Storytelling on the Road to Socialism: Episode 8: A Spinner and Weaver Speaks

Chapter 14 : Mother Jones at the Georgia Pacific Mill

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“Greed is a noble motivator, when applied in the right context.”

—T Marshall Hahn, President, Georgia-Pacific, 1983-93

At least the workers at the Georgia-Pacific Mill in Fort Bragg had a union who would protect their jobs and working conditions—or so they thought.

The lumber mill that adorned the California coast in Fort Bragg was the largest employer in town, a town whose economy depended on timber. The mill employed more than 600 workers whose wages began at around $7 per hour and ranged up to $18 for long time veterans. Remote from any major highways or rail lines, and lacking a deep water port, the only other industries of any significance in that area were fishing and tourism (though the wine trade was just beginning to gain some pertinence as well).[1] The large mill had been owned by the Union Lumber Company until it was purchased by Boise-Cascade (B-C) in 1969, at which point, IWA Local 3-469 unionized the workers. B-C suffered financial difficulties and subsequently their California holdings were purchased by Georgia-Pacific (G-P) in 1973, in a hostile takeover. B-C filed a successful anti-trust suit against G-P, which had to spin off another company (which became Louisiana-Pacific) to comply with the terms.[2] G-P retained ownership of the Fort Bragg facility. Mendocino County environmentalists had tangled with Georgia-Pacific for many years—most notably over the expansion of the Sinkyone wilderness. Though not actually a company town like Scotia, Fort Bragg was essentially a company town in practice, and that would be proven for all to see. G-P Mill workers were still reeling from their concessionary contract in 1985 and from the loss of their union loggers in the woods—who had been replaced by Gyppo logging crews—when an incident happened on February 11, 1989 that would further expose what went on behind the Redwood Curtain.

Storytelling on the Road to Socialism: Episode 7: A Road Builder Speaks

By Candace Wolf - Storytelling on the Road to Socialism, May 2, 2023

On this episode, a road builder in the Punjab tells the story of building a monument to dispossessed peoples

Music:

  • The Internationale - Multi languages
  • Morning Ragas - Ravi Shankar
  • Socialism is Better - words & music by Bruce Wolf; performed by Bruce Woilf, Noah Wolf, Gaby Gignoux-Wolfsohn

May Day and Immigrant Workers

By Asa Singer - Industrial Worker, May 1, 2023

The Union forever defending our rights
Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
With our brothers and our sisters
From many far off lands
There is power in a Union

-Billy Bragg, “There Is Power in a Union”

The First of May is a moment to remember who makes society turn. It’s not for condescending politicians to tell us how much they appreciate us, nor for the executives and financiers who own them to throw us a bone of appreciation for our hard work. International Workers’ Day, or May Day, is for the oppressed and exploited working class of all nations, to remember its power, celebrate its gains, mourn its dead, and fight like hell for the living and those yet to come.

It is a day that the mainstream of the American labor movement left aside in favor of a day of barbecuing in September, a marker of when school starts up again and little else. Deprived of its historical force and the memory of those who sacrificed so much for our rights, it fades into the background. If we are ever to have peace on this earth and a society fully unshackled from servitude of one person to another, it will be when the unfulfilled promises of May Day are realized as the core values of a new world, when the working class comes to power and lives in harmony with the Earth.

May Day shot back into the American political consciousness for a time, even if it has yet to fully pierce the mainstream again, in 2006. A draconian immigration measure known as H.R. 4437 (Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005) was debated in the House of Representatives. The bill would have criminalized aid to undocumented immigrants, increased border wall protections, and mandated E-Verify for employers. In response to its debate and passage in the House, undocumented activists mobilized massive waves of protests in major cities all across the United States. After weeks of sustained protests, a massive outpouring culminated on May 1st, 2006 in “El Gran Paro Estadounidense” (Great American Strike), otherwise known as “El día sin inmigrantes” (The Day Without Immigrants).

Chapter 13 : They’re Closing Down the Mill in Potter Valley

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“A year before (the closure) was announced, they told us we’d work ten more years…if they hadn’t gone to two shifts five years ago, we could’ve gone twice as long.”

—Ray Smith, 14 year L-P employee commenting on the closing of the Potter Valley Mill.

“Harry Merlo, L-P’s president, makes a million dollars a year in salary and fringes. Forty-five Potter Valley mill jobs at $20,000 per year out of Merlo’s annual booty would still leave Harry a hundred grand a year.

—Bruce Anderson, Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 28, 1989

“Now Ray says there’s timber back there, They’ll haul it right past town,
Sam says the only way they’ll reopen, Is if another mill burns down,
The company says it’s environmentalists, Crampin’ up their style,
But as I look out on the Mendocino Forest, I can’t see a tree for miles…”

—Potter Valley Mill, lyrics by Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari, January 1989.

The ideological battle being waged between Corporate Timber and the environmentalists continued. Although the Louisiana Pacific workers had been largely silent since the unions had been busted three years previously, they were about to be shocked out of their malaise. Despite announcing record company quarterly earnings of $51.5 million at $1.34 per share (in contrast with $36.8 million at $0.97 the previous year) [1] L-P announced, on November 28, 1988, that they would be clos­ing their lumber mill in Potter Valley in Mendocino County, which had been in operation for fifty years and employed 132 full-time employees, the following spring. L-P’s Western Division manager, Joe Wheeler admitted that the timing of the announcements, just before the Christmas holiday season, was “especially difficult”, but felt it was necessary so the workers would not “extend themselves financially through the holiday season.” [2]

Rumors of the closing had been circulating for some time. The company confirmed them in their usual fashion. As they had prior to the temporary mill closures in the earlier part of the decade, L-P management bought the workers donuts. “For the past 15 years it was the same rumor. ‘Here come the donuts,’ the workers would say, expecting the worst, but it was usually a (temporary) layoff,” declared Linda Smith, whose husband, Ray, worked as a saw-filer in the mill. Indeed, many initially thought that the latest layoff would be no different, but this time they were mistaken.

IWW EUC Presents, Who Bombed Judi Bari?

Fellow Workers!

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.

When: May 28, 2023 07:00 PM Universal Time UTC 

In honor of Judi Bari Day (May 24), the WISERA IWW Environmental Committee and NARA IWW Eco Union Caucus present a showing of the documentary, "Who Bombed Judi Bari?" - https://youtu.be/HWApxvSjMKY and will follow that with a discussion about the film and its relevance to Green Unionism.

Did you know that the bombing that nearly claimed Judi Bari's life was prompted by Redwood Summer?

Did you know that Redwood Summer--which was well known as a radical, albeit nonviolent, environmental uprising--was actually also a continuation of IWW organizing efforts, specifically among timber workers in northwestern California?

Did you now that Judi Bari and her comrades were proposing class struggle environmental unionism and just transition more than three decades ago, long before the current "Green New Deal" framing? It's true! Come watch this documentary with us and find out more about green unionism and how the IWW was one of the early adopters of this essential revolutionary organizing approach.

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtc-iopj8rEtHZzkJ35d2nINJedzqA-GR_ 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

A note on the links in this article:  each of the links elevant to terms listed in this text lead to a whole series of articles, texts, videos, and other media in reverse chronological order, from newest to oldest, and each list is routinely updated.

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.

The Problem with Only Striking

By IWW Bruxelles - Industrial Worker, April 26, 2023

As the 12th day of the strike against the pension reform in France comes to an end, while the media are launching their usual refrains about violence (which should be condemned,) and the number of demonstrators is decreasing (or not) let’s take the time to analyse the consequences of the orders coming from above and the systematic recourse to the strike as the only mode of action.

It’s obvious that today in France, blockades and sabotage are taking place in some places, but we have to admit that the strike dynamic is omnipresent and that it seems, in the eyes of the majority unions, to be the only way to make the government bend. But it has its limits, which are significant.

First of all, it burns us out as workers, because a lot of effort rests on a few people. The trade union dynamic in France is such that the organisation of the struggle is based on few people. As a result, militant burn-out is just as likely as Macronist repression.

Then economically, faced with the “wait and let rot” strategy from the other side, it seems difficult to believe that our most precariously-situated colleagues and comrades will be able to hold out on strike for long. We know that solidarity and strike funds are being organised, but will it be enough?

Finally the “others.” We know that a very favourable opinion exists in favour of the struggle against the pension reform and this is not by any means negligible. But what does this “silent majority” do? Not the strike in any case. Indeed, not everyone can go on strike, because it costs money, because we are afraid of the employers’ reprisals or of the police violence, or for all sorts of other reasons.

If the strike doesn’t suit these people, how can we still put pressure together? We have to find techniques of struggle that do not exclude a part of the population and that can have a global effect against the political strategy of the Macronists.

The idea that all workers who feel concerned can participate within their means in a struggle they believe in should be a priority objective!

The Problem with Only Striking

By IWW Bruxelles - Industrial Worker, April 26, 2023

As the 12th day of the strike against the pension reform in France comes to an end, while the media are launching their usual refrains about violence (which should be condemned,) and the number of demonstrators is decreasing (or not) let’s take the time to analyse the consequences of the orders coming from above and the systematic recourse to the strike as the only mode of action.

It’s obvious that today in France, blockades and sabotage are taking place in some places, but we have to admit that the strike dynamic is omnipresent and that it seems, in the eyes of the majority unions, to be the only way to make the government bend. But it has its limits, which are significant.

First of all, it burns us out as workers, because a lot of effort rests on a few people. The trade union dynamic in France is such that the organisation of the struggle is based on few people. As a result, militant burn-out is just as likely as Macronist repression.

Then economically, faced with the “wait and let rot” strategy from the other side, it seems difficult to believe that our most precarious colleagues and comrades will be able to hold out on strike for long. We know that solidarity and strike funds are being organised, but will it be enough?

Finally the “others.” We know that a very favourable opinion exists in favour of the struggle against the pension reform and this is not by any means negligible. But what does this “silent majority” do? Not the strike in any case. Indeed, not everyone can go on strike, because it costs money, because we are afraid of the employers’ reprisals or of the police violence, or for all sorts of other reasons.

If the strike doesn’t suit these people, how can we still put pressure together? We have to find techniques of struggle that do not exclude a part of the population and that can have a global effect against the political strategy of the Macronists.

The idea that all workers who feel concerned can participate within their means in a struggle they believe in should be a priority objective!

Storytelling on the Road to Socialism: Episode 6: A Seed Keeper Speaks

By Candace Wolf - Storytelling on the Road to Socialism, April 25, 2023

On this episode, farmers in north India tell the story of their struggle to challenge the privatiztion of the world's seed supply

Music:

  • The Internationale - Multi languages
  • Garden Song - Pete Seeger
  • Socialism is Better - words & music by Bruce Wolf; performed by Bruce Wolf, Noah Wolf, Gaby Gignoux-Wolfsohn

Chapter 12 : The Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“I’m sure as owners and managers, the employees of (Pacific Lumber) will protect their resources through the concept of sustained yields…Pacific Lumber Co. and the redwoods are a national environmental issue. National public support for employee ownership will be forthcoming from around our great country.”

—Rick Ellis, Eureka Times-Standard, October 2, 1988

“Shouldn’t we stop exporting our logs and stop selling to other mills so our young employees will have a job in the future? What about the generation that follows?

—Lester Reynolds, Pacific Lumber monorail mechanic.

No sooner had the IWW joined forces with Earth First! on the North Coast when they found their hands full. One of the provisions of the recently passed Proposition 70 was (at least in theory) the purchase of several parcels of forest land, including the highly contested Goshawk Grove owned by Eel River Sawmills (ERS), which comprised a 900 acre tract of virgin redwoods and Douglas fir at the headwaters of the Mattole River. ERS had committed to negotiating the sale of that grove to the public, but their vice president, Dennis Scott, had made unreasonable demands including a prohibition on media coverage, no public comment, approval of several preexisting THPs within the parcel in question, an offer of much less land than had been proposed by the environmentalists, and finally that they be paid in old growth logs purchased from P-L instead of cash. P-L management no doubt approved of this Faustian bargain (indeed, it is not out of the question that they had suggested it), because it benefitted Maxxam’s bottom line. The CDF kept threatening to approve one of ERS’s demanded THPs (1-88-520), and EPIC responded by declaring that they would seek a TRO. Meanwhile, Earth First! and others organized their supporters for a direct action to prevent any logging there. [1]

On the surface, it seemed that defending the Sanctuary Forest would not be difficult. Like the fight for the nearby Sally Bell Grove, the fight to preserve this grove had gone on for at least a decade, and at least 250 local citizens, including veterans of various environmental campaigns in the “Mateel” region, Earth First!, and EPIC had pledged their support. As luck would have it, fate would deal them a number of twists. First, in what amounted to a clear case of bureaucratic stonewalling, the CDF kept obscuring and changing the perspective date for which they would review THP 520. Finally, on October 25, 1988, CDF resource manager Len Theiss approved it at 4:45 PM on October 25, 1988. By that time the 250 activists, including Greg King, were in position, along with an additional 21 Earth First!ers who had been temporarily recruited from Oregon following a local rendezvous recently held there, but Earth First! found its numbers divided by another action not too far away.[2]

Following the California Rendezvous, Judi Bari had immediately involved herself in organizing forest defense campaigns and building bridges with local activists hitherto ignored by Earth First!. Bari’s first move following the September gathering had been to call a meeting of Earth First! in Ukiah, at which Micheal Huddleston and Steven Day, who were not Earth First!ers, but sympathetic local watershed activists, attended and requested Earth First!’s assistance in defending the 16,000 acre Cahto Peak wilderness in northwestern Mendocino County that was in danger of being clearcut, again by ERS, in a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) timber sale. Ukiah Earth First! reached consensus in favor of assisting them, and planned a “wilderness walk” (essentially a trespass) to scope out the threatened area.[3] Huddleston and Day feared that cutting would begin in the spring of 1989, but rumors circulated that the date might be moved up to as late October. Sure enough, on October 24, the day before ERS was to begin logging in Goshawk Grove, A call came in from the newly opened Mendocino Environmental Center (MEC) in Ukiah—which was staffed by Earth First!ers Betty and Gary Ball—that announced that ERS was already cutting logging roads into the Cahto Wilderness![4]

Quickly, Judi Bari scrambled approximately 30 additional Earth First!ers (including Darryl Cherney) and other local environmentalists to defend the Cahto Wilderness from ERS. While the Sanctuary Forest defenders successfully held off ERS there, the hastily mobilized Cahto “wilderness walk” managed to shut down the road building actions. The latter mobilization involved the use of two dozen cleverly placed road blockades to slow down the loggers’ advance—as there was only one remote forest road into the threatened stand—but the loggers got paid anyway (as it was a BLM sale). Additionally, since this action was organized on the fly in a huge hurry, the Earth First!ers and locals improvised cleverly, as Huddleston and Day contacted the Cahto Indian Tribe, who in turn contacted California Senator Alan Cranston, and discovered that the sale violated conditions of a treaty with the Cahto. [5] North Coast Earth First!ers and IWW members had helped manage to win what they thought was a two-front battle, but they soon learned that they had won on three fronts! [6]

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