The Anti-Democratic Nature Of Big Unions

By Burkely Herrman - Industrial Worker, November 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and fallen and bruised itself, and risen again; been seized by the throat and choked and clubbed into insensibility; enjoined by courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, shot down by regulars, traduced by the press,  frowned upon by public opinion, deceived by politicians, threatened by priests, repudiated by renegades, preyed upon by grafters, infested by spies, deserted by cowards, betrayed by traitors, bled by leeches, and sold out by leaders, but notwithstanding all this, and all these, it is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known.”  – American union leader and socialist Eugene Debs, 1904

In the age of Obama, unions have had an even more diminished role than before. Despite this, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has shown that a slim majority, or 51 percent, approves of “organized labor…up a full 10 percentage points from two  years ago” and also “labor unions had the highest approval ratings among women, people of color, and young people between the ages of 18 and 29 [but not] whites and retirees.” The right-wing has launched a massive attack on unions as can be seen in the “right-to-work” bills in recent  years and other measures. As a result, the  big unions, part of the labor aristocracy, like the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation have backed the Democratic Party, the second-most capitalistic party in American politics. In electoral battles  with the Republicans, the unions fund ads to help out their favored candidates: big business Democrats. Along with the agents of oligarchy, these unions applauded when the Wall Street marketing creation named Barack Obama was elected as U.S. President in 2008, and continued to support him throughout his presidency. Some of the only sticking points have been the protectionist multinational-empowering investor-rights agreements that promote “trade” like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States-Dominican Republic-Central  America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the United States–Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), the Panama–United States Trade Promotion Agreement (TLC), the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), among many others. At the same time, these unions have not tried very hard to reverse trends that have caused unionization in the American economy to be on the decline. From here, it is important to discuss what the subservience of the labor aristocracy means to working-class and middle-class Americans.

Recall the Wisconsin uprising of 2011.  According to his website, Governor Scott  Walker wanted to “create an atmosphere  where business can thrive and success  will follow” and the unions were in his  way. One of the state’s biggest unions decided to back some of the cuts sought  by anti-union stalwart Governor Walker, in the infamous 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, at first, only opposing a provision limiting collective bargaining of public employees. Later, they changed their position after Walker rejected their compromise, as reported in the Milwalkee Journal Sentinel. Numerous protesters demonstrated a different view by calling for the defeat of the whole bill, not just one provision. Once Act 10 had passed, the unions pushed the next step: recalling Governor Walker. Almost a million signed a petition to recall him. However in the primaries, big labor’s favorite candidate Kathleen Falk was defeated by Tom Barrett. Barrett was a Democratic machine politician who Walker had defeated in 2010, but the unions backed him anyway along with corporatists like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The website watchdog.org reported that Barrett was “sticking  by a plan that could mean up to $14,000 in compensation cuts for state workers…[and] ‘rightsize’…state government and put public-worker pay and benefits more in line with private-sector compensation.” This follows what Barrett planned to do in 2010, as outlined in his report, “Tom Barrett’s Plan to Create Wisconsin Jobs”: “simplify[ing] regulations and streamline the regulatory process to lighten the burden on business.” Additionally, the report “Tom Barrett’s Plan to Put Madison on a Diet” was slated to “introduc[e]…technologies and revising processes to lessen the need for replacement employees…[and] keep…compensation and sick/leave accrual for state employees in line  with the private sector, including wages, health care, pension, retirement age, job security, and overtime pay.” Due to this, he only gave lip service to the unions, making protesters disenchanted along  with conducting a horrible campaign that didn’t mention Act 10. As a result, the propaganda machine, in part funded by the Koch Brothers, propelled Scott Walker to victory. The concentration of capital had sadly won against people power.

Rising Tide and Allies Shut Down Port of Vancouver

Portland Rising Tide North American - Monday, November 4th, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Vancouver and Portland Rising Tide are joining with other friends, allies, and activists in the Pacific Northwest to shut down the Port of Vancouver, Washington, right now in solidarity with the ILWU.

This from Portland Rising Tide’s Facebook page: “Good morning Port of Vancouver, if you can’t keep your grain terminal safe for workers, how can you make an oil terminal safe? You can’t so this morning Rising Tide is shutting you down!”

The ILWU has been locked out of a grain shipment terminal by United Grain. “United Grain and its Japanese owners at Mitsui have failed to negotiate in good faith with the men and women of the ILWU for months and instead chose to aggressively prepare for a lockout, spending enormous resources on an out-of-state security firm,” according to a statement made by ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent earlier this year.

On July 15, 2011, hundreds of ILWU protestors blockaded a mile-long train coming into the terminal in protest. The struggle has continued through numerous actions of resistance, including this June, when ILWU members blocked a transport van from leaving the port.

Today, the ILWU’s struggle in the area is spilling over into a new terminal as Rising Tide activists are calling out the unaccountable and irresponsible behavior of the Port of Vancouver in both the ILWU lockout and the approval of a new oil terminal. The terminal would process 380,000 barrels of oil coming in by rail from the Bakken shale and probably the tar sands.

Many activists have pointed to recent oil disasters, such as the explosion of an oil train in Lac-Megantic, Canada, that incinerated the entire town square.

Earth First! and the IWW, Part 4 - I Knew Nothin' Till I Met Judi

By x344543 - Industrial Worker, November 2013

"Every once in a while a new radical movement arises and illustrates the social firmament so suddenly and so dazzlingly that many people are caught off guard and wonder: “What’s going on here? Who are these new radicals, and what do they want?...

"This new movement...starts delivering real blows to the power and prestige of the ruling exploiters and their governmental stooges. This in turn inevitably arouses the hostility of the guardians of the status quo...who raise a hue and cry for the punishment and suppression of the trouble making upstarts...

"The new movement, with wild songs and high humor, captures the imagination of masses of young rebels, spreads like wildfire, turns up everywhere, gets blamed for everything interesting that happens, and all the while writes page after page in the annals of freedom and justice for all..."

These words were written by IWW member Franklin Rosemont in one of his four articles about Earth First! In the May 1988 edition of the Industrial Worker. In doing so, he brought the IWW squarely into the middle of a firestorm of controversy, and not just on the left, but in timber dependent rural communities as well.

On the left, Earth First! had been (with some justification) excoriated for the reactionary sounding positions taken by Dave Foreman, Ed Abbey, and Chris Manes on starvation among Africans, limiting immigration, and AIDS being "nature's" remedy for excess population, all of which were based on the wrongheaded notion that Thomas Malthus's views on population and starvation had any merit or any relevance to the environment (they don't).

Timber dependent communities lambasted Earth First! for entirely different reasons. Obviously, the bosses hated Earth First! because the latter threatened their profits. Timber workers--many of whom suffered from a sort of capitalist induced "Stockholm Syndrome", not the least of which was made worse by collaborationist business unions (where they existed at all)--echoed the bosses rhetoric, particularly when the capitalists used the word "jobs" when they actually meant profits. Earth First!'s association with tree spiking, and their stubborn refusal to jettison the tactic didn't help matters much.

Ironically, few on the left, and practically nobody in the corporate media paid any attention to what was going on in "ground zero" for the timber wars, California's northwestern redwood coast. Earth First! there had never used tree spiking, and they had gone to great lengths to express their sympathy for the timber workers' plight-identifying capitalist timber harvesting practices as the actual threat to the workers' livelihoods.

Capital Blight: To Wrench or Not to Wrench, a Response

By x344543 - October 29, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A few days ago, I read To Wrench or Not to Wrench: A Brief History of Direct Action in the Environmental Movement and its Potential Consequences, Ethical Implications, and Effectiveness, by By Jeriah Bowser, of the Hampton Institute with particular interest, because it deals with a subject with which I have a good deal of familiarity. Having worked alongside Judi Bari and her fellow Earth First! - IWW Local #1 organizers, I learned a good deal from listening to the ongoing and evolving discussions and debates over strategy and tactics within both Earth First! and the IWW, and so Bowser's article immediately caught my attention.

To be certain, I wanted to make sure I read his piece very carefully, because the subject he covers is particularly contentious and--in my humble opinion--often misconstrued in any number of frustrating ways. I found some things to agree with in Hampton's piece, but there are some glaring errors and oversights in his argument, not to mention some very dangerous and damaging mistakes as well.

For starters, Bowser establishes a false dichotomy between environmental (or other) groups which "engage in direct action" and those that "stick to the democratic process". There are many that do both and see no contradiction in doing so. There is an old debate about "working within the system" versus "tearing the (rotten) system down". Certainly the IWW advocates the later in regards to capitalism ("capitalism cannot be reformed") philosophically, but as a matter of day-to-day survival the IWW is not adverse to working within established systems to make small gains, knowing full well that ultimately the IWW's intended end, the abolition of wage slavery and the establishment of a cooperative commonwealth (that lives in harmony with the Earth) cannot be achieved within the context of capitalism, no matter how much one tries to reform it. Often times, the IWW alsoadvocates working outside the system through direct action, specifically at the point of production. Most times, the IWW favors the latter, but sometimes the boundaries aren't entirely clear. The same holds true with radical environmentalists.

On the flip side, Bowser either naively or even dangerously lumps all forms of "direct acton" together and all groups that engage in a whole range of direct action tactics into a single grouping. Specifically he conflates Earth First!, Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) into one category. I suppose that's essentially accurate on a certain level, and it's been a good long time since I have been an "active" Earth First!er (however that is defined), but when I was active in Earth First! (1995-98), we never engaged in or advocated some of the tactics commonly associated with either ALF or ELF, including, especially arson. Arson was not only not condoned, the Earth First! groups I worked with specifically eschewed such tactics as counterproductive and self destructive. To my knowledge, that is still the case, even if Earth First! favorably reports on the activities of ELF and ALF.

Bowser also makes few distinctions between the veritable aresnal of direct action tactics that exist, simply labeling "tree sitting, blocking logging roads, and street protests" as "passive, non-violent" civil disobedience, then mentioning "tree spiking, or driving huge nails into trees" as an escalation of Earth First!'s militancy. He then goes on to declare that the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) escalated those tactics by "defacing" billboards (although, perhaps "culture jamming" would be a more accurate term, because simple defacement and repurposing the message into an anti-capitalist or ironic satire is substantially more meaningful) followed by "burning" (or) "cutting them down". I know of no proven examples of the latter, but I'll accept that I don't know everything and take the author at their word. However, the author then goes on to state that "arson slowly emerged as the preferred method of resistance, however, and was co-opted by other emerging environmental and animal rights groups- most notably the ELF and ALF," as if there were a logical and linear progression from one to the other, which is a dubious argument.

Violations Analysis of Shell Oil Company's Shale Gas Development in Pennsylvania

By x362102, et. al., October 17, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This report analyzes data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regarding violations cited for shale gas development by Shell Oil Co’s subsidiaries through the end of 2012.

Key findings include:

  • Shell has a 5:6 violation to well ratio. Out of 603 wells drilled, we found that Shell’s subsidiaries East Resources Inc., East Resources Mgmt. LLC and SWEPI were cited 494 violations by PA DEP.
  • Ninety percent of Shell’s violations were environmental in nature. Out of 494 violations, we identified 443 that were environmental in nature, which have or are likely to cause harm to the environment.
  • Shell has been cited for a casing failure rate of about one percent of wells for a total of six citations. It is important to note that well casings are meant to protect aquifers from contamination by chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” process.
  • Shell was cited violations 45 times for Improper Construction of Waste impoundments, 37 times for Faulty Pollution Prevention Practices, 25 times for Discharge of Industrial Waste. This presents imminent danger to surface and ground water supplies.

Read more here.

Jerry Brown: The Wrong Stuff

By Steve Ongerth - Originally published at Counterpunch, October 17, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On Thursday, October 17, 2013, the Blue Green Alliance will award Governor Jerry Brown a “Right Stuff” Award for “catalyzing the clean energy economy”.

The Blue Green Alliance is a coalition of AFL-CIO labor unions and environmental organizations. I am a union worker—a San Francisco ferryboat deckhand –and an environmentalist. You would think I would be supportive of this event. However, I am not.

A member of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) since 1995, I and two Earth First!ers sparked what became the Blue Green Alliance in the fall of 1998. We envisioned a coalition of environmentalists fighting to save Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County and steelworkers on strike at Kaiser Aluminum in Washington, Louisiana, and Ohio.

An oddball idea? Not really. The Headwaters Forest was in danger of being mowed down by Maxxam Corporation, a Houston corporate raider, to pay for the debt with which it saddled Pacific Lumber in its takeover. Three years later, Maxxam acquired Kaiser Aluminum in a similar fashion.

At first the alliance continued that spirit. Earth First! activists marched on steelworkers’ picket lines. Steelworkers encouraged nonunion Pacific Lumber workers to organize for better working conditions. The combined forces agreed that an “injury to one is an injury to all”, and “no compromise in defense of Mother Earth!” These efforts spawned the “Teamsters and Turtles” protest at the 1999 WTO meetings.

The Blue Green Alliance, while well meaning, has made far too many compromises to corporations. I support renewable energy, but it must be produced sustainably and deployed in harmony with the environment. Workers who manufacture, install and maintain the equipment must work under good and safe working conditions. Giving Jerry Brown an award is proof the Blue Green Alliance has lost its way.

Capital Blight - The Root of the Problem

By x344543 – October 8, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

I really would rather not be writing this; I honestly wish that I didn’t feel that it was necessary. However, some things simply cannot be left unaddressed.

As one of the half dozen or so charter members of the IWW’s Environmental Unionism Caucus, I comb through a good deal of class struggle and/or environmental news sources, since one of our goals is raising awareness. These sources come from a variety of directions, including syndicalist, socialist, anarchist, progressive environmentalist, and deep green (though not Deep Green Resistance, because of the latter’s transphobia and rigid primativist tendencies). Naturally, one of the most logical sources for this last tendency is Earth First!. Rarely is any source 100% in line with what I and my fellow “Green Wobblies” think represents our position (loosely defined though that may be), and Earth First! is no exception. That which doesn’t fit is generally ignored, and we “stand aside” as they say in the language of modified consensus process. Sometimes, however, our sources will publish something so egregiously wrong, in our opinion, that we feel compelled to respond.

Saturday, October 5, 2013, Earth First! re-published just such a story, called Thanks A Lot, Nebraska, by the Tucson chapter of Root Force (TURF).

What is Root Force you ask? Here’s their mission statement:

Root Force (Fuerza Raíz) is a campaign that recognizes the fundamental connection between the oppression of the Earth and the oppression of its people. The precursor to ecocide and genocide is the separation of people from the land so that both can be exploited. Thus Root Force is a biocentric campaign, asserting that no oppression can be overcome without addressing the relationship a society has with the Earth. To achieve either social or ecological justice, we must achieve both.

Therefore, Root Force aims to help dismantle the system that is killing and enslaving our planet and its people. This will be achieved by (1) identifying the system’s strategic weak points, and (2) targeting those points, thus providing an offensive component to existing ecodefense, international solidarity, and anti-colonialist efforts.

One strategic weak point is the U.S. dependence on the resources of Latin America. The exploitation of these resources is dependent on transportation, energy, and communications infrastructure. Hence this U.S.-based campaign focuses its efforts on opposing infrastructure expansion projects in Latin America, such as Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) and the South American Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA).

The campaign provides a framework for people to take effective action in solidarity with local resistance to these projects without traveling to Latin America. It is structured to allow for a diversity of tactics, to be undertaken by a wide network of autonomous individuals and groups.

This seems reasonable enough; in fact, I cannot find any really objectionable position in this mission statement at all. Much of it could easily mesh with the Preamble to the IWW Constitution, so having established that, I find the content of the article itself to be quite disturbing.

Essentially, TURF is miffed that a coalition including Nebraska ranchers and farmers, the Nebraska Farmer’s Union, Bold Nebraska, 350.org, Sierra Club, Credo, and billionaire Tom Steyer are protesting the impending construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline by constructing a wind- and solar- powered barn in its projected pathway.

Granted there are many criticisms one could make of this action, such as the fact that a great many of these folks are capitalists or enablers of capitalists, the fact that Keystone XL is not the only pipeline we need to worry about, or the obvious fact that Keystone could simply build the pipeline somewhere else (there are enough rural counties sufficiently beholden to corporate fossil fuel interests to ram through the permits barn or no barn), but in spite of these shortcomings, there are lot of good things that could be said about the project as well, including—in my opinion at least—the advocacy of renewable energy, such as wind and solar which could allow a state such as Nebraska which has a fairly good abundance of both to potentially generate all of its own electricity and perhaps even export a bit.

No doubt doing so would lessen that state’s reliance on fossil fuels, and though some of those are extracted and refined locally, the impact of those on the environment effects us globally in ways that greatly outweigh any significant impact from wind and solar. Certainly that would seem to fit the mission of Root Force would it not? Evidently the answer is a resounding “no”. Root Force is overwhelmingly opposed to renewable energy arguing that it simply props up the existing system and perpetuates the destruction of the Earth (and to be certain, the Earth First! Journal published Root Force's position paper on renewables in February 2009).

Brown is not Green (and he's no Friend of the Workers Either!)

by x344543, x356039, and x363464 - October 3, 2013

The IWW Environmental Unionist Caucus recently learned that California Governor Jerry Brown will be appearing at an event in San Francisco at 55 Cyril Magnin Street (near Union Square) at 530 PM on Thursday, October 17.

At this event, Jerry Brown will be receiving an award from the Sierra Club and the Blue Green Alliance for "environmental stewardship".

However, Brown is a green washer and a union buster!

In the past few months, Brown has:

  • Signed SB 4 which allows fracking in California;
  • Pushed for the so-called "Peripheral Tunnels" in the Central Valley Delta, a project opposed by environmentalists;
  • (At the behest of corporate developers) Pushed to water down CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act!

He also issued a 60 day cooling off period during the recent BART strike thereby aiding the BART bosses in their ongoing campaign of vicious union busting - detailed at transportworkers.org.

Several environmental groups are protesting this sham award in protest of Brown's green washing. We call for workers to join this protest in opposition to Brown's aiding of union busting!

All out on October 17!

Brown isn't "Blue" or "Green" and he's not the workers' friend!

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Endorsed By:

Bay Area IWW

To add your name or organization as an endorser, contact is at euc@iww.org

Facebook Event Listing

Why Environmentalists Need to Support Transit Workers' Struggles - Solidarity With Bay Area Transit Workers!

By x344543 and x363464 - October 1, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the San Francisco Bay Area union workers at BART and AC Transit are embroiled in bitter contract fights with their bosses. Details on these struggles can be found at the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (TWSC) site: transportworkers.org

Without going into a long analysis why we know this to be true (TWSC has already done that) we simply assert that the demands for concessions by the BART and AC Transit bosses is a result of the austerity measures being demanded of the 99% by the employing class in order for the latter to shore up their sinking capitalist ship.

Rank and file transit workers are organizing a militant response in the face of repression from their bosses (and the wider capitalist class in general) as well as the class collaborationist bureaucrats in their AFL-CIO unions, who simply cannot accept that this assault on the basic rights and livelihoods of trhese workers is happening.

Environmentalists should support the transit workers and oppose the bosses for the following reasons:

  • (1) Contrary to the information you might get from the capitalist media, these workers are not greedy and overpaid. In the Bay Area, an urban megalopolis with one of the highest costs of living in the US, these workers--on average--are barely making enough to survive.
  • (2) The bosses' latest contract offers are full of concessionary demands, and their wage offer amount to a pay cut.
  • (3) The transit bosses are following a pattern being followed by public agencies around the US of funding cuts, union busting, service cutbacks, outsourcing, and privatization.
  • (4) All of these are linked and are part of the systemic functions of capitalism which demands that wealth be continually transferred from the working class to the employing class.
  • (5) Capitalism cannot be reformed and cannot be effectively regulated. Even if temporarily constrained as it was in the Keynesian era, it ultimately seeks a way out of those constraints. Only working class solidarity and organization can effectively check and overcome the power of the employing class.
  • (6) Capitalism is inherently anti-ecological.
  • (7) Because an attack on the transit workers by the employing class enables the latter further, the bosses' actions are also an attack on the environment.
  • Negative consequences to the environment from the bosses actions have and will continue to manifest themselves thusly:

    • Cuts in service (resulting in lower ridership and increased use of personal automobile usage);
    • Cuts in maintenance which risks the safety of workers and commuters as well as causing increased long term wear and tear;
    • Less expansion of service to much needed areas;
    • Anti environmental practices within each agency.
  • (9) The arguments made by the bosses that the above conditions are caused by "workers' greed" are bogus. The bosses make far more by comparison and the real issue is one of allocation of adequate public funds.

Capital Blight - A Visit from the New Flat Earth Society

By x344543 - September 25, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We post a lot of class struggle environmentalist relevant news on our Facebook page, an average of over 75 stories a day. Naturally, we expect them to incite comments and occasional disagreements from any number of directions. Having just surpassed 750 "likes", however, we're just getting started at this point, so we don't expect a lot of the big discussions or debates you might find on the Facebook pages of, say, the Sierra Club, 350.org, or Occupy. Considering that, it was quite a shock to see a contrarian response to this story (shared from DeSmog Blog) from a user named Tom Harris, reading (in part):

It is revealing that almost none of the above piece even addresses the science of the new report. Instead they employ logical fallacy attacks: guilt by association, ad hominem, motive intent, etc. Smart people are not swayed by such rhetorical tricks.

It is humorous that the writer calls the report just issued "the International Climate Science Coalition's report" when it was no such thing. I wish it were. It is a massive, heavily referenced and impressive document - see http://climatechangereconsidered.org/. We are simply helping the publishers (there are three, of which one is Heartland) of this fine book to promote the publication. And no, the funding for the book did not come from industry.

No one involved in this report is a climate change denier. They, the publishers and ICSC know that climate changes all the time and so we must prepare for these changes. We simply question the causes of climate change and do not agree with the politically correct version boosted by the UN IPCC, etc. So we deny that we deny climate change. We are denial deniers, if you want a label.

...Happily for society, especially those of us who want to use the best in science to engage in fact-based environmental protection, the press is indeed paying attention to the NIPCC report—see some of the coverage at the top of our Web site.

The full quote can be read here.

"Just what exactly is going on here and why is any of this relevant?" one might ask. Here is my answer: as Harris states, the ICSC has just published a document called "Climate Change Reconsidered", in a preemptive attempt by the NIPCC to undermine the AR5 report that has just been published by the IPCC.

If you are confused, that's precisely the result that Harris and his ilk have desired by spreading their misinformation. Fortunately there are folks like myself who will try and clear up that confusion and steer you in the right direction.

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