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Earthworkers Unite!

By members - Earthworks Unite, January 17, 2024

The following statement was issued on September 12, 2024

We, the eligible staff of Earthworks, are excited to announce that we have formed a union with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Earthworkers Unite. We ask that the Leadership Team (LT) and Board recognize Earthworkers Unite and agree to come to the bargaining table with us immediately. We currently have 21 workers signed up in the union, which we believe represents at least 77% of eligible staff.

We have formed this union in solidarity with our fellow workers, colleagues, and partners. Core to creating a just world is deep democracy and we cannot work towards this future without first modeling it within our own organization. We deserve a workplace where we are respected, empowered to create the strategy which determines our work, and know that when there is conflict there is a just and impartial process available to us. We believe deeply in the work we do and love the communities we work with, and have organized this union to do this work more sustainably and equitably. This announcement is an invitation for Earthworks to continue to align its actions with its mission to promote a just future and address systems of oppression both within and outside the organization.

We know Earthworks can and must be better for its workers and for the communities we serve. We can only effectively organize, advocate, or support partners when we are respected and supported by our workplace. We unionize in solidarity with peer organizations including the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and the League of Conservation Voters, and the more than 9,000 workers IWW represents in the so-called United States. The next great labor movement is here, and we are proud to be a part of it.

Frontlines to Big Greens: Stand with us in calling for #Ceasefire now and Justice for Palestine

By Hendrik Voss - It Takes Roots, October 31, 2023

Over 2 million Palestinian people have suffered under a 16 year blockade on Gaza and now endure a complete siege, as Israel bombs, starves, and displaces them. Israel has cut off food, water, and electricity to Gaza and has engaged in bombing of residential buildings, markets, schools, health facilities, and mosques – all with the support of the United States and other governments. Palestinians are forced between two decisions, stay and try to survive, or try to flee into exile, but will never see their home again. Our solidarity as environmental justice and human rights defenders globally is vital, as we are witnessing genocide before our eyes. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance at $3.8 billion a year, totaling more than $260 billion to date. Five of the top six global defense corporations based in the United States are profiting from and enabling the ongoing bombardment against Palestinians in Gaza.

As environmental justice frontline communities that have experienced violence and displacement at the hands of settler-colonialism, we stand in unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle for self-determination and to live freely with their human rights fully intact on their lands.

Our It Takes Roots alliances comprise over 200 groups in more than 50 states, provinces and Indigenous territories across North America, Puerto Rico and Guåhan. Since the beginning of the most recent escalation in the 75-year history of settler-colonialism and violence across historic Palestine, many of our members have drawn upon their extensive grassroots organizing experience and we have taken our grief and outrage to the streets, into the halls of Congress, engaged in direct action, and educated our communities. Together, we continue our practice of international solidarity, and call for an end to the siege of Gaza, and an end to the occupation.

Further, we call on the larger environmental and climate movement to stand with frontline and Indigenous Movements around the world by calling for a ceasefire, an end to all violence and warfare, insisting that Israel allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, and calling on our governments to refuse to send any additional weapons or funding to the Israeli military. Now is the time to build on our cross-sector relationships, and to appeal to all our partners and allies who might still be on the sidelines, to join the international struggle for a free Palestine. We must build momentum to prevent further loss of life.

Life is sacred. We mourn the devastating loss of all Palestinian and Israeli lives, and all casualties of colonialism and rising militarism around the world. It Takes Roots is determined to continue our work for justice and peace at home and globally. Liberation of one is only possible with the liberation of all.

Resisting Green Capital

Laid-off Sierra Club Staffers: ‘We Can’t Give Up on United Fronts’

By Brooke Anderson, Hop Hopkins, and, Michelle Mascarenhas - Convergence, August 8, 2023

For the last decade, climate justice organizers have seen the Sierra Club as a critical lever for moving a climate agenda that centers equity and just transition. It has the largest grassroots base outside of labor, the most substantial infrastructure of any national green group in the US, and roots in a movement that at times was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with large corporations or development-oriented pro-business government entities.

But beginning in May, the organization accelerated a restructuring process that included layoffs of the entire equity and environmental justice teams and of senior staffers, several Black women and other women of color among them. At the same time, numerous new executive-level staff with high salaries were brought on to usher in a new organizational direction. This move, led by new BIPOC executive leadership, pulls back years of steady progress towards aligning the organization with the more progressive climate agenda. It is a harbinger of a shift away from equity and towards green capital just as the 2024 election nears—and reflects an anti-woke backlash occurring in liberal organizations across many sectors of the movement.

To better understand these shifts, movement journalist Brooke Anderson interviewed two longtime climate justice organizers and veteran social movement strategists, Michelle Mascarenhas and Hop Hopkins. Prior to being laid off from the Sierra Club this spring, Mascarenhas was its national director of campaigns, and Hopkins resigned as its director of organizational transformation.

Hopkins and Mascarenhas had been working to align the Sierra Club with the frontline-led climate justice movement, as part of an intentional effort to shift the organization from its racist roots and practice. Founded in 1892, the organization led the creation of the National Park Service, expanding on a legacy of dispossession and genocide of Indigenous peoples by insisting that protecting land meant removing it from Indigenous stewardship. “The Population Bomb,” which the Sierra Club published in 1968, was weaponized against poor people and people of color. It placed blame for the global ecological crisis on those least responsible: poor women of color and immigrants. This contributed to the anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-single mother attacks that continue to this day. 

The sophisticated analysis Mascarenhas and Hopkins offer of “what time it is on the clock of the world” (to borrow from the late, great Grace Lee Boggs) doesn’t just speak to happenings inside the Sierra Club. Rather, it holds deep-rooted and durable wisdom for left organizers attempting to make critical interventions in larger, liberal or centrist spaces in the non-profit industrial complex—and clarifies the sides and the stakes in today’s debates over climate policy. 

NRDC staff moves to unionize

By Robin Bravender - E&E News, March 1, 2023

Staff at the Natural Resources Defense Council have launched a unionization campaign, organizers announced, making the environmental organization the latest national green group to see a union organizing push in recent years.

Bruce Jett, an organizing director with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, sent a letter to NRDC President and CEO Manish Bapna on Wednesday stating that the union — which represents news and nonprofit groups — is seeking to represent NRDC employees.

“We urge the Natural Resources Defense Council to join with The NewsGuild to champion the rights of your outstanding employees to perform the above activities as we undertake a respectful dialogue and move forward together with the transparent, inclusive and equitable mission of both The NewsGuild and your organization,” Jett wrote.

The NRDC union effort launched a Twitter account Wednesday saying that staff at the environmental group is “working to build an organization that treats workers with dignity and respect, listens to our concerns, and makes it easier for all of us to safeguard the planet and its people.”

Representatives of the unionization effort did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Adjusting and Trusting: A Guide for Progressive Organizations and Their Workers Who Unionize

By Larry Kleinman and Kim Fellner - Convergence Magazine, January 2023

Progressives believe in the labor movement. We support unions and believe that workers are entitled to a collective say in the terms and conditions of their employment, free from the arbitrary dictates of management.

But what if the management is you? When it comes to nonprofit (or “NGO”) social justice organizations—and the funders who help sustain the work—the response is often, “Yes, but…”

And what if you’re the union? When workers organize in a progressive nonprofit—even one that accepts unionizationthe approach is sometimes no different than it might be with a hostile or profit-making employer.

We, your authors, decided to undertake this guide because we were fielding a growing number of calls about organizations in crisis. Too often, groups we value were struggling to fulfill their important movement missions, while being shredded from within, often about issues of unionization. While we both have decades of experience in labor and NGOs--spanning a wide range of roles--we no longer serve as paid staff or leaders of any organization. Being without official portfolio, we thought we might be able to offer a resource to help move those conversations to a better place.

This guide is not meant as the final word on anything. Rather, consider it a rough, hand- drawn map to navigate some poorly-charted terrain. The perspectives and suggestions are offered in the spirit of strengthening the resilience and alliances of progressive forces-- and to get to a more definitive and satisfying “yes” on the issue of unionization.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Sunrise Movement and CWA Announce “Visionary” Union Contract for Climate Workers

By Brett Wilkins - Common Dreams, September 7, 2022

The youth-led Sunrise Movement and the Communications Workers of America union announced Wednesday that they have reached a "visionary, one-of-its-kind collective bargaining agreement" for professional climate campaigners.

"As workers across the country are realizing their power and forming unions, Sunrise Movement management and staff are proud to have reached an innovative and rigorous bargaining agreement with the CWA," the two groups said in a joint statement.

"We are thankful for all of the workers and bargaining members whose vision and drive in these last nine months have made this a reality," they continued. "Strong unions are a core pillar of the Green New Deal. Our commitment to the labor movement and the dignity of all workers is crucial in our fight. We all benefit from a strong, pro-worker contract."

Sunrise and CWA added: "We are especially proud that this contract is one of the most progressive agreements reached by CWA. In particular, our revolutionary nondiscrimination article, voluntary recognition and neutrality details, and our time-off and leave provisions are some of the first of their kind."

Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash said that "I am so damn proud of this visionary collective bargaining agreement that gives our staff dignified and healthy working conditions."

Climate Change Is About to Cause a Viral Explosion

By Abdullah Farooq - Jacobin, August 23, 2022

As climate change disrupts migration patterns, animals and the viruses they carry will come into unusual contact with each other — and inevitably with humans, unleashing new pandemics. The only thing that can stop this unfolding nightmare is a mass movement.

When animals migrate, be they butterfly kaleidoscopes or elk herds or bat cauldrons, they do so in response to ecological cues, which guide the manner and extent of the migration process. As climate change disrupts those cues, so too will it disrupt the migration of animals.

Climate change will thus deal a horrible blow to butterflies, bats, elk, and all manner of migratory animals. That’s tragic enough, but it gets worse: according to a recent study in Nature, this disruption will result in unusual interspecies contact, which will in turn cause new transmissions and mutations of viruses.

Through extensive modeling work, the study’s authors show that climate change will lead to altered migration patterns for thousands of animals, resulting in close to fifteen thousand new interspecies viral transmission events by the year 2070. In addition to having a massive ecological impact on the global fauna, this trend is of critical public health importance to us as humans, given that the majority of emerging infectious disease threats are zoonotic (transmitted by animal-to-human contact) in origin. The authors are cautious about predicting the probability of zoonoses into humans, but predict that geographies that are densely populated with humans will be future hot spots for interspecies viral transmission.

The study’s findings suggest that we are on the precipice of this mass-scale viral transmission event. The authors predict that the majority of these transmission events will happen between 2011 and 2040, indicating that many of them may already be taking place. While keeping temperature increases to within or below 2 degrees Celsius is a necessary goal, the authors predict that the accomplishment of this goal itself will not result in reduced viral sharing. In short, we’re probably stuck with massive changes in animal migration and vast quantities of viral transmission even if we slow climate change. However, there are other interventions we can make to stop the worst from happening.

In their model, the authors rely on a variety of land use scenarios — including alterations in deforestation, agricultural land usage, and human settlements — due to the uncertainty of how land is going to be used over the next fifty years. But none of that is inevitable. We can ensure that our land usage mitigates the impacts of climate change and prevents the emergence of the next pandemic. This can only happen if we’re able to take back control over how land is used, and democratically determine the best way to use it instead of leaving the decision up to capitalist markets.

Currently, our governments are beholden to corporate interests, which means that real estate and agribusiness have outsized influence over where and how land is developed. This has led to the unmitigated proliferation of sprawling housing developments, which often push deep into important ecological niches. This trend has already directly led to the destruction of 67 percent of coastal wetlands, which play a critical role in supporting local ecosystems, flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, and erosion control. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government has facilitated the rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest to facilitate increased agricultural land usage. The Amazon is a massive carbon sink, and its destruction could make it impossible for the rest of the world to keep global warming from rising faster than 1.5-2 degrees Celsius.

OVEC Union Files ULPs, Wins Case

By staff - The Valley Labor Report - March 27, 2022

After filing several ULPs against OVEC, the judge has ruled in favor of OVEC Union, who submitted complaints of wrongful suspension, terminations, and intimidation against employees involved in the union drive.

Coal River Mountain Watch Workers Ratify First Collective Agreement

By Communications Department - IWW, January 28, 2022

Workers at Coal River Mountain Watch have ratified their first union contract in a unanimous vote.

The 2-year contract, which takes effect Feb 1, 2022, includes a raise for union members, an assurance of at least one month notification to members in the event of layoffs (something that wasn't previously done when funding ended), a process to ensure that travel costs are paid for upfront by the employer for speaking engagements, and job duties clarifications.

Coal River Mountain Watch is a small but respected organization in the southern coalfields, created in 1998 in response to the fear and frustration of people living near or downstream from enormous mountaintop removal sites. From humble beginnings as a small group of volunteers working to organize Southern WV residents to fight for social, economic, and environmental justice, the nonprofit has become a major force in opposition to mountaintop removal.

Workers at non-profits like Coal River Mountain Watch risk their physical and mental safety in the course of doing their job, and they deserve to have a say in how these organizations are run. Even when there may be general agreement around most issues in the workplace between employees and management, negotiating a contract allows workers an opportunity to learn how to function and operate as a union.

“I’m beyond proud to be in a union now, and I’m beyond proud to work for an organization that values my rights as a worker. Here’s to a brighter future for West Virginia and the brave souls who try to make it a better place to live.” — Junior Walk, Coal River Mountain Watch staff member

“I was really happy with how this process turned out. Vernon, the Executive Director, was quick to respond to our requests for information and in only three bargaining sessions, totalling less than five hours altogether, we had a solid draft contract. It signifies to other employers in progressive organizations that this process does not have to be complicated and that unionizing can have significant benefits for an organization's long-term missions.” — Brendan Muckian-Bates, Industrial Workers of the World Organizer

“I think it's really important, after OVEC's stalling to negotiate with the union and ultimately dissolving, that the Coal River Mountain Watch Board voluntarily recognized the union and that Vernon was so quick to respond to the union's requests. Coal River Mountain Watch is highly regarded among many progressive and environmental activists both inside and outside Appalachia. They've been the targets of the coal industry's ire for decades, with employees sometimes having to fear for their life because of this work. However, with this organization now unionized, I think it speaks to the need for all non-profits to formally recognize and negotiate with their staff's union when one is presented. Many workers at these non-profits risk their physical and mental safety to continue to do this work, and they deserve to have a say in how these organizations are run.” — Brendan Muckian-Bates, Industrial Workers of the World Organizer

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a labor union representing nearly 9,000 workers across North America. Established in 1905, the IWW is known for its high standards of democracy, transparency, multinationalism, and active use of the right to strike.

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