Capital Blight: The Yellow Unions' "Green Coalition" Blues

By x344543 - September 21, 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 a recent In These Times article, Rebecca Burns laments that the recent announcement by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to "open up the labor movement in order to regain political (sic) clout" by partnering with progressive NGOs, such as the Sierra Club, NAACP, and Council de la Raza, has not been well received by more conservative elements within the federation, namely the building trades.

“Giving people a seat where they have governance, and they don't represent workers--that was a bridge too far for lots of folks," Building Construction Trades Department (BCTD) union President Sean McGarvey told the (Wall Street) Journal. McGarvey, whose union has been a strong backer of the Keystone XL Pipeline because of the jobs it will create, also said that the Sierra Club’s attempts to dissuade the AFL-CIO from issuing a resolution supporting the pipeline last year “just highlighted the audacity of people in the radical environmental movement trying to influence the policy of the labor movement.”

There are so many problems with that statement (from McGarvey and Burns alike) it's difficult to know where to begin.

McGarvey's claim that Keystone XL Pipeline is being opposed by people in the "radical environmental movement" (and his identification of the Sierra Club of all organizations as being the leader of it) is absurd. The very idea that the Sierra Club is the leader of the "radical" environmental movement, or even radical at all is nonsense. The big NGOs opposing the project include Corporate Ethics International, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, 350.org, National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Rainforest Action Network, and as we have pointed out, these groups are anything but radical. Furthermore, Over 1,000,000 individuals have gone on record as opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, and it's highly unlikely that they're all "radical" in any sense, and don't get me wrong, it would be nice if they were, but I'm a realist! Does McGarvey understand that many of these people are union workers? Would McGarvey also include the growing number of unions who've gone on record opposing Keystone XL?

One might want to ask McGarvey to what extent the building trades themselves represent workers, because the evidence suggest that for the most part, they represent the capitalist class more than anything else. He also doth protest too much, because those so-called "radical" environmentalists, for the most part are fixated primarily on Keystone XL and ignoring the other pipelines--such as the Bluegrass Pipeline, Enbridge's Line 9, Transcanada East, and others--a strategy which Barack Obama might use to expedite the latter. Fortunately, the real radical environmentalists (who're not beyond criticism, certainly) are focused on those and doing quite well at fighting them.

In any case, McGarvey has little to worry about, because what Trumka is proposing is hardly anything close to a meaningful Blue-Green alliance and is, more likely than not, going to be more old wine in new bottles, namely building coalitions to keep the labor movement (and the progressive NGOs) firmly tied to capitalism and the Democratic Party. If the AFL-CIO's combined efforts with the Sierra Club et. al. amount to anything more than intensified lobbying and get-out-the-vote (for Democrats--and even occasionally Republicans) it will be a huge surprise.

Capital Blight – Dealing in Doubt, Austerity, and Lung Cancer

By x344543 - September 19, 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.

The venerable environmental organization Greenpeace has fired a broadside at the science denial wing of the capitalist class with a scathing new report, Dealing in Doubt. This 67 page document argues, convincingly, that all of the claims that global warming is not caused by human activity are manufactured pseudoscience, and furthermore, those responsible are all linked to the fossil fuel industry, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the Koch Brothers. Much of this has happened under the cover of a front group known as “the Heartland Institute”.

The working class (and the broader “99%”) should care a great deal about this report, because (although Greenpeace doesn’t come out and say it) the very same interests that are going to great lengths to deny that climate change is happening at an accelerated pace due to (capitalist) human activity are the very same that are also pushing the broader capitalist class in general to engage in increased class warfare, which includes stepped up austerity measures, union busting, statist repression, and the transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1%. Likewise, the same forces attempting to spread pseudoscientific nonsense about global warming either mot existing or being the result of “natural causes” are those who tried for years to obscure the truth about the links between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

The key players in this unholy cadre (other than the aforementioned forces) include a veritable who’s who of right wing and so-called “libertarian” (read market fundamentalist) think tanks, and yes, the Joseph Coors founded Heritage Foundation (whose original purpose was to destroy private sector unionism in the United States) is one of the big contributors to these efforts.

Capital Blight - Wolves and Foxes

By x344543 and x374946 - September 15, 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.

"Tell me, friend, when did Saruman the Wise abandon reason for madness?"

Naomi Klein, author of the books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine and recent keynote speaker at the founding conference of the newly minted Canadian mega-union UNIFOR has touched off an explosion of controversy for her statements in an interview with Jason Mark of Earth Island Journal by stating:

"I think there is a very deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results."

This quote--essentially an echo of Malcolm X's "Fox and Wolf" analogy of white liberals and conservatives--was paraphrased, somewhat carelessly and out of context and used as the headline which read: "Naomi Klein: Green Groups May Be More Damaging Than Climate Change Deniers".

This is not really a new revelation. One need only research the details of David Brower's battles with more conservative elements within the Sierra Club in the 1960s (which ultimately led to the latter's endorsing the construction of Diablo Canyon Nuke by PG&E as opposed to a more unpopular site at Bodega Bay over the objections of then executive director Brower who opposed nuclear power altogether) which was one of the major events which ultimately led to the formation of Earth First! by 1980.

To Stave Off Zombie Apocalypse, Organize a New Society Within the Shell of the Old

By x365097 - Southern Maine IWW, July 13, 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.

Let’s think back to late summer, 2008 — half a decade ago, right about now. It had been more than five years since the invasion of Iraq by the US, and nearly six years since the invasion of Afghanistan. The PATRIOT Act was still in the news, there was massive anti-Bush agitation from liberals and the left, and many people were looking forward to a change of regime — any change — in 2009.

The financial catastrophe that would soon arrive, however, punctuating the presidency of George W. Bush like a second 9/11, would make matters unfathomably worse, complicating the US economy for years to come and paving the way for the austerity agenda to trample workers’ hard-won economic rights like Orwell’s proverbial jackboot to the face. Of course, there had been preliminary signs of trouble; those had been plain to see. But when the blows finally started hammering down, they caught almost everyone unprepared.

Individualist survivalists, already bolstered by the much-hyped threat of terrorism, came out of the woodwork to sell emergency water filters and K-rations to the gullible and (somewhat justifiably) afraid. The average American worker hunkered down, usually alone or with a few family members, and prayed that the worst — a foreclosure, an eviction — might pass them by. And the media told us endless stories about the struggle to survive amid the mindless hordes who would ravage the remains when it all finally broke down outside the “Green Zone” of Wall Street.

It didn’t — and still doesn’t — have to be this way.

Capital Blight - They Really Don't Know Clouds At All.

By x344543 - September 9, 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 recent discussion among IWW members about whether or not to change the default delivery option for the union's official organ, the Industrial Worker, from hard copy to PDF has touched on a larger debate over the "greenness" of "the cloud."(the many data centers that form the backbone of the Internet).

My attention was drawn to this debate by one of my fellow worker's reaction to the following statement from the current editor of our union's venerable publication, the Industrial Worker in reference to a change in the default option from a paper copy to an emailed PDF:

Go paperless, live in harmony with the earth and help save the union money!"

The union implemented this change to cut costs. The apparent environmental benefits are merely coincidental, though it's gratifying to see that the membership is taking the environmental tenets of the IWW Preamble seriously.

My aforementioned fellow Wobbly took exception to this statement thusly:

From some of what I have read, the physical maintenance of the digital world is anything but green, even though the idea that computers = lower pollution and energy consumption is to be found pretty much everywhere these days.

Below is a link to an article from the New York Times on the subject.  One of the key points is how much of the energy -- about 90-94% -- is wasted just keeping servers idling in case they need to be pulled in as backups.

The specific article he referenced, Power, Pollution, and the Internet actually quotes a slightly lower figure of 88 - 93%, but more about that later.

He then offered the following quotation to emphasize a comparison between data centers and the paper industry:

Nationwide, data centers used about 76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, or roughly 2 percent of all electricity used in the country that year, based on an analysis by Jonathan G. Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University who has been studying data center energy use for more than a decade.

Datacenter Dynamics, a London-based firm, derived similar figures.

The industry has long argued that computerizing business transactions and everyday tasks like banking and reading  library books has the net effect of saving energy and resources. But the paper industry, which some predicted would be replaced by the computer age, consumed 67 billion kilowatt-hours from the grid in 2010, according to Census Bureau figures reviewed by the Electric Power Research Institute for The Times.

Skepticism of any capitalist industry's claims to be "green" should be regarded as healthy, but that skepticism should be followed by careful examination of all of the facts.

Common Misconceptions and Entangled Histories: a Review of Jonathan K London's Academic Revisionism of Earth First! - IWW Local #1

By x344543 - August 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.

In my efforts to uncover as much potentially useful information as I can for the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus's website, the results of which generally wind up in our Green Unionism library, I occasionally come across an unexpected nugget of gold. Other times, it turns out to be iron pyrite (Fool's Gold). Such was the case with Jonathan K London's muddled academically oriented article, "Common Roots and Entangled Limbs: Earth First! and the Growth of Post-Wilderness on California's North Coast", published in Antipode 30:2 in 1988.

The article begins auspiciously describing the pioneering "green syndicalism" of Earth First! - IWW Local #1, as led by Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, Greg King, et. al. London observes that Local #1 (which he describes mainly as "North Coast Earth First!"--that the IWW's role in that history is frequently omitted is not the fault of London):

"offer(ed) the promise of a truly radical movement, by which I mean one that truly confront(ed) capital’s interlinked degradation of both natural and human communities. This article examines the efforts by the North Coast Earth First! to inscribe a new community of activists and timber workers joined in the struggle to contest corporate claims on the redwood forest."

These conclusions match my own direct experiences, having worked alongside Bari, Cherney, and others between 1995-98 and having helped usher in what ultimately became the "Blue-Green Alliance" (that this effort was co-opted by reformist elements was sadly beyond our control).

Having established this, London unfortunately proceeds to the very dubious conclusion that Local 1 ultimately alienated the timber workers with whom they achieved common ground by, "by redefining the redwood forest as the exclusive property of the activists themselves."

A careful examination of London's presentation of the information in which he attempts (vainly) to make his case reveals that he offers no substantive proof to make such a conclusion, and what historical accounts he does reference are carelessly cited out of historical continuity and context. It betrays a lack of deep understanding of the actual issues, and instead suggests a very shallow--perhaps even sectarian--examination of what really happened in the so called "Timber Wars".

Reinventing the Wheel - The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

By x356039 - August 12, 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 discussions of climate change one item often overlooked is one of the most surprisingly obvious: food. Without any doubt the modern industrial food system is incredibly destructive to the environment. The carbon emissions, runoff from feedlots, use of pesticides and other toxins, and the impact of genetically manipulated frankenfood on ecosystems are all proven environmental consequences of factory farming. In spite of these factors industrialized food is often very far down on the list of mainstream environmental activists' priorities.

The relative lack of emphasis is not surprising. When it comes to climate change the first targets of efforts are usually the fossil fuel industry and rightfully so. It is thanks to their activities we are facing a climate crisis in the first place. On top of that agribusiness and their supporters have for decades made the case their methods are what the world needs to keep everyone fed. These claims often go unchallenged with food activists focusing more on the health consequences and nutritional benefits of natural, organic food over factory food. Thanks to these factors the mainstream discourse is not whether or not we should ditch fake food but seeking the best balance between factory food & real food.

This status quo suit agribusiness just fine for a very simple reason. Contrary to their most strident claims organic farming can not only feed the entire world, In some cases it can do it better. According to a report released by the United Nations FAO in 2007 organic farming techniques, when implemented in a comprehensive fashion, are capable of yielding as much in terms of crops as “traditional” factory farming. Quite contrary to the claims by more moderate voices it is very possible to do this without the use of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically mutilated crops, or any of the other dubious hallmarks of fossil fuel farming. Even more impressively organic farming performs up to 60% better in drought-prone areas like Ethiopia than high cost, high maintenance, highly destructive factory farming.

Capital Blight: Reflections on the August 3rd, 2013 Protest in Richmond, California

By x344543 - August 11, 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 Saturday, August 3, 2013, I--along with approximately 3500 others--attended the Summer Heat: Together we Can Stop Climate Chaos rally, jointly organized by 350.org and a coalition of local environmental and social justice groups.

The coalescing of these forces reflected a confluence of several factors, including:

  • The struggle of a predominantly people of color community to wrangle some justice for the environmental and economic transgressions committed by the Chevron corporation, which has for all intents and purposes run Richmond like a company town (and this corporation's refinery--a piece of the once ubiquitous Standard Oil monopoly--actually existed before the town which we now call Richmond was established);
  • A massive explosion and fire that occurred at the refinery a year previously, which investigations later revealed was due to corroded pipes, which refinery workers complained about to management, but were allowed to let stand, lest the company's profits be lessened by so much as a penny;
  • Chevron's connection to the extraction of tar sands from Alberta and elsewhere which represent a form of "extreme energy" which endangers the environment, workers, and communities along the transport routes of this stuff (whether by train, truck, ship, or pipeline), and has already caused massive devastation and death in Kalamazoo, Minnesota; Lac Megantic, Quebec, and Mayflower, Arkansas, just to name a few places; and
  • The increasing realization that continued unabated use (and increased use) of fossil fuels (and for that matter, capitalism in general) has the human race on a collision course with doom, because (capitalist) human caused global warming--which has already progressed past the dangerous two degrees Celsius threshold that gives 350.org its name--will almost certainly condemn the human race, and quite likely all of the Earth, to a Venus like end, and must be stopped...yesterday.

Due to the participation of my fellow IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus members, Elliot and Ryan, an idea that they planted as a seed blossomed into a sizable labor contingent, composed of over thirty unions--including the Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch--that endorsed the rally and participated as an organized force in one way or another. The idea became so popular within the coalition organizing this particular campaign, that 350.org hired an organizer, Brooke Anderson, to make it happen--which she did to great effect. Ultimately 208 participants, including all three of us, my wife, 350.org spokesman Bill McKibben, ILWU Local 6 president Fred Pecker, and Richmond's mayor, Gayle McLauglin.

The event began with a meet-up at the Richmond BART station--the Bay Area's principal public transit system--an electric heavy rail network, whose union workers--represented by various ATU and SEIU Locals were embroiled in a nasty labor dispute with the agency's management and had (before the date of the rally) engaged in a one-week strike. Due to my efforts, and in no small part because I am a transit worker myself, a ferryboat deckhand at another one of the Bay Area's public transit systems, I suggested to Anderson that she make overtures to the BART workers as workers who work as part of the solution to capitalist fossil-fuel driven climate change; she agreed. At the other end of the equation, as a member of the rank and file opposition caucus, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, to which several rank and file members from the various BART unions have since joined, I pushed for the committee to reciprocate; they did.

As one would expect, corporate media coverage of the event, while extensive, was overall mediocre to atrocious.

We're Getting Tanked: New EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Loosens Frack Tank Rules

By x362102 - Originally posted at We Are Power Shift, August 6, 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 2012, the Obama's EPA Air Division under newly installed EPA Adminstrator Gina McCarthy issued new rules for emissions from natural gas production, specifically, the wastewater and condensate tanks present on the well pads after hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" has taken place. The new restrictions required gas companies to reduce the amount of harmful Volatile Organic Compounds and cancer-causing chemicals like benzene up to 95 percent.

The deadline to do so was October 15, 2013, but not anymore.

Condensate tanks in shale gas operations collect liquids that come up from a fracked well and are separated using a glycol separator onsite before the gas is sent into transmission pipelines. Those liquids form a toxic brine that is trucked to EPA-permitted Class 2 injection wells, waste "treatment" facilities, or "recycled" for the next fracking operation by removing the solids which are sent to landfills as "frack cake".

Many of these condensate tanks are present in rural people's yards, where their children play, and the technology to control the tanks' emissions has been available for years, but has not been put into use largely because the oil and gas industry would rather avoid the cost and generate extra revenue for their shareholders.

Today, Gina McCarthy, who has also extended the deadline for gas well flaring until 2015, supported massive subsidies for natural gas vehicles, and proposed sub-par CO2 emission standards for natural gas power plants, gave another hand out to her friends in the trillion dollar oil and gas industry. The EPA says it's because they claimed hardship during the public comment period for these new frack tank rules.

The EPA is now allowing operators to wait until as late as April 15, 2015 to comply, an 18 month extenstion.

Don't "Stand With Gina" on Natural Gas

By x362102 - Originally posted at We Are Power Shift, July 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.

I drafted this open letter to SaveOurEnvironment.org's board and staff because they are the predominant source of social media praising new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. From their website, their coalition partners include: American Rivers, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environment America, Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters – Education Fund, National Audubon Society, Pew Environment Group, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, The Ocean Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, Union of Concerned Scientists, and World Wildlife Fund.

Letters like these, expressing environmental justice concerns to Big Green organizations, should never have to be written. When conference room decisions are being made to endorse candidates, policies, and plans of action in their Washington, New York, or San Francisco headquarters, attention should be paid to the consequences for frontline communities, especially those of us in the shalefields. Enough has been said and written about how our communities' concerns have been ignored or sacrificed by these national environmental groups in the past. It's time that those words materialize into action, and that should start with their approach to Gina McCarthy and the Obama administration's dead end climate plan that emphasizes dirty energies as false solutions.

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