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Wrong Again!

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 6, 2014

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.

Our regular readers know that we tend to be quite critical of the business unions and the big green NGOs for their continued slavish alliance with capitalism, and knowing this, they should not be shocked that--once again--the increasingly ineffectual and coopted Blue Green Alliance is in our sights.

In case you didn't know, the Blue Green Alliance is a coalition of business unions and environmental organizations that ostensibly advocates for building bridges between the labor movement and the environmental movement, with a specific focus towards "green jobs" and "sustainable development". Each year, the alliance issues a "Right Stuff Award" to "business, government, environmental, labor, and community leaders who promote a sustainable economy and environment". This year, they say, their awards will honor "leaders for their work on building a 21st century energy infrastructure."

Based on their choice of Obama's Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, one has to be wondering if the Blue Green Alliance knows what century they're in, or perhaps whether or not the Alliance has an oddball definition of what 21st century infrastructure is, exactly. You see, the last time I checked, Ernest Moniz has deep ties to the fossil fuel, fracking and nuclear industries. He has served on advisory boards for oil giant BP and General Electric, and was a trustee of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, a Saudi Aramco-backed nonprofit organization. In 2011, Moniz was the chief author of an influential study for MIT on the future of natural gas. According to a new report by the Public Accountability Initiative, Moniz failed to disclose that he had taken a lucrative position at a pro-drilling firm called ICF International just days before a key natural gas "fracking" study was released.

This doesn't sound very green to me. If anything, it's more like a greenwash. Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the so-called Blue Green Alliance.

Chapter 33 : The Ghosts of Mississippi Will be Watchin’

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

Now when the timber barons heard the news they geared up for the fight,
And we laughed away the death threats and we cried to sleep each night,
And the media walked right into our homes,
As if they really were one of our own.
Now Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney left this little racist town,
Drove down that Mississippi highway to the place they would bed down,
But in the mirror they could see the Sheriff’s light,
No, they never did make it home that night.

—lyrics excerpted from Ghosts of Mississippi, by Darryl Cherney, 2004 [1]

Now Judi Bari is an Earth First! organizer,
The California Redwoods are her home,
She called for Redwood Summer,
Where the owl and the black bear roam;
Charlie Hurwitz he runs Maxxam out of Houston,
Harry Merlo runs L-P from Portland town,
They’re the men they call ‘King Timber’,
They know how to cut you down;
And Shep Tucker spewed their hatred,
As Candy Boak laid out their scam,
John Campbell called for violence,
It was no secret what they planned…

—lyrics excerpted from Who Bombed Judi Bari?, by Darryl Cherney, 1990 [2]

Judi Bari didn’t have time to be frightened. Even though the organizers of the coming season of protests shortened the name “Mississippi Summer of the California Redwoods” simply to “Redwood Summer,” the situation—she thought—was starting to more and more resemble the violent and threatening conditions of the original Mississippi Freedom Summer anyway.

While the Public Interest and Environmental Law Conference was in progress in Oregon, the representatives of font-family: "Times New Roman","serif"">Corporate Timber on California’s North Coast were in the process of polishing their image. Louisiana Pacific, Pacific Lumber, and Simpson through the auspices of yet another front group known as the “North Coast Forest Industry” (NCFI)—which had existed quietly for twelve years—created a series of advertisements promoting themselves as “good neighbors”, “economically beneficial to the local economies” of Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, and “careful stewards” of the region’s forests. The campaign included radio spots and full page ads in the region’s local and corporate newspapers. The NCFI didn’t merely limit itself to representatives from the three corporations and the local gyppo firms, however. It opened up its membership to other local businesses, ostensibly because they depended upon the timber economy for their own viability, but more likely because the NCFI also functioned like the “good citizens’ leagues” of old ensuring loyalty to the dominant power. One such business owner speaking approvingly of the effort declared, “The only way that the timber industry makes the newspaper is if somebody is sitting in one of their trees or chained to the back of one of their logging trucks.” [3]

The NCFI campaign was ironic, given the fact that the north coast timber corporations had been producing such ads already for years, particularly in the Eureka Times-Standard, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Ukiah Daily Journal, and (naturally) the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance. In fact, the bias was so blatant, that even a few readers of the last publication had already been incensed enough to accuse the editor of “shameless corporate bootlicking”. [4] The effort nevertheless brought many local employers into the fold, and following the ads, the NCFI’s membership increased by 30 to 40 members from its original membership of barely one dozen. [5]

Two days after the NCFI announced its campaign, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s, Ukiah bureau chief and head timber reporter, Mike Geniella, wrote a fairly extensive and article about the Mississippi Summer of the California Redwoods, or “Redwood Summer” as it was now being called. One week previously, Bari, Cherney, and other North Coast Earth First!ers had made their presentation to the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) who had held a conference in Sacramento. The SEAC organizers had been so inspired that they agreed to include the Redwood Summer organizing call out in their newsletter. “They (sent it) to thousands of colleges in the United States”, commented Betty Ball. [6] Over the course of the next two weeks, the story made national press wires, and thousands of people suddenly began showing interest in what was happening behind the so-called “Redwood Curtain”. [7] The Timber Association of California, a supporter of the NCFI was not pleased. Speaking on their behalf, Kevin Eckery declared, “(it) trivializes the real sacrifices made in Mississippi as part of the Civil Rights movement. The situation (here) doesn’t hardly seem to be the same.” [8] He would soon be proven very wrong, and in a sense, he was wrong from the get-go. Candy Boak continued to call Judi Bari and let her adversary know that she was still being watched, which was an ominous—even threatening—gesture. This would only be the start of things to come. [9]

Oregon Canvassers Workers Push for Unionization at Union-Funded Workplace

By Shane Burley - In These Times, November 4, 2014

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.

Seven workers and union activists head toward the office on September 17, just before the morning shift begins, debating how to enter. Should they all parade in together? What if lower management is out front smoking before the shift begins? Should they go in early, or wait until the day’s canvassers are already inside?

They agree to head in together in a show of solidarity, a few minutes before the bell rings. As the workers file in the front door, their union representatives in tow, management declares that outside people are not allowed to enter during business hours.

“Don’t worry, we won’t be long,” says Jonathan Steiner, a rep for the United Campaign Workers, a project of the Industrial Workers of the World Workers. The workers and their union representatives enter and declare there is announcement to be made: They have joined a union and are inviting other workers to join them.

They work at Fieldworks, a get-out-the-vote shop that, with thirty to forty canvassers at a time, is one of the largest political canvassing businesses in Portland, Oregon, and the nation as a whole. They are the latest in a slew of Portland campaign workers to organize with UCW in recent months, from canvassers for marijuana legalization to fundraisers for organizations like the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and The Nature Conservancy.

The complaints of canvassers at Fieldworks sound familiar: A lack of transparency when it comes to decisions about canvassing locations and the organizations they are funded by minimal say in workplace decisions. reports of wage-theft and labor law non-compliance and a lack of a living wage.

Workers have come out publicly as a minority union, meaning that the union is holding membership of less than half of the workplace and are not currently attempting an election through the National Labor Relations Board. Like with other recent UCW canvassing shops, the high turnover rate and temporary nature of the work means that conventional union elections may not be viable. Instead, they chose to come out publicly and begin putting pressure on management with the hope that new recruits would see the power that this organization has in their workplace and would join the fight.

But the minority union stands out in one important respect: Their workplace is funded by unions.

California Proposition 1 Passes: The Power of Big Money Overcomes the Power of the People

By Dan Bacher - Indybay, November 5, 2014

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.

Proposition 1, Governor Jerry Brown's $7.5 billion water bond, sailed to easy victory on November 4, as forecasted in a number of polls.

The election results show how the power of millions of dollars of corporate money in the corrupt oligarchy of California were able to defeat a how a grassroots movement of fishermen, environmentalists, Indian Tribes and family farmers opposed to Prop. 1.

The Hoopa Valley, Yurok, Winnemem Wintu and Concow Maidu Tribes, the defenders of California's rivers and oceans for thousands of years, strongly opposed Prop. 1. because of the threat the bond poses to water, salmon and their culture. (http://www.indybay.org/...)

Prop. 1 proponents, including a rogue's gallery of oil companies, corporate agribusiness tycoons, Big Tobacco, health insurance companies and greedy billionaires, dumped over $16.4 million into the campaign, while Prop. 1 opponents raised around $100,000 for the effort. In other words, the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign outmatched the No on Prop. 1 campaign by a factor of 164 to 1.

In a state and country where corporations have the same rights as people, the political game is rigged so that Goliath is usually able to defeat David. The state's voters, responding to the avalanche of pro-Prop. 1 ads funded by corporate interests, approved the measure by a vote of 66.77 percent to 33.23 percent.

ILWU Local 6, strikes Waste Management. AFL-CIO leaders tell their members to scab.

By Richard Mellor - Facts for Working People, October 26, 2014

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 ILWU Local 6 represents sorters and other workers at the Waste Management recycling center (we used to call them dumps) at the end of Davis Street in San Leandro CA. The workers have not had a raise in four years.

Most of the workers are Latino's, many of them immigrants and they complained to me about disrespect and discriminatory treatment on the job. Workers told Facts For Working People that management is refusing to budge on wage increases and workers don't trust the management to comply with the Oakland City Council's meager wage increase provisions which would raise wages from round $12 an hour now to around $21 an hour by 2019. This is the only possible increase on the table so far. It is a sorry state of affairs when the only chance of making any headway albeit an inadequate one, is relying on a municipal body run by politicians in one of the two Wall Street Parties.

As I walked the picket line, drivers for Waste Management, members of Teamsters Local 70,  drove through the picket lines as the strike does not have sanction from the Alameda Labor Council.  I called the Labor Council to find out why and was told that the ILWU local 6 is no longer affiliated to the AFL-CIO.  The source said that she hoped the strike is successful.  Unfortunately hope doesn't pay the rent and it doesn't win strikes.

Building Trades Chief Lauds Fracking Boom, Shrugs Off Environmental Concerns

By Cole Stangler - In These Times, October 17, 2014

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.

Web Editor's Note: the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus has already written about the class collaborationist and extractivist fundamentalism expressed by BCTD president Sean McGarvey, most recently in this article.

In its quest for jobs, the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of the AFL-CIO hasn’t shied away from taking on environmentalists and progressives. The latest flashpoint is fracking, the controversial drilling practice propelling the nation’s fossil fuel energy boom.

On this issue, public tolerance is waning, but the trades unions aren’t backing down.

On Tuesday, the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee released a report by Dr. Robert Bruno and Michael Cornfield of the University of Illinois which found that from 2008 to 2014, oil and gas development created 45,000 new jobs in the Marcellus Shale region—an area that includes parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The data came from the BCTD; the National Maintenance Agreements Policy Committee, a joint labor-management committee that oversees collective bargaining agreements in the construction industry; and Industrial Info Resources, a third party specializing in “global market intelligence.”

Two days later, BCTD president Sean McGarvey, who also serves as chair of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee and whose union is a member of the committee, praised the report and defended the thriving industry.

Green Unionism and the IWW

By Martin Zehr - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, October 14, 2014

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.

“Every union should have a vision of the future,” stated Jock Yablonski as he announced his candidacy for the UMWA presidency. “What good is a union that reduces coal dust in the mines only to have miners and their families breathe pollutants in the air, drink pollutants in the water, and eat contaminated commodities?”  

This presentation by Jock Yablonski presents a concise analysis of the relationship between the working class and the environment. Because the environmental issue has been dominated for so many years by NGOs and advocacy groups, there remains a fundamental schism in substance and politics between the working class and sound environmental and resource planning advocates. The much celebrated blue-green unity of Seattle is a fading memory. In the age of the increasing role of the AFL-CIO in promoting corporate profits for jobs, we have seen how unions like the Mineworkers, Boilermakers, Steelworkers and others have adopted a pro-corporate militarization stance. This significance of this collaboration goes beyond simply environmental issues. In fact, it threatens an independent class role for all unions, whether it's quality of life issues or shop floor issues.  

To date, the IWW’s reputation remains in geographical locales and in small retail or commercial local unions. Our presence within the labor movement remains marginal. The re-emergence of an active IWW presents a new stage for workers in the class stage. More than a revival of the sixties mass struggles and beyond the single issue advocacies of the late 20th century, the IWW can play an leadership role given our willingness to consciously analyze our role, our strategies  and our tactics. For example, the drive to organize in basic industry is a task that remains ahead of the IWW. The service economy will provide certain in-roads needed to establish our validity and are important in establishing real credentials that workers can see. But, the task ahead remains in steel, electrical, maritime, auto and other industries that have become open shops, or even non-union (such as auto). Likewise, organizers and political education of organizers need to be developed to a generation that has minimal experiences in the class struggle.  

Open Letter: Laborer Challenges Union Support of Fossil Fuel Export Projects

By Tim Norgren  - Portland Rising Tide, October 5, 2014

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 following is an open letter from  union member Tim Norgren to Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). Read on as Tim explains why union support of fossil fuel export projects is short-sighted and generally not in the best interest of workers. 

Dear LIUNA and Fellow Workers,

In joining forces with avowed union enemies to lobby for export projects like coal and bitumen/oil terminals and pipelines, which would create some short term, but VERY FEW long term local jobs, I strongly feel we’re selling ourselves out, along with every worker in America!

The propositions stand to benefit billionaires like the Koch brothers and other members of ALEC, which as you know are behind state by state attacks on worker’s rights via campaigns like the “right to work” bill recently pushed in OR (see www.alecexposed.org for more).

Export proponents Arch and Peabody coal (ALEC members) were featured in the Labor Press last summer for shifting pensions worth over $1.3 BILLION (owed to some 20,000 beneficiaries) to a shell company- then bankrupting it, leaving retirees destitute. This “success” opened the door for Detroit to become the first city to declare bankruptcy and default on pensions. Scrutiny showed this to be an ALEC “model” scheme. Supporting companies which commit such crimes against dedicated workers is UNACCEPTABLE for anyone who purports to be part of a labor movement!

According to Greg Palast (investigative reporter for the BBC), the Koch brothers stand to save about $26 a barrel bringing in the oil from the Keystone XL instead of from H. Chavez in Venezuela. The Koch’s Houston refineries are designed to refine only the high carbon tar sands oil available from those sources and cannot even process the lighter Texas crude. $26 a barrel would add up to a lot more ammo in their union-busting arsenal.

Should proposals succeed, then when our job’s over, coal will continue being extracted from public lands, with mainly non-union miners and huge federal subsidies (taxpayer expense) in obscenely higher quantities than now, then carted though our neighborhoods alongside explosive fracked oil tankers. Tar sands oil will keep flowing into Koch Industries refineries. And while NOT keeping us working, it WILL continue to profit enemies of labor (fueling their next campaigns) as it’s shipped to Asia, providing cheap fuel for deathtrap factories where subsistence workers slave at jobs outsourced from living wage employment in America!

Indeed as industrial and other jobs are replaced with government subsidized resource extraction and privatization schemes, across the board from fossil fuels and lumber to such basic staples as water and social services, we can see in our mirror a third world nation.

In my humble opinion as a member of LIUNA, pursuing these proposals rather than insisting on cleaner, more labor-friendly energy and transmission projects IS SUICIDE! Are we truly willing to follow the short-term carrot on a stick, like an ass to the slaughter? To feed ourselves willingly to those who would destroy us? Or do enough of us still have the conscience, guts and faith to stand up with those who’ve struggled at such cost to give us rights as workers?

Sincerely,

Tim Norgren, Laborers Local 320

Summing up the Kaiser strike and lockout 1998-2000: Union Leaders Fear A Self-Directed Rank And File More Than Defeat

By Robby Barnes and Sylvie Kashdan - November 5, 2000

At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Eugene Debs asserted that the role of the established AFL union leadership was "to chloroform the working class while the ruling class went through its pockets." This was accomplished through blocking workers' participation in direct democracy in the unions, short-circuiting activist strategies that were favored by the majority, and ignoring or persecuting critics. Unfortunately, this tradition is not dead yet.

Chapter 29 : Swimmin’ Cross the Rio Grande

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

Corporate Timber’s strategy for defeating popular resistance on the North Coast, whether union organizing, environmentalism, or citizen ballot initiatives depended heavily on keeping its would-be watchdogs and critics pitted against each other, or focused on a specific scapegoat. As the minutes of 1989 ticked away into 1990, the timber corporations were finding this an increasingly difficult prospect, and sometimes all it took to fracture whatever consensus they could muster was a perfect storm of indirectly related events. The arrogance of Louisiana Pacific in particular undermined Corporate Timber’s ability to keep an increasingly fearful workforce focusing their blame for all that was wrong on “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs.” In spite of all of the footwork done by Pacific Lumber with the help of TEAM and WECARE to manufacture dissent against the environmentalists’ campaign to block THPs and draft measures like Forests Forever, the catalyst that lit the opposing prairie fire was Louisiana-Pacific’s plans to outsource productions.

In December, the Humboldt and Del Norte County Central Labor Council, representing 3,500 union members from over two dozen unions in both counties rented billboards imploring the L-P not to move to Mexico. [1] Suggesting that the unions were forced to look beyond mere bread and butter issues, some of the billboards read, “Please don’t abuse our community and our environment.” L-P, who routinely paid for full page ads in the local press claiming to be “a good neighbor” touting their alleged pro-worker and pro-environmental policies, responded by claiming in their latest such entries that they were not exporting logs to Mexico, just green lumber for drying and planning. Although the handwriting should have been on the wall seven years earlier when L-P had busted the IWA and WCIW in the mills throughout the Pacific Northwest, there were several other unions which had a relationship with the company in various capacities. Hitherto they had been unwilling to bite the hand that fed them, and many wouldn’t have even considered making an overture of friendship to Earth First!, but now, all of a sudden, the leadership of various AFL-CIO unions based in Humboldt and Mendocino County finally awakened to the possibility that their enemy wasn’t, in fact, “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs.” [2]

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