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Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Staff Joins the IWW

By Staff - Industrial Workers of the World, March 16, 2021

HUNTINGTON, West Virginia — The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is excited to announce that workers of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) have recently organized with majority support as the OVEC Union (OVECU) under the IWW. As of March 4, OVECU has submitted a request for voluntary recognition to the OVEC Board of Directors. OVECU is excited to begin the process of negotiating their contract. Their key demands include a standardized pay scale, an equitable discipline policy, and the right to union representation at any meeting wherein matters affecting staff pay, hours, benefits, advancement, or layoffs may be discussed or voted on.

The workers of OVEC decided to unionize to honor their organizational values of empowerment and justice. OVEC’s mission to organize for environmental justice is informed by the belief that Appalachians — and all workers, everywhere — benefit from the right to union representation in their place of employment regardless of current working conditions. OVECU believes it is particularly important for employees to have union support during times of transition with administration, board, and staff, and is eager to move forward collaboratively with members of the board and administration as the 34-year-old organization grows and changes.

“Having a union is a logical next step in supporting our organization as our organization continues to support our communities. Unionizing only strengthens our commitment to the vital work we do at the crossroads of environmental, social, and labor justice,” said OVEC Project Coordinator Dustin White.

OVECU is asking for you to endorse their unionization efforts by calling 304-522-0246 and leaving a message of congratulations and support, or dropping a note at info@ohvec.org.

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Union is committed to protecting and preserving the quality of work conditions for employees of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Sunrise Movement Staff Form Union with Communications Workers of America

By Zoe PiSierra - Sunrise Movement, December 15, 2020

With Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) Serving as Sunrise Movement’s Third-party Validator, More than 95% of Staff Vote in Support of Forming Union with CWA Local 1180;

Sunrise Workers Take Important Step Towards Stronger and More Accessible Workplace with Recognition and Support from Management;

Sunrise Movement Becomes Latest Nonprofit to Organize, with Less than 5% of Nonprofit Workers in Unions Nationally

WASHINGTON - Today, workers with Sunrise Movement, a youth-led movement organization advocating to stop climate change and create millions of American jobs, voted to form a union with Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1180 in New York. More than 95% of Sunrise Movement staff members voted in support of forming a union with CWA, and management has agreed to recognize the staff union.

In a virtual meeting today with Sunrise Movement staff and management, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) verified the union vote count as Sunrise’s third-party validator, announcing support from 79 out of 82 workers.

“As a youth-led grassroots organization dedicated to climate justice and bringing millions of living-wage jobs to the American workforce, forming a union was a clear step of action for us at Sunrise, and one that we believe embodies our movement’s values and will guide its growth,” said Gabbi Pierce, Internal Communications Coordinator at Sunrise Movement and member of CWA Local 1180. “We know that workplaces are stronger when workers have a voice and are empowered through unionization, and we are thankful for the recognition of our union by Sunrise management, who has supported our organizing efforts from the start. This is a huge step for our movement in our fight against climate change, and for nonprofit organizations everywhere which are increasingly advocating in support of worker rights.”

“The organizing efforts by Sunrise workers show that unions are essential in creating a foundation for a strong, equitable environment that elevates the voices of all workers,” said Senator Markey. “I’m proud of these passionate young people who embody the true value of unions in the strongest traditions of the labor movement and are stepping out as advocates for workers’ rights and good American jobs. Their dedication to empowering their team with strong support from management sets an important precedent for our country's workplaces.”

Sunrise Movement Allegedly Fires Employee for Union Activity

By Lia Russell - Strike Wave, July 10, 2020

Note: This story has been updated to include comment from the employer and to clarify that retaliation is alleged.

An employee for the progressive climate change organization Sunrise Movement has told Strikewave that they were fired for organizing a union and that they have filed an unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). 

Akshai Singh, whose pronouns are they/them, is a regional organizer based in Cleveland for Sunrise Movement. They said that the organization fired them on July 10 after their manager had told them they failed to meet performance standards.

“I was let go based on not being up to standards,” Singh said. “In reality, I was fired, not laid off. It was clear based on the other employees I talked to, that they were completely unaware of this.” 

Singh alleges their firing was retaliation for their role in organizing Sunrise Movement staff with help from the Chicago and Regional Midwest Board of Workers United (CMRJB). 

They said that they had not spoken to their manager in a month and a half, after they had been given a performance improvement plan during their three-month evaluation.

Singh filed an unfair labor practice with the NLRB after their alleged firing, arguing that they had been punished for union activity. Federal labor law prohibits employers from discriminating or relating against an employee for supporting a union or engaging in union activity. 

“I [felt] like there was a lot of instances where it was clear I supported collective action at the workplace,” Singh said. “Looking back, it’s clear I was being tracked very closely and isolated on the job.” 

Because they were fired, not laid off, Singh says they’re not eligible for unemployment insurance. 

They said that Sunrise offered them one month’s severance pay and has agreed to continue their healthcare benefits, something they’re grateful for as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. However, Singh said that Sunrise did not extend those same benefits to their now-former domestic partner, despite it being “standard practice in non-profits” to do so. 

Tough Times Organizing Street Canvassers

By Gavin McAllister - Organizing Work, December 5, 2019

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organized the Seattle office of Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. (GCI) from July 2017 to August 2018. GCI is a company neck-deep in the “nonprofit industrial complex”: it is a fundraising company that contracts with nonprofit organizations to provide high-volume small donor funds. Their business model consists of selling canvassing shifts to organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, and Doctors Without Borders. The worker’s job is to stand on a public street wearing the nonprofit’s uniform, flag down passersby, and try to convince them to donate to the nonprofit. GCI would then also collect the donor’s contact information and sell it to third party organizations, primarily the Democratic Party.

The union drive began when disgruntled workers approached the Seattle IWW General Membership Branch (GMB) in 2017. Through the course of the campaign, the union grew from a small committee to a wall-to-wall solidarity union. The drive ended on a difficult note when the employer closed the shop and fled the state in August 2018 to avoid having the union in the workplace. All 15 workers, including me, were laid off.

The campaign ultimately taught the Seattle IWW a few important lessons about the nuts and bolts of organizing in this type of workplace. We learned that it is absolutely possible to organize a fighting union at a small, high-turnover workplace. However, we underestimated how far the bosses would be willing to go to keep a union out, and we overestimated what the Labor Relations Board could do for us.

Progressives in the Streets, Union-busters in the Sheets

By Marianne Garneau - Organizing Work, November 22, 2019

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen multiple headlines about social justice advocacy groups and other progressive nonprofits resisting their workers’ attempts to organize. The tactics range from hiring anti-union law firms and holding “captive audience” staff meetings challenging the need for a union, to ruthless responses like mass layoffs.

Basically, we’re witnessing the same anti-union playbook that we’re used to in the corporate or for-profit sector, applied within organizations that claim to have a mandate to actively fight for good. These organizations will even tout their support for unions and partnerships with them, and yet having one in-house, representing their own workers, is apparently intolerable.

We’ve said before on this site that a boss is a boss is a boss. Managers want to control wages and workflow, and any pushback against that will unleash a power struggle. But it’s worth digging into the particular form this takes at nonprofits: why workers at these ostensibly progressive institutions feel the need to organize, and why they face so much resistance.

This isn’t just about calling out the hypocrisy of so-called progressives. It’s about preparing nonprofit sector workers, who are often young and idealistic and inexperienced at asserting their rights, for what they might face from these employers, and inoculating them against the bosses’ attempts to convince them they don’t need or deserve a union.

Workers go to work for these organizations thinking they can do good, and assuming they will be treated well by employers committed to social justice. But it turns out that good treatment for workers is not a matter of philosophical commitment to progressive political values, but a matter of how power is distributed in the workplace.

Extractivism and Resistance in North Africa

By Hamza Hamouchene - Transnational Institute, October 2019

Extractivism as a mode of accumulation and appropriation in North Africa was structured through colonialism in the 19th century to respond to the demands of the metropolitan centres. This accumulation and appropriation pattern is based on commodification of nature and privatisation of natural resources, which resulted in serious environmental depredation. Accumulation by dispossession has reaffirmed the role of Northern African countries as exporters of nature and suppliers of natural resources – such as oil and gas- and primary commodities heavily dependent on water and land, such as agricultural commodities. This role entrenches North Africa’s subordinate insertion into the global capitalist economy, maintaining relations of imperialist domination and neo-colonial hierarchies.

The neo-colonial character of North African extractivism reflects the international division of labour and the international division of nature. It is revealed in largescale oil and gas extraction in Algeria and Tunisia; phosphate mining in Tunisia and Morocco; precious ore mining - silver, gold, and manganese - in Morocco; and water-intensive agribusiness farming paired with tourism in Morocco and Tunisia. This plays an important role in the ecological crisis in North Africa, which finds its clear expression in acute environmental degradation, land exhaustion and loss of soil fertility, water poverty, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution and disease, as well as effects of global warming such as desertification, recurrent heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.

Concurrent with this dynamic of dispossession of land and resources, new forms of dependency and domination are created. The (re)-primarisation of the economy (the deepened reliance on the export of primary commodities) is often accompanied by a loss of food sovereignty as a rentier system reinforces food dependency by relying on food imports, as in the case of Algeria; and/or as land, water and other resources are increasingly mobilised in the service of export-led cash crop agribusiness, as in Tunisia and Morocco. Extractivism finds itself mired in serious tensions, which generates protests and resistance. This paper documents some of these tensions and struggles by analysing activist grassroots work, including the participation in alternative regional conferences and ‘International Solidarity Caravans’ where representative of grassroots organisations, social movements and peasant communities met and travelled together to sites of socio-environmental injustices, providing a space to strategise together and offer effective solidarity to their respective struggles.

The rural working poor and the unemployed in Northern Africa are the most impacted by the multidimensional crisis. Comprising small-scale farmers, near-landless rural workers, fisherfolks and the unemployed, the movements emerging in the five case studies presented here are resisting the looting of their subsoil resources, the despoliation of their lands, pervasive environmental destruction and the loss of livelihoods. The paper asks the following questions: should we see these protests, uprisings and movements as mainly environmental, or are these fundamentally anti-systemic – anti-capitalist, antiimperialist, decolonial and counter-hegemonic protests? Are these circumstantial episodes of resistance, or do they rather represent the latest development in the historical trajectory of class struggle against the latest capitalist offensive in North Africa? The paper presents an assessment of the nature of these movements which grapple with tensions and contradictions that face them.

Read the report (PDF).

WWF’s REDD project in Mai Ndombe, Democratic Republic of Congo: No consultation, no transparency, and communities paid less than DRC’s minimum wage

By Chris Lang - REDD Monitor, November 1, 2017

WWF’s largest REDD project in Africa is in Mai Ndombe province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to WWF, the results so far are “very encouraging”. On its website, WWF states that, “The participatory approach through local development committees has proven to be a success with effective achievements.”

But a recent report by the Congolese NGO, Ligue Congolaise de Lutte Contre la Corruption (LICOCO), challenges these claims. LICOCO’s report is based on an independent observation mission to the territory of Mushie in Mai Ndombe.

The report looks into whether WWF is implementing the governance tools developed by DRC’s National REDD+ Commission.

WWF was hired by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation of Nature and Sustainable Development to run the REDD project in four territories: Bolobo, Kwamouth, Mushie, and Yumbi. The project is part of a Forest Investment Program project titled Improved Forested Landscape Management Project (PGAPF), which has US$37.7 million funding from the World Bank.

Why the NGOs won't lead the revolution

By Leela Yellesetty - Socialist Worker, March 29, 2017

FOR MANY who are outraged and want to do something about the human suffering and environmental devastation wrought by capitalism, volunteering or working for a nonprofit or non-governmental organization (NGO) is a natural place to turn. So why do socialists think this isn't the best way to address the problem?

There is no shortage of such organizations today. Most of them are engaged primarily in direct service work, providing a whole spectrum of needed resources such as housing, food, health care, child care, legal defense and so on. Often, these services fill the gap left by cuts in government funding and are a lifeline for those who otherwise couldn't afford or wouldn't have access to a basic necessity.

There are, of course, problems with some of these organizations: Many overwork and underpay their employees while executives award themselves fat paychecks. Unlike governmental agencies, they are free of any democratic accountability and can choose to impose their religious or political views on those they serve or employ.

But even for organizations which do good, needed work and genuinely attempt to be responsible and accountable to the communities they serve and the people who labor for them, there is a built-in limitation: They are only addressing the symptoms and not the cause of the problems.

Now Hiring: The Growth of America’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Jobs

By Eskedar Gessesse, et. al. - Blue Green Alliance, January 2017

The following text is by Elizabeth Perry, Work and Climate Change Report, February 3, 2017:

Following on the January 2017 report US Energy and Employment  from the U.S. Department of Energy, more evidence of the healthy growth of the clean energy industry comes in a report by the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps and Meister consultants.  Now Hiring: The Growth of America’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Jobs compiles the latest statistics from diverse sources, and concludes that “sustainability” accounts for an estimated 4.5 million jobs (up from 3.4 million in 2011) in the U.S. in 2015. Sustainability jobs are defined as those in energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as waste reduction, natural resources conservation and environmental education, vehicle manufacturing, public sector, and corporate sustainability jobs.

Statistics drill down to wages and working conditions – for example, average wages for energy efficiency jobs are almost $5,000 above the national median, and wages for solar workers are above the national median of $17.04 per hour. Comparing clean energy with the fossil fuel industry, the report states that the 1.4 million jobs in energy efficiency construction and installation alone is more than double the number of workers in fossil fuel mining, extraction and electric power generation combined. Now Hiring states that for every $1 million invested in building retrofits and industrial efficiency, 8 direct or indirect jobs are created; in comparison, 3 are created by a comparable investment in the fossil fuel industry. This final comparison of job multiplier effect is based on “Green versus brown: Comparing the employment impacts of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and fossil fuels using an input-output model” by Heidi Garrett Pelletier at PERI, and appears in the February 2017 issue of Economic Modelling.

Read the report (Link).

Not-for-Profit, Open for Business

By Sophia Burns - The North Star, December 15, 2016

One summer in college, I got a job canvassing for Greenpeace. We spent the morning getting pumped up by our supervisor about how we were really going to make a difference, then spent the afternoon on the sidewalk downtown asking passers-by for donations. As new hires, we had three probationary days to “make staff”: anyone who didn’t meet the quota would not be kept on, and those who did would be fired if they didn’t continue to deliver.

Every Monday, a new crop of fifteen or so recruits showed up. A week later, all but two or three would be gone. Almost nobody lasted more than a month. There was no union, the training wage was lower than the advertised staff wage, and the large bulk of the money we raised was brought in by trainees who never made staff.

While few nonprofit workplaces have conditions quite so extreme, low pay and long hours are par for the course at most NGOs. Union density in the field is quite low, and many nonprofits expect their employees to accept the conditions they impose in the name of “the mission” and a “nonprofit ethic” of selfless service. Often, members of the activist community see nonprofit jobs as very desirable – a chance to make a living by living their values and to do progressive organizing full-time. And, indeed, on-the-ground progressive politics frequently depends on the resources NGOs offer, including funding, legal infrastructure, and staffers’ time and labor. Certainly, when I worked for Greenpeace, few canvassers complained about the draconian quotas or extreme precarity – at any given time, any given worker would more likely than not be fired within a week, but we were “doing something real.” In comparison, retail didn’t seem to cut it.

Our jobs may have been precarious, but Greenpeace’s funding was not. While Greenpeace does not accept government or corporate contributions, most NGOs do, as well as foundation grants and individual “membership” donations. “Member,” of course, is an ambiguous word. A member of a book club will generally get to help choose the next book, and a member of a labor union will (in theory, at least) get to vote in internal elections and on contracts. However, a “member” of an advocacy group like Greenpeace donates money and doesn’t do a whole lot else. As a canvasser, I certainly wasn’t voting for candidates for the Board of Directors. Neither were the “members” I was signing up. And while Greenpeace is typical of policy-focused nonprofits in that it claims to speak for a broad constituency, it’s also typical in that those constituents don’t really get a say in the organizational and political decisions that determine the group’s activities. For most nonprofits, “joining” means donating (and occasionally receiving a mailer asking for even more donations).

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