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AFL-CIO

Chapter 2 : Pollution, Love it or Leave it!

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

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

"Since when are humans solely a biological product of wilderness? (What is ‘wilderness’?) If you accept an evolutionary development of Homo sapiens, as I do, it does not mean that you profess a disbelief in God. Quite the contrary. It was God, the Creator, who created humans, who imbued them with a will, with a soul, with a conscience, with the ability to determine right from wrong. It is inconceivable that the Creator would create such vast resources on earth without expecting them to be utilized."

—Glenn Simmons, editor of the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, February 1, 1990.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

—Edward Abbey

Earth shattering though it may have seemed, the IWW’s victory was both transitory and incomplete, and historical currents would never again mesh as perfectly. To begin with, the strike on the job had taken place only in the Pacific Northwest, and had excluded California at that. The Wobblies recognized one strategic weakness in this situation in noting that the employers could have eventually organized a lockout of that region and relied instead on wood production from the southern or eastern United States. They knew—in the abstract at least—that their victory would never be complete until they organized all lumber workers nationally and internationally.[1] The Wobblies inability to make inroads among the highly skilled redwood loggers of California’s North Coast was especially troublesome, and it portended their undoing. Two companies, Pacific Lumber (P-L) and Hammond Lumber Company (HLC) had each adopted separate techniques that had kept the IWW out and would soon be duplicated by the Lumber Trust elsewhere. That combined with the much larger shockwaves brought on by the Russian Revolution in 1917 conspired against the One Big Union and led to the eventual decline of the American working class as an adversarial force and the liquidation of the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Although most corporations comprising the Lumber Trust had refused to budge, lest they embolden the Wobblies, there were those that adopted “welfare capitalism” on their own initiative, in which they would provide amenities and benefits to their workers—union or not—in an attempt to win over their loyalty. It was in the crucible of timber worker unionism, Humboldt County, where this was first attempted with any lasting success, by the Pacific Lumber Company (P-L), based in Scotia, beginning in 1909. P-L had discovered that by creating a wide variety of social programs, employee benefits, and community based events, it was able to secure the loyalty and stability of its workforce. P-L general manager A. E. Blockinger described these efforts in great detail in an article featured in the Pioneer Western Lumberman:

"A reading room with facilities for letter writing and any games, except gambling, is easily and cheaply put into any camp. Arrange subscription clubs for papers and periodicals or let the company do it for the men. If you can have a circulating library among your camps and at the mill plant, it will be much appreciated. Let the daily or weekly papers be of all nationalities as represented in your camp. Lumber trade journals are especially interesting to the men and they can and will readily follow the markets for lumber and appreciate that you have some troubles of your own.

“Organize fire departments among your men. The insurance companies will give you reductions in rates for such additional protection while it offers another opportunity for your men to relax and enjoy themselves.

“Shower baths at the camps or mill are easily and cheaply installed. They will be used and appreciated after a hot, dusty day’s work.

“Get your men loyal and keep them so. Let this replace loyalty to a union. The spirit is what you want in your men. Ten good men will accomplish as much as fifteen ordinary laborers if the spirit and good will is there. Treat them right and they will treat you right.”[2]

The employers’ introduction of paternalism achieved its intended goal. The Secretary of the Pacific Logging Congress, an employers’ association had declared in his 1912 report, “The best cure for the IWW plague—a people without a country and without a God—is the cultivation of the homing instinct in men.”[3] When the IWW campaign for the eight hour day ensued in 1917, P-L simply added more programs. Carleton H. Parker, a onetime U.C. Berkeley economics professor working for the War Department as a mediator during the lumber workers’ strike, had previously conducted sociological studies on workers, including agricultural and timber laborers. Parker was familiar with P-L, and had some fairly extensive knowledge of the Wobblies.[4] Some of the latter had been gained through first-hand studies by two of his assistants, Paul Brissenden[5] and F. C. Mills[6] who had posed as IWW members and later produced extensive studies on the organization. Using this knowledge, Parker offered many suggestions to Disque which the latter somewhat reluctantly adopted. The LLLL created social halls for its members and replaced the employment sharks with free employment agencies. The IWW quite rightly recognized these amenities as a means to buy the workers’ loyalty and likely to be liquidated when the employers drive for profits once again accelerated, but this process would take a long time, and convincing the workers of a threat that could take one or more generations to manifest proved futile.[7]

Union-Made Offshore Wind: AFL-CIO 2022 Convention

Building a Domestic Offshore Wind Supply Chain: Workshop Summary Report

By Kevin Knobloch, Tim Steeves, and Sarah Clements - Labor Energy Partnership, June 2022

In March 2022, the LEP brought together an extraordinary group of leaders and experts for a private, virtual event on to workshop a series of four white papers related to building a robust domestic supply chain to support the emerging offshore wind (OSW) industry in the United States and abroad.

The workshop, moderated by Kevin Knobloch, distinguished associate at the EFI and president of Knobloch Energy, built on the discussion and conclusions of the first LEP OSW roundtable held in March 2021.

The aim of this new workshop was to explore and discuss the issues raised in the four white papers (across three focused discussion sessions) and help shape recommendations for actions and policies that can help create a robust domestic OSW supply chain.

This summary report seeks to capture the essence and any points of consensus of the rich discussion. The workshop was conducted under a modified Chatham House Rule to encourage candor in which it was agreed that this summary report will not attribute quotes to specific speakers by name or affiliation.

Offshore Wind Development and Supply Chain Overview

By Dave Effross - Labor Energy Partnership, June 2022

How do we make offshore wind (OSW) power competitive? Systems need to be created and put into place. This means we need not only energy infrastructure but also specialized construction and supply infrastructure. The University of Delaware’s Special Initiative in Offshore Wind (SIOW) has calculated estimates of what such a system would result in for the United States, based upon 32,352 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity in the Northeast from 2021 through 2030.

This paper estimates the volume/nature of material, equipment, infrastructure, and workforce that will be needed to support a 30 GW offshore wind industry by 2030—the national goal established by the Biden Harris Administration—while developing some perspective on the needs of a 110 GW industry projected by the Administration by 2050.

Addressing U.S. Manufacturing and Service Capacity/Gaps and Technical Standards

By David W. Cash - Labor Energy Partnership, June 2022

This paper attempts to analyze the existing offshore wind (OSW) supply chain and value chain capacity and gaps in U.S. manufacturing, vessels, ports, workforce development and standards. It further identifies opportunities and constraints in meeting goals of equity as the domestic OSW sector develops across all these dimensions. As the Biden administration notes, the development of the OSW sector offers the prospect not only to reduce emissions at scale, but also to seize the opportunity to create jobs along the value chain, create union and high-wage jobs, reduce U.S. sector uncertainties and drive equity, especially in overburdened and vulnerable communities.

Advancing Policy Measures to Drive Development of the Domestic Offshore Wind Supply Chain

By Liz Burdock, Ross Gould and Sam Salustro - Labor Energy Partnership, June 2022

Accelerating the growth of the U.S. offshore wind supply chain is critical to achieving national and state-level energy goals and will require a national strategy to succeed. This paper, titled Advancing Policy Measures to Drive Development of the Domestic Offshore Wind Supply Chain, assesses how current policies impact potential supply chain businesses and what is needed to help them retool or gain the capabilities needed to build out the U.S. offshore wind industry and compete in the global market. Secondary market forces, such as federal leasing processes and transmission capacities, play an important role in efforts to accelerate supply chain development and are discussed. This paper is informed by specific and general conversations with Network members actively working to build out a sustainable and competitive offshore wind supply chain. These insights are augmented by research into current global and European policies impacting the United States market and into comparable renewable energy technologies and their successes or failures in growing a domestic supply chain.

Revitalizing U.S. Shipbuilding With U.S.-Built Offshore Wind Installation and Maintenance Vessels

By Will Foster and Riley Ohlson - Labor Energy Partnership, June 2022

This paper assesses the opportunities and challenges for developing a fleet of Jones Act-compliant vessels for installation, maintenance and service of offshore wind infrastructure in the U.S., in consultation with shipbuilding unions.

Stimulating commercial shipbuilding activity is critical to facilitating OSW deployment while demonstrating the potential for this deployment to support and grow good manufacturing jobs.

Arguably, the greatest challenge facing sustained OSW development is neither technical nor financial but political. Many American workers, particularly those in industries tied to fossil fuels, are deeply skeptical of the prospects of a just transition and the fundamental ability for renewable energy production to support middle-class jobs.

The Power of Offshore Wind

By Sarah Clements and Angie Kaufman - Labor Energy Partnership, June 2022

The U.S. offshore wind energy industry is on the rise. As a climate solution with opportunities to create and support good-paying jobs, the offshore wind industry demonstrates the symbiosis between labor and the energy transition. 

This fact sheet was developed by EFI and AFL-CIO under the Labor Energy Partnership. It will help you understand the basics: what offshore wind energy is, why the East Coast has more potential, what the Biden Administration has pledged, and how to build the industry sustainably and equitably. 

USW Striking Oil Workers And Supporters Speakout For Health And Safety At Tesoro Refinery

By Kenny Stancil - Common Dreams, April 30, 2022

In an act of solidarity with Chevron workers fighting for a new labor contract as executives boast of a record-breaking quarter, Greenpeace USA campaigners joined United Steelworkers Local 5 union members on Friday to expand the picket line onto the waters of San Francisco Bay.

Nearly 500 workers from Chevron's oil refinery in Richmond, California have been on strike for more than a month in what USW Local 5 vice president B.K. White calls "a movement of working people rising up to challenge a corporation." 

Chevron announced Friday that its profits surged to $6.3 billion during the first three months of 2022—four times as much as the fossil fuel giant pulled in over the same period last year, as Common Dreams reported. That prompted fresh calls from progressives for a windfall tax to prevent further price gouging and war profiteering by Big Oil and underscored one of the reasons why workers are demanding better pay.

"What's the answer to corporate greed?" Greenpeace asked on social media. "Solidarity!"

Climate Change is Killing Workers, but it Doesn't Have to be This Way

By April Siese - Daily Kos, April 20, 2022

Way back when I was splitting my working time freelance writing and working live events, I signed on with an audio-visual company that provides services to hotels. It was considered the retirement gig for production folks, as there was no touring involved and very little stress. As a lighting designer, my job consisted of gussying up a ballroom in corporate colors and making sure the lights I used to illuminate a podium made presenters look good. All that gear came from a warehouse, run by a cherished coworker who used to lovingly chide me for wearing ballet flats on show days because they weren’t exactly as safe as steel-toes. He stood up for me when there did come an opportunity to work out of town and I was the only woman on the gig. And he was known for his relentless work ethic, which was just as strong as his belief in the people around him. That relentlessness may have cost him his life.

A lawsuit has been brought on behalf of this friend, who likely succumbed to heatstroke one blazing summer day in the New Orleans metro and ultimately passed away. The company claimed it was heart-related. Rumblings from his friends and colleagues made it clear: It was likely heat-related.

There’s little recourse for workers who die from extreme temperatures, which have been made much worse due to climate change. As Mother Jones notes in a recent report, median penalties for on-the-job deaths stand at just $12,144 for federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans. State OSHA plans typically penalize companies with median fines of just $6,899 for worker deaths. For companies like the one I worked at, with revenues in excess of $40 million, a penalty like that certainly wouldn’t inspire a whole lot of change. Not that enforcement has even come close to allowing for such penalties to be incurred in the first place: As the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) notes, underreporting of such tragedies is altogether too common.

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