and changes in energy consumption that created the current climate crisis. He also discusses the social transformations that would be needed to build fully sustainable relationships to the environment.

We asked Simon about what climate change looks like in the present day and near future, the promise of movements like the school strikes, and the climate denialism of big business. We talked about how and why unions should be mobilising their membership behind climate issues, and about moving beyond the false dichotomy of jobs vs positive environmental policies.

The Green New Deal is Only a Beginning

By WobblyBall - Open Letter, Summer 2019

A lot of friends are having conversations about the environmental movement (like XR) and environmental justice, especially focused around colonialism and environmental racism. Another aspect to it is the movement's relationship to the working class and to organized labor (and we need to understand, in this, that the makeup working class is heavily influenced by race and racism).

The environmental movement is increasingly pushing for a Green New Deal, and expecting (understandably) the labor movement to get behind this, especially the Trades. I'm a Trades worker who's a straight up anticapitalist, but who would be critically supportive of most forms of "Green New Deal" as a very partial step towards averting the climate crisis. Of course, environmentalists pushing for this need to understand that the new industries are largely non-union, and the unions (some of which don't aggressively organize) are unlikely to get behind the decline of unionized industries and the growth of non-union ones. Getting labor on board would take also building up a more aggressive, organizing current in the unions.

Then, there's a broader issue of having a Just Transition for the entire working class- not only for workers in construction or extraction, but for workers in all industries. A lot of the major protests we're seeing, such as in France, Haiti, or the Netherlands, are against attempts to make the working class pay more for fuel- a favorite solution to technocrats who figure a little Pigouvian tax on gas can internalize those external costs and knit up the climate problem neatly. For most working people, the biggest costs in our lives are food, housing, and transportation-- all areas where there needs to be transitions towards sustainability in ways that don't hit the poorest hardest.

The environmental movement could make alliances with transport workers and riders around demands for more and free public transit. Workers forced out to the fringes of the city have to make long commutes in and pay for all that gas.  If the movement fights for rail, it should also make an absolute push against reduction in train crew sizes, for the safety of everyone.
Even better than more public transit, more affordable housing near where people work. More walkability of neighborhoods and less compulsory transportation--and don't let the call for walkability be a cover for displacement of the working class into the suburbs (again, the commutes!).

The environmental movement already needs to take a strong interest in the reshaping of cities that are designed around needing a car, and that cluster polluting industries in poor (especially black) neighborhoods. Of course, be aware that all new construction, including of "green" housing, has environmental costs. Look into also supporting more funding for things like WAP conservation funding (where I work), which upgrades existing housing stock to be more energy efficient. Though be aware that this is mostly non-union, like most of residential construction, in part because of the suppression of undocumented workers.

While we're talking about urban geography, let's talk food justice from a working class perspective. Now, a lot of environmentalists try to court small farmers--and as someone from a small farming family, I'm not going to go into all the reasons that the decline of family farms can't be reversed by conscientious consumerism. My main concern is supporting farm workers and healthy food access.  Let's talk about sustainable changes in farming that are focused on changing how the food the majority of people buy and eat is grown, instead of creating a specialty expensive market. Let's take a look at the idea of co-ops not as health food stores for that niche market, but as a way to bring produce at a low price into food deserts. Let's not only support community garden space in working class neighborhoods, but also fight for a strong labor movement, living wages, and access to childcare so people living in those neighborhoods have time to do things like use a community garden. Also, when talking about urban farming, it's often good to look not just at flashy new hydroponics and vertical farms, also at the populations already doing that work, like Hmong families in St Paul.

Video: How to strike for climate in your workplace

By Ian Allinson - RS21, June 19, 2019

On Friday 21 June, youth strikers (took) action for the climate in the UK around the world again. Now they have put out a call for adults to join them in a global general strike for the climate on 27 September, and rank and file trade unionists are taking up the call. In this video, Ian Allinson gives some suggestions about how you can take part, whether you work in a unionised workplace or not.

Maximising solidarity for the youth strikers this Friday will also help build up momentum towards September. What can you do? Can you attend the protests, share solidarity photos or videos, hold lunchtime meetings or rallies outside work?

Defend Our Sperrins Not Toxic Gold Mining

By staff - IWW Ireland, May 11. 2019

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have issued a call for support and solidarity with communities in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains who continue object to the poisoning of our environment by Canadian based multinationals, Dalradian Gold Ltd.

A spokesperson for the IWW General Members Branch in Ireland said in a statement: “At a time when communities in lockdown are dealing with the Covid 19 crisis, some will intend to use such a period of uncertainty to deflect attention away from events happening elsewhere to shamelessly promote themselves and their own agenda.

"To date we have witnessed the behaviour of multinationals such as Dalradian Gold Limited attempting to use such a climate to befriend local community organisations with financial incentives and windfalls as advertised in the press. This is yet another under hand attempt by a tarnished company to embellish themselves as a type of 'saviours of the community' at a time of increasing hardship.

"Again for anyone approached by or offered to be garnished by financial rewards from multinational companies with an atrocious environmental legacy, we would urge them to firstly question their own conscious and of course their own ethical policies of the organisations to which they belong. Recent moves should be viewed as nothing shy of a community grooming exercise.

"Let's be clear, this is an attempt to sow seeds of division within and around the north west which will ultimately fail, like their ongoing plans to mine and destroy our environment in the pursuit of profit will fail.

"As an international union we would urge community and environmental groups both locally and internationally, as well as the wider trade union movement to acknowledge the many groups challenging the destructive consequences of gold mining within a location such as the Sperrins. An area of outstanding natural beauty.

"Any attempt to view Dalradian Gold Limited as a some type of 'financial saviour' much be challenged. A multinational gold company who plan to create a toxic gold mining plant, an act that will impact upon all our lives throughout the entire North West for future generations to come.

“It is vital at this time we remain vigilant and vocal about what is actually happening. We believe that it is up to all of us to protect and defend our environment and our rights as workers. The right to live in an environment free from toxic pollution and environmental destruction. Free from the greed of scrupulous multinational corporations who try to divide communities.

"Our message today as all ways remains, an injury to one is an injury to all!"

Statement by IWW Secretary, Russ Spring - Union calls for an end to the growing economy and the transformation of industry

Statement by IWW DEC Secretary, Russ Spring - Bristol IWW EUC, April 22, 2019

Statement delivered to Bristol IWW EUC, to be announced in solidarity with the Earth Strike climate protest on April 27th, 2019: https://www.facebook.com/events/777567979287005/

Regarding the passing of the IWW’s new environmental policy, calling for an end to the growing economy and the transformation of harmful industry.

“The threat of extinction is a very loud wake up call. Not just a wake up call to the needs of the planet but also a wake up call to the need for system change. Urgent and seismic action is needed for the immediate future and the long term survival of our planet.

The changes that are required are so substantial that capitalism cannot deliver them. System change not climate change is one of the placards and chants of the schools strikes.

That is largely due to the fact that it is a world driven by greed, self interest in the pursuit of private wealth, profit and privilege, that has brought us to the brink of extinction.

The best that a green capitalism can offer is a temporary truce in its war on the planet, before its insatiable appetite for more will push us again to the edge of catastrophe.

The terms of struggle have changed from the desire for a fairer world to the necessity of a fairer world and one that puts ecology before economy.

We are living at the most important time in human history. It is the time when the reality and consequences of human activity is laid bear like never before.

And whilst we are staring oblivion full in the face it is also a great time of possibility. A time for us to have the most radical shake up of our economics our culture and our relationships with each other and of course our planet.

BUT it is our last chance... screw this up and ...well it doesn't bear thinking about.

The climate change emergency is creating a vacuum throwing old politics to the sides and it is important that progressive ideas and actions fill that vacuum.

The small minded bigots of the right wing are already talking about the need to curb populations in Africa and Asia and pointing to other world economies such as China as the problem. We can expect to see climate change being used more and more to fuel racism, xenophobia and nationalism and the ideas of green fascism.

The school strikes, the XR occupations in London and events like this are a start but we must dramatically increase our efforts.

We must start to frame a clear vision of the future that we and the planet demand.

Sadly many on the left have dismissed ecological concerns in the past. Seeing environmental degradation as an inevitable consequence of the sacred cow of progress and the creation of jobs...at any cost.

All political parties, both mainstream and those on the fringes, are locked into the growing economy, standards of living and the right to consumption. The trade union movement following suit.

Quality of life, community and ecology have long been shoved off the agenda.

The question is does the left have the ability to heed the wake up call and adapt or are they due for extinction.

So the IWW, has since the 80s had in its constitution, sadly somewhat neglected, a line that says that we aim to build a world in which we can live in harmony with the planet.

We have now given new life to that desire by passing a long overdue environmental policy that calls for; an end to the growing economy and the transformation of harmful industries.

I think we will be the first trade union to do so. But we also commit that the IWW should seek to be a radical influence in politics and environmental debate and in particular the trade union movement which can be very protective of the most damaging industries.

So we aim to try and influence the trade unions that still have over 6million members.

We also acknowledge that this is not a time for political dogma. It is a time of political pragmatism.

So whilst we will keep our revolutionary aims we will work to bring about reforms to slow down climate change ….. by any means necessary.

The battle is on, and time is short. We need to be bold and draw on all our creative energies to bring about change in our individual lives but most importantly system change.

The time for squabbling among ourselves is over.

Lets get angry lets get passionate and direct it at those that are responsible.

The Green New Deal Isn’t Just Affordable, It’s Necessary Now

By Ryan Smith - Broke Ass Stuart, February 27, 2019

Editor's Note: the IWW has not taken a position on the Green New Deal; the author is a cofounder of the IWW EUC; the image is from the Intercept.

The Green New Deal resolution Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) have proposed has captured the attention of the American public like nothing else. The deal presents a sweeping vision for meeting the challenge of climate change by creating a more just, equitable and equal society — in the weeks since its introduction, the Green New Deal has stirred up enormous controversy. It’s been co-sponsored by five Democratic presidential candidates and panned by others like Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) as unrealistic with Delaney going so far as to say:

The Green New Deal as it has been proposed is about as realistic as Trump saying that Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Let’s focus on what’s possible, not what’s impossible.

Donald Trump easily takes the cake when he said, “I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ of you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!”  In fairness, you have to be impressed by Trump topping former President George HW Bush’s ranting that environmental regulations would leave everyone jobless, “and up to our necks in owls!”

Regardless of the criticism, some of which is couched in more reasonable language than others, there’s strong evidence that the Green New Deal is not only desirable but actually very feasible.

Doing Away With Private Utilities Is a Matter of Life and Death

By Ryan Smith - Broke Ass Stuart, January 16, 2019

The toll of this year’s wildfires is the second in as many years to break entirely too many state records, increasing the call to hold private utility companies like Pacific Gas & Electric to the flames of their own making. When the last embers cooled there was no question that the Camp Fire that ravaged Butte County, along with the devastating fires that tore through Malibu and Ventura, were among the most destructive in California history inflicting an estimated $10 billion in property damage. This was only topped, in dollar value, by last year’s devastation where the state suffered an unprecedented $12 billion in direct property damage. From a purely economic standpoint these figures don’t consider the secondary impacts such as loss of tourism, rebuilding and the opportunity cost of once thriving communities no longer capable of any sort of economic activity.

These numbers, already adding up to a truly staggering cost, don’t even touch on the immeasurable human cost. 2017 set a grim toll of 43 confirmed dead, a total that was already greater than all loss of life from the previous decade of California wildfires combined. This past season is on track to double that with a confirmed 89 dead so far. One can only imagine how many more will join them in the coming months and years thanks to the long-term damage from noxious fumes released by this year’s fires. The sheer quantity of toxic particulates in the air during the height of the blaze made Butte County’s air the most hazardous on the planet.

There is little doubt who is responsible for this blaze. The most recent investigations have all but concluded the cause of the fires was due to improperly maintained wiring, property of PG&E, setting a deadly inferno ablaze. In the face of an estimated $30 billion in liability for the Camp Fire, PG&E, earlier this week, filed bankruptcy. They are not alone in such negligence, with SoCal Edison suspected of similarly irresponsible practices in Southern California. Such a failure to perform such basic, fundamental tasks – maintenance of consistent power flow and safety of California’s communities – is astonishing all by itself. Unfortunately this is far from the first time PG&E has screwed up this badly.

In the wake of the 2017 wildfires investigators concluded the most likely cause of an already horrific disaster was PG&E’s inability to do their jobs. Gerald Singleton, an attorney specializing in wildfire cases, argued PG&E’s history shows this was no surprise as the privately-owned utility company has a history of disregarding basic maintenance necessary both for community safety and delivering power. In 2010 PG&E’s lax management piled up until one of their natural gas pipelines exploded, snuffing out the lives of eight San Bruno residents. Their cost-cutting is so extreme that, only two years after the San Bruno disaster, PG&E found they didn’t have enough staff to properly mark all of their gas lines so the company hid the mistake by filing false claims stating they had. This reckless culture even extends to data management as shown by reports from earlier this year where PG&E managed to lose 30,000 people’s personal information in a single data breach.

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