Book Review: Green Syndicalism - an Alternative Red/Green Vision, by Jeff Shantz

By x344543 - July 24, 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 have known of Jeff Shantz now for several years, having been an IWW member since 1995, having also been a subscriber to (and for half a decade the web administrator for) Anarcho-Syndicalist Review (to which he was a frequent contributor), and having run in radical environmentalist circles during the last years of Judi Bari's life (1995-97).

Neither he nor I have crossed paths until just recently, and that is largely due to the emergence of the IWW's Environmental Unionist Caucus (EUC). In forging the IWW EUC, we looked primarily to four sources for our inspiration:

(1) The IWW and its rich history, which--according to our late Fellow Worker Franklin Rosemont--has a good deal of nascent "green syndicalist" tendencies which are not well studied (and Rosemont did a fair share of his own);

(2) The pioneering efforts of Earth First! - IWW Local #1, organized and led by the late Judi Bari, which put what Jeff Shantz calls "green syndicalism" into the most advanced practice known about in the redwood forests of northwestern California from 1988-98;

(3) The Australian Green Bans of the early 1970s; and

(4) Contemporary movements in opposition to fracking, tar sands, and mountain top removal coal mining, with particular attention paid to the indigenous peoples' leadership of these campaigns.

I have also suggested we look to the efforts of three additional inspirations, these being Chico Mendes, Helen Keller, and Karen Silkwood, because there are many insights we can gain from their experiences, and far too little has been written about them.

In his book, Green Syndicalism - an Alternative Red/Green Vision, Shantz focuses primarily on Local 1 and Judi Bari, describing her work as representing one of the only examples of fully developed "green syndicalism" put into practice, even if on a limited scale.

To Shantz, "green syndicalism" succeeds where all other environmental movements and class struggle tendencies fail, because it alone addresses the shortcomings of the others.

Going Green at the Cost of Workers’ Safety

By Emmett J. Nolan - Reposted from Recomposition Blog, July 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.

The issue I’m writing about may seem rather trivial to some readers. To be honest, I too was shocked that my co-workers and I had to fight so hard to be heard on such a small and seemingly obvious issue. The issue which management picked to draw a line in the sand over was providing a trash can in the dining area of the café I work at. Yes, a trash can. Something most customers and workers take for granted. Rightfully so, because who could imagine a counter service café with a bus your own table practice operating without a trash can?

In an effort to make the company more green, a composting service was hired and new compostable packaging materials were chosen. Now, compostable items were separated from recycling and garbage. A part of this change included removing all four of the trash cans within the dining and patio area of the café. The cans weren’t replaced with a sorting station like many other businesses had done. Instead the company replaced them with a sign that read:

[COMPANY'S NAME]

Composts & Recycles

Please Put Everything

In the Bus Tubs (Dishes, Trash, Recycling & Food)

We’ll take care of the sorting.

By not having a sorting station or a at least a trash can, management claimed it could ensure that all items would be properly sorted and that items that could be composted would not be mixed in with the garbage or vice versa. This was to demonstrate the company’s commitment to green business practices. Even though we were in a hyper-green-conscious city in which residents are trained to sort, recycle and compost whereever they go or otherwise feel guilty about not doing so, the company didn’t think its customers were capable of sorting their own garbage.

Capital Blight: Alliances Between Workers and Environmentalists Must be Built from the Ground Up

By x344543 - July 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.

It's a commonly expressed hope among younger, radical environmentalist activists that Judi Bari's vision of "green syndicalism" (worker lead reorganization of the new world within the shell of the old into a post capitalist, post technocratic, biocentric society) will manifest itself by big AFL-CIO unions--such as the building trades, UMWA, Teamsters, etc., refusing to build or operate the machinery that is destroying the environment, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline or the trains transporting coal, or the ships exporting that coal to China.

They recall the "Teamsters and Turtles" coalition that sprang up during the anti-WTO demonstrations on November 30, 1999 in Seattle; they might mention the Earth First! alliance with the United Steelworkers (at Kaiser Aluminum) against Maxxam the previous year; some invoke the Australian "Green Bans" that saved Kelly's Bush in Hunter's Hill (New South Wales) in the early 1970s, where construction workers refused to construct a building that would destroy one of the last remaining open spaces in that community.

These are all real examples to be sure, but they represent the exception--not the rule--and that realization leaves some wondering why, while others--like Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman--simply write the workers off.

Both views are wrong in my opinion, because both fail to understand the depths of the problem. They might respond by asking how Judi Bari was able to succeed, including co-founding what came to be known as Earth First! - IWW Local #1, made up of environmentalists and timber workers, where others failed, and why others cannot simply replicate her efforts. I am certain others can, but we must recognize what made Judi Bari's efforts so special and unique to begin with: she correctly recognized the union officialdom (not to mention the leadership of the mainstream environmental organizations) as typically being part of the problem and not the solution.

Bay Area IWW Endorses August 3rd "Summer Heat" Action in Richmond, California!

At its July business meeting, the Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW endorsed the following event:

This May marked an ominous milestone on our rush past the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  As CO2 exceeds 400 parts per million, the moment has come to do “hard, important, powerful things” to stop the large-scale burning of fossil fuels. These are the words of the organizers of 350.org’s national Summer Heat campaign—Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Sandra Steingraber, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, who are asking that we turn up the heat, show up and speak out “to the industry that’s wrecking our future.”

As part of Summer Heat events all across the country (see JoinSummerHeat.org), 350.org and its allies invite you to come together in a momentous West Coast mass action to declare our collective resistance to fossil fuels. We hope this will be one of the largest climate justice protests ever. Please join 350 Bay Area, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, No Keystone Action Council, Idle No More, San Francisco Solidarity, Urban Tilth, and Gathering Tribes on August 3rd and 6th to stand with the people of Richmond, California who are in the frontlines in our common fight for the health and safety of our communities, and against accelerating climate change.

On August 3rd, three days before the one-year anniversary of the Chevron refinery explosion and fire, we will gather at 10am at the Richmond BART to march to a spirited rally with national and regional leaders in the fight against climate catastrophe.  (Full schedule is at JoinSummerHeat.org/bay; bus available for non-walkers.) The rally will be followed by a march to the gates of the Chevron refinery with the following demands:

  • NO KEYSTONE XL TAR SANDS PIPELINE.
  • NO MORE LIFE-THREATENING HAZARDS. Chevron and other Bay Area refineries shall prevent future spills, fires and explosions by retrofitting with the best and safest technology available.
  • NO REFINING OF DIRTY CRUDE.  Refining high-sulfur, low-quality tar sands and fracked oil increases greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants. It also seriously corrodes refinery machinery, which contributes to major industrial accidents.
  • NO MORE CORPORATE TAX EVASION.  Chevron shall pay its fair share of taxes to City, County, State and Federal agencies, and stop all frivolous litigation relating to these matters.
  • NO MORE POLLUTING OUR DEMOCRACY.  Chevron invests more in lobbying and manipulating elections with outrageous campaign contributions than it does in plant safety. Big Oil’s injection of mega-bucks into the political process ensures its continuing domination of energy policy.
  • A JUST TRANSITION FROM DIRTY FOSSIL FUELS TO UNION JOBS IN CLEAN ENERGY.              Government and Big Oil shall invest in high-quality union jobs in clean energy for local residents. Chevron needs to support Richmond’s long-term transition to a renewable energy-based economy that’s good for people and the planet.

Earth First! and the IWW, Part 3 - Tree Spikes and Wedges

By x344543 - Industrial Worker, July 2013

When Greg King and Darryl Cherney cofounded Southern Humboldt County Earth First! in 1986, the principle target of their actions was the now Maxxam controlled Pacific Lumber Company. Sensing that the 800-plus Pacific Lumber workers--of which almost 350 had made it known in a full page ad that they opposed the Maxxam takeover--and the environmentalists shared a common adversary, King and Cherney tailored their campaign to the workers as well as the forest itself. Their earliest demonstrations conveyed the message that this particular Earth First! group at least, was concerned for the future of the loggers and millworkers as much as they were for the redwoods and the flora and fauna that depended on it.

A good number of the workers welcomed this show of solidarity, and a handful of them, including shipping clerk John Maurer, millworker Kelly Bettiga, mechanic Lester Reynolds, and company blacksmith (whose job primarily consisted of forging specialized logging equipment needed for the cutting of the unique redwoods), Pete Kayes--who would eventually join the IWW, engaged in regular, amicable dialog with the environmentalists.

At first, Maxxam largely ignored the protests and dissidents but as Earth First!'s efforts gained momentum and support, and as more workers began to grumble about their mandatory overtime and question the now rapacious timber harvesting efforts, the bosses began to take the growing grassroots resistance more seriously. An unprecedented spate of successful legal challenges by a local environmental watchdog group called EPIC under a hitherto inconsistently enforced California forestry practices act was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Using the PR Firm Hill & Knowlton and stoking the ego of the more conservative "scissorbill" employees, Maxxam fomented the creation of a "timber worker" front group known as Taxpayers for the Environment and its Management (TEAM). The organization initiated an intense propaganda campaign accusing the environmentalists of being "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" whose sole aim was to destroy the economic well being of the humble residents of Humboldt (and Mendocino) county(s). TEAM claimed to be composed entirely of timber workers, but it was ACTUALLY largely made up of low level managers, gyppo operators, and assorted ranchers, many of whom belonged to other, similar front groups, such as one called WECARE, that had previously exaggerated the differences between workers and environmentalists.

Reinventing the Wheel - The Question of “Rare” Earths

By x356039 - June 26, 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.

Rare earths often have the same effect on a conversation on renewable energy as a bucket of cold water to the face. With China's near-total monopoly on their production and refinement coupled with their necessity for producing green energy technology such as wind turbines many see rare earths as a question of trading Saudi oil barons for Chinese mining magnates. Others decry the environmental damage done by the mining and refinement processes, arguing the cost outweighs any benefit from green energy. In the eyes of many the issue of rare earths makes solar and wind power dead ends, effectively short-circuiting any green energy revolution. Such preconceptions are based on incomplete, inaccurate, and insufficient reporting on the real story behind rare earths.

Capital Blight: Old Wine in New Bottles; Why Obama's "Bold" Announcement on Climate Change Gives the Fossil Fuel Industry Just About Everything it Wants.

By x344543, June 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.

Count me as being among those  who find little to cheer about in Barack Obama's so-called "bold" speech on Climate Change.

Yes, it's true that he called for an end to big oil tax subsidies, but he offered no specific plan on how he would make that happen (and very likely the US Congress and Senate, who are the bodies that actually craft the budgets the President must sign into law, most of whose members are deeply indebted to the fossil fuel industry for campaign contributions are not going to bite the hands that feed them).

Yes, he called for an end to public financing for new coal plants overseas, but he said nothing about putting an end to public financing of new domestic coal plants, nor did he say anything about regulating coal exports.  

According to the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC):

"He directed the Environmental Protection Agency to put an 'end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution' from new and existing power plants. IF EPA comes up with a good regulation for existing power plants, this will be exceptionally good news and long overdue. If this regulation takes a political eternity to adopt and doesn’t require significant reductions or allows broad exemptions, then this regulation won’t be worth the paper it is written on."

I agree and want to add to that that both the EPA, OSHA, and other regulatory agencies whose mandates are to regulate the environmental, labor, and business practices of such activities are either routinely understaffed or under the directorship of capitalist representatives of the very businesses that are supposed to be regulated. It's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you cannot leave the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Reinventing the Wheel - Kicking the Oil Habit

By x356039 - June 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.

Oil. It is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room at every discussion of climate, energy, and the economy. Our society is unquestionably addicted to it, with the United States consuming a whopping 19.1 million barrels of oil every day. When the total energy used is converted from barrels of oil to watt hours the figure is staggering. Running in at 31 terawatt hours per day, this massively dwarfs all energy consumed in the electric grid which runs in at a much smaller 4 terawatt hours daily. Much of this goes to running our transportation networks, providing fuel for trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes across the country before we even start looking at military consumption. With how incredibly ubiquitous oil is for our economy it is no surprise mainstream environmentalists talk of slowly phasing it out as opposed to going cold turkey on the black stuff, implying one more hit won't put us over the edge.

This is all based on the assumption that we do not have the means to go off of oil. Even renewable energy production is caught in its sticky web. Yet there is hope. The current potential for renewable energy is so great that if we implemented it on a sufficiently large scale even the massive demand for energy the oil economy supports could be met. As was established in a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study released in 2008 if 7% of all commercial and residential rooftops in the United States were fitted with photovoltaic solar panels our electric power demand of 4.05 terawatt hours per day would be completely satisfied. Now granted oil does provide for 33.8 terawatt hours of energy per day so how could solar meet that demand? If we increased the number of solar panels to cover 65% of all residential and commercial rooftops in the United States the massive thirst for oil would be quenched by clean, free sunlight.

A Tale Of Two Explosions

By Andy Piascik - Industrial Worker, June 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 April 17, two days after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the West Fertilizer plant in Texas exploded. Fourteen people are known to have been killed and close to 200 were injured. Approximately 150 buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed.

For days, we were witness to nonstop media coverage of the events in Massachusetts, culminating in the arrest of Dzokhar Tsarnaev. Once Tsarnaev was in custody, our television screens were alight with footage of local residents celebrating happily in the streets, complete with chants of “USA!” Though media coverage of the events in Texas was extensive, it was nowhere near that of the pursuit and killing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the arrest of Dzokhar Tsarnaev.

The possibility that the bombing in Boston was the work of international terrorists was a major theme from the outset and the primary reason for the huge disparity in coverage of the two events. U.S. officials and media pundits have besieged us for years with the notion that we are at war, surrounded by enemies—they’re even in our midst!—so let’s be sure those SWAT teams have plenty of firepower, and by the way, let’s find another country to invade.

The explosion in Texas, on the other hand, was far less newsworthy because it was a workplace accident and workplace accidents happen all the time. And that’s precisely the point: they happen all the time. The massive BP oil spill is just three years in the past, yet it is largely forgotten by the punditocracy.

Never mind the massive ecological destruction and the 11 people who died as a result, or that not one single high-ranking BP executive or U.S. government official has been charged, let alone tried or convicted, for their deadly negligence. It’s old news and, more importantly, it’s business as usual. Similarly relegated to the “no longer newsworthy” file is Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia, which also occurred three short years ago and killed 29 miners. As with BP, no high-ranking Massey executives or government officials have been brought to trial or convicted, though the trail of deceit, cover-up, documented negligence and possible bribery is long enough to fill a phone book. Some degree of justice is still possible in the Texas case but it certainly won’t come as a result of any government or judicial vigilance. In all of these cases, as in hundreds if not thousands of others of similar magnitude, so-called oversight bodies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are so weak as to be a joke. Higher-ups who underfund and obstruct the work of such agencies are thus complicit each time a workplace blows up or burns to the ground.

The IWW And Earth First! - Part 2: The Crucible

By X344543 - Industrial Worker, June 2013

The IWW connection to Earth First! was, believe it or not, woven in the woof. In fact, as far as the two organizations’ struggles with the timber bosses go, both could be said to have been forged from the same crucible: the Humboldt County town of Eureka in northwestern California, the de facto capital of the Redwood Empire.

Long before the IWW joined in Earth First!’s (ultimately successful) struggles to save Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County, the roots of that struggle began with the workers’ struggles against the timber bosses.

In the formative years of the timber industry in the United States and Canada—the last third of the 19th century—working conditions were abysmal. Then, as now, timber was one of the top five most dangerous industrial jobs in the world. Timber workers were subjected to long hours, dangerous working conditions, unsanitary labor camps, company towns (where the employer was literally the government) and no job security. The bosses, meanwhile, were making a killing on the backs of both the workers and the environment. Vast amounts of standing timber were held by what would soon evolve into modern timber corporations, and not too few of them had acquired their holdings through graft and very questionable homesteading laws.

This was no exception in the Redwood Empire. In Eureka, the California Redwood Company (CRC), whose owners were European capitalists, was one of the worst examples. Workers at the CRC, many of whom were populists—including a butcher by the name of Charles Keller, who was a member of the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA)—formed the very first union of timber workers in North America to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Together, they exposed the CRC’s graft, in spite of vigilante mobs organized by the CRC and the other companies as well as yellow jour nalism and slander by the local press. The union didn’t secure recognition, but they did improve working conditions slightly, and the CRC was forced to shut down.

The story of the IWW’s LumberWorkers Industrial Union and its successful fight for the eight-hour day is well documented elsewhere, but what is not well known is that, while the IWW never gained much of a foothold in the Redwood Empire (its successes were concentrated mostly in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana), its influence was felt there nonetheless.

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