Statement of the Hospital and the Refinery

By John Kalwaic - Philadelphia IWW, September 10, 2019

We, the Philadelphia General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, condemn the eventual closing of Hahnemann Hospital in Center City, Philadelphia, as well as the safety and environmental negligence that led to the explosion at the Energy Solutions Refinery in South Philadelphia on June 21st.

The assets of Hahnemann Hospital have been gradually stripped away by a private equity firm, which did not seek any improvements or reinvestments in the hospital. Patients in the United States continue to deal with private insurance companies that do not cover the total costs of their clients’ health care. Real estate developer Joel Freedman bought the hospital and has plans to sell the building for the development of high-cost real estate. Hahnemann Hospital provides care for many low-income and unhoused patients; these patients are to be moved to other area hospitals, which may burden and disrupt Philadelphia’s healthcare networks and the working class people they serve. Hahnemann employs doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, record keepers, security guards and other workers to maintain the hospital and provide care for patients; these workers will lose their jobs and livelihoods in the event of a closure. We support the efforts of unions such as the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, or PASNAP, along with other unions and supporters in taking action against the closing of the hospital. The Philadelphia GMB, however, is wary of politicians that promise to stop the closure, or who use the cause to strengthen their campaigns. This is only one of many hospital closures in urban and rural areas in the United States for similar reasons.

The explosion at the Energy Solutions refinery in Southwest Philadelphia was partially caused by the company’s neglect of basic safety and environmental standards. The company should compensate both the community members affected by the explosion and the hazardous chemicals that were released, and the workers who will be made jobless due to the destruction of the plant. The Philadelphia IWW GMB calls for the company to liquidate itself to pay for these damages, and rejects calls for the plant to return to the hazardous fossil fuel industry. The workers in these industries, including those who formerly worked for the Energy Solutions Refinery, should be retrained to work in less hazardous industries.

Both of these closures represent a glaring failure and the inability of the capitalist system to meet the needs of the people and workers. The price of healthcare necessities has risen unchecked and basic safety precautions in a potentially deadly plant are phased out as too costly, all while CEOs and the stock market make record profits. These are not isolated incidents: this is the logical outcome of a system that demands continuous growth. This system must be stopped and the workers themselves, not politicians or NGOs, are the only ones with the power to do so. We must organize now for the abolition of wage slavery and the preservation of what is left of our environment.

Earth Strike – 20 September

By EUC Dan - Bristol IWW, August 14, 2019

A lot has been going on as the Environmental Union Caucus works towards a strike on 20 September. This summer we’ve been picketing and passing out flyers, writing a Green Charter for a just transition for workers, and holding meetings with local union and activist leaders to discuss the mechanics of striking this September.

You can get up to date information for the strike event on the Bristol event page. And download and share our leaflet to help get the word out. For questions about striking in your workplace ask at an upcoming branch meeting, stop by the EUC’s Monday organizing meeting, or email sw@earth-strike.co.uk to contact our local organizer.

Right now, business as usual is not solving climate change. As workers, we have the power to disrupt and change business so that it does. Join us in building that movement. It’s time to strike back!

A Look At the Miners’ Blockade Stopping Coal in its Tracks

By Earth First! Journal - It's Going Down, August 14, 2019

When I heard news of the coal miners’ railroad blockade in Harlan County, I knew it presented a real chance for growth, especially for movements like Earth First! who are at the intersection of various struggles, including eco-defense, anti-capitalism, climate justice, and prison abolition.

Though I spent most of my life in flat swampy Florida, stories of Harlan County, Kentucky, were burned into my head as a teenage anarchist in circles of Earth First!ers and IWW-types singing labor songs by fireside.

One of the most famous of union ballads, “Which Side Are You On?,” about miners’ resistance in the Kentucky coalfields, includes the line, “They say in Harlan County there are no neutrals there…” Even before the development of climate-focused mass movement, it has always been Big Coal vs. the rest of us.

Over the years, I must have heard dozens of knock-offs of that song for campaigns all across the country. We’d replace Harlan with whatever county we found ourselves in at the time, facing off with corporate raiders of all types.

And now the barricades have come full circle: back to Harlan, a locale of near-mythical significance for it’s legacy of resistance to corporate greed. The miners there have stopped a coal train operated by the company Blackjewel LLC, which filed for bankruptcy and secretly stopped paying the miners while they were still working.

IWW WISERA Statement of Support for 20th September Earth Strike

By Administration - IWW WISERA, August 2019

Note: this resolution was passed specifically by the IWW WISERA (UK).

The IWW supports the call for Earth Strike on September 20th 2019 and the international dimensions of the action. The IWW will mobilise its members to take action on the day and will support its members in taking strike action.

The IWW sees Earth Strike as an important contribution to the engagement of unions in the climate crisis and in particular it highlights the need for workers action to confront and destroy capitalism to avoid extinction.

To further these aims the IWW has voted to establish an Environmental Committee to develop the union's policy and educate, agitate and organise for a mass worker-led ecological movement.

A long standing aim of the IWW has been to abolish wage slavery and create a new world where we can live in harmony with the earth. With the climate crisis revolution is now more necessary than ever before. System Change not Climate Change!

In Solidarity
Russ Spring, IWW Secretary (WISE-RA)

The Future Is Already Here

By Larry Gambone - special to IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 2, 2019

Many people do not realize that everything we need for an environmentally sane, egalitarian and authentically democratic society exists NOW.[1] The fact that these exist already is grounds for hope. Neither are most of these new developments in their embryonic form – many – thought still a minority aspect – are quite well established.

The best known of these is the relatively clean generation of electricity.[2] Solar and wind generation is at or near the tipping point for cost compared with fossil fuel power generation. Energy specialists think the tipping point could be 2025 or sooner. Some say we are there already. Countries like Costa Rica and Holland already produce or are near to producing all their electricity through renewables. Less well known, but working examples do exist of geothermal and tidal power.

The other aspect is using less electricity or other energy sources. A massive amount of energy is consumed heating and cooling buildings. Fifty percent of energy expended in the EU has to do with heating and cooling. Passive houses reduce the cost of heating and cooling to almost nothing. Houses can be oriented and constructed in such a fashion that they cool themselves naturally.[3] Trees – no yard or street should be without them, not only do they use CO2 but they also have a cooling effect. Smaller dwellings should be a priority- well designed they should be as convenient for the occupants as any McMansion. These designs already exist. There is no reason other than assuaging one's ego, that the tiny families of today need a 4000 sq. foot house. A smaller house or apartment requires less energy consumption than a large one.

Twenty-five percent of energy expended globally has to do with transport, 20% of that is trucks, 12% ships and 45% cars according to statistics in the Maritime Executive site. Energy is wasted in unnecessary driving. If you could walk to most of the shops, schools or recreation centres you would not need to drive. We need to restore the village with facilities located in a nearby 'down town' that can be easily reached on foot. Combine this with an efficient public transit system – like they have in much of Europe – and better yet make it "free" like in Luxemburg - and less people will have cars. This means, of course, less energy consumed. For many, car ownership will be a thing of the past and the existing car coops and car share companies will predominate in the urban areas.

Energy is wasted in the unnecessary traffic in goods. No non perishables ought to be shipped by truck that can go by rail and thus save energy. A carbon tax ought to be levied upon all products that can be produced locally, yet are imported from afar due to a false sense of economy. This will encourage local production – once again less energy consuming – and reduce the amount of trucking and shipping.

Agribusiness consumes a lot of energy on machinery, petroleum, pesticides and fertilizers. While I would not suggest growing wheat organically on a small scale, many other food items can be grown in this manner. Small but intensive organic horticulture can produce an enormous amount of food from a small area. Paris used to feed itself in that manner and Havana does today. No pesticides or artificial fertilizers, but the organic waste of the city. Working with tools that last a generation and not expensive, short-lived machines that require petrol. Of course, food prices will need to increase to make such small farming viable – but this could be off set by keeping rents and mortgages low through an intelligent housing policy, like the one that exists in Germany.

One of the biggest consumers of energy is the military and a good way to reduce energy consumption would be peace. They are called "Defense Departments" but few countries other than Switzerland really have a defensive policy. Most countries are geared for offense – against other countries – or their own people. Bombers, missiles, drones, air craft carriers, nuke carrying subs, are not weapons of defense – they are for attacking. Ironically, we have no enemies other than a handful of home made bomb and small arm toting maniacs against whom such offensive weapons are useless. Using the model of Switzerland, we could have a cheap – and therefore less energy consuming – military. A military trained in guerrilla warfare using small arms, RPGs and SAMs – cheap stuff.

The future that is now, is more than energy efficiency, it is also about equality and freedom. Freer, more democratic and more egalitarian institutions exist already and are more widespread than you might think.

#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.

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