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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.

From Biscuits To Steel: Ohio Valley Organizing Goes Beyond Coal

By Katie Myers - Ohio Valley Resource, January 21, 2022

(Excerpt):

Public awareness of labor issues is growing but labor unions still face huge challenges.

Maxim Baru, an organizer with Industrial Workers of the World, spent the past months helping organize staff of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, a regional nonprofit, after complaints of long hours, sleepless nights and low pay.

“Just because there’s a new sense of vibrancy doesn’t make the situation totally more advantaged,” Baru said. “A lot of employers still have enormous financial and political advantages over their employees.”

OVEC’s board retaliated sharply, firing two employees, according to former organizer Brendan Muckian-Bates.

“I think that’s one of the things that frustrates me the most about this whole thing is we didn’t even get to present a path forward for OVEC,” Muckian-Bates said.

Employees filed four unfair labor practice suits to recoup their pay. In November, the company’s board dissolved the organization instead of recognizing the union. The National Labor Relations Board is now attempting to extract back pay from the company for the two fired employees. A judge has frozen the nonprofit’s assets.

Baru said organizing nonprofits and other industries has been challenging, and many workplaces require a different approach than the old-school shop floor once did.

“If we deliver that demand by continuing to do a kind of one-size-fits-all cookie cutter prefabricated unionization drive, we’re going to disappoint a lot of people,” Baru said. “The process of unionizing can sometimes be very lengthy.”

Beyond a Just Transition

Beyond "Just Transition"

By Dr Eurig Scandrett - The Jimmy Reid Foundation, December 3, 2021

Introduction

It is no use simply saying to South Wales miners that all around them is an ecological disaster. They already know. They live in it. They have lived in it for generations. They carry it in their lungs… you cannot just say to people who have committed their lives and their communities to certain kinds of production that this has all got to be changed… Everything will have to be done by negotiation, by equitable negotiation, and it will have to be taken steadily along the way. Otherwise, you will find … that there is a middle-class environmental group protesting against the damage and there’s a trade-union group supporting the coming of the work. Now for socialists this is a terrible conflict to get into. Because if each group does not really listen to what the other is saying, there will be a sterile conflict which will postpone any real solutions at a time when it is already a matter for argument whether there is still time for the solutions. Raymond Williams (1982/1989)

The idea of ‘Just Transition’ (JT) has gained traction in recent years. With its roots in the union movement at the end of the twentieth century, it has developed into a concept with diverse and contested meanings. This engagement with JT has created spaces within the urgent policy areas of climate change mitigation to address potential job losses and the disproportionate impact up on the poorest communities, and more positively, to work for the generation of good quality, unionised jobs and greater social equality in a green economy. This is a fast-moving and often technical area of policy development. In Scotland, the Just Transition Commission (2021) reported in May 2021 after meeting over a period of two years, and relevant technical and policy reports are published with increasing frequency.

This paper is not a detailed contribution to these debates, on which others are more competent to comment, although it will inevitably touch on these. The paper aims to take a somewhat longer-term and more abstracted view of JT. It asks what do we mean by ‘Just’ and to what are we expecting to ‘Transition’ to? It argues that, in the discussions over the meanings of JT, the collective interests of workers, low-income communities and the environment are central, and require mechanisms to facilitate challenging dialogues between these interests.

There is an inevitable tendency, in developing positions on JT, to seek common ground between the two principal social movements that have driven JT debates: unions and environmental NGOs; or else between different unions or different industrial sectors. This process of seeking common ground can lead to a dilution of principle on all sides, a common denominator that all can live with, but with which none is entirely satisfied. While the process of negotiating common ground is a necessary and useful process for practical purposes, and a process at which the union movement is particularly adept, this paper argues that JT also provides the opportunity for a deeper dialogue in which all key stakeholders – the environment and working-class people who are either dependent on or excluded from the current unsustainable economy – can seek to incorporate the principles of the others. There are areas where the union movement and the environmental movement disagree. These areas of disagreement could be seen as potentially fertile grounds for deep dialogue in order to seek meaningful and lasting resolution.

This paper is, therefore, not intended to reflect the policy of any union or environmental group, but rather constitute a contribution to a debate within these movements and outwith them as well. It is, in places, designed to challenge. Indeed, it makes the case that the union and environmental movements can best learn from one another by being willing to be challenged by each other. All social movements reflect the interests of their participants, members, opinion formers and supporters and are contingent upon the social and political conditions in which they are acting. This is a strength, but also leads to ‘blind spots’ which are best addressed through collective self-reflection and challenges in solidarity from comrades in the struggle.

It is argued here that JT provides an opportunity to explore, for example, the tension well known in unions between representing the immediate interests of members and the long-term interests of the working-class; and in the environmental movement between the disproportionately educated, white, professional middle-class membership of the NGOs and the communities most directly affected by environmental devastation.

As has been recognised in some of the debates about JT, the idea can be located in a radical working-class tradition which, in Britain includes defence diversification, the East Kilbride Rolls Royce boycott of Chilean engines, the Lucas Aerospace Alternative Plan, the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in, amongst others. JT can be more than a mechanism to address climate change, for it can also be a process which can be applied to transitions of many kinds that the labour movement and the left more generally have long advocated: the transition to a more democratic economy, more equal society and socially beneficial system of production, distribution and exchange. The paper, therefore, argues that the union movement, along with environmental and anti-poverty movements would benefit from going ‘beyond’ just transition.

COP26 Report Back: Climate Justice Activists Speak Out

Staff at Anti-Mountaintop Removal Nonprofit Coal River Mountain Watch Unionize with IWW

By Maxim Baru - IWW.ORG, September 7, 2021

Workers fighting destruction of communities & environment by mountaintop removal mining in WV join expanding non-profit labor union

NAOMA, West Virginia — The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is excited to announce that workers at the Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW) have organized with unanimous support under the banner of the IWW.

As of September 7, the IWW has asked for and received voluntary recognition from CRMW management.

Employees at CRMW join their colleagues at Holler Health Justice and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in the widening slate of nonprofits unionized with the IWWs West Virginia Branch.

Coal River Mountain Watch is a grassroots organization 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, CRMW become a major force in opposition to mountaintop removal.

As an organization that stands for human rights in mountain communities and against community destruction by the coal industry – in recognizing their staff’s union – the CRMW can now proudly boast that their values align with their practice.

“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,” said Coal River Mountain Watch staff member Junior Walk, adding “Here’s to a brighter future for West Virginia and the brave souls who try to make it a better place to live.”

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, multi-nationalism, and active use of the right to strike.

Coal River Mountain Watch Workers Anticipate Union Recognition

By Christian Prince - Industrial Worker, August 18, 2021

In late July, workers at Coal River Mountain Watch in Naoma, West Virginia, requested voluntary union recognition from the environmental nonprofit organization’s board of directors. They anticipate full recognition of the Coal River Mountain Watch Union, organized with the Industrial Workers of the World, by month’s end.

The campaign to unionize CRMW is being led by Junior Walker, a longtime employee. CRMW workers had considered forming a union previously, but only committed after witnessing the campaign at another West Virginia-based environmental nonprofit, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, which is also organized with the IWW. Workers at OVEC, a larger nonprofit that has collaborated with CRMW in the past, faced significant resistance to union recognition from both management and their board of directors. Walker began speaking with the West Virginia branch of the IWW, which is supporting both campaigns, about unionizing CRMW in solidarity in March. 

Last month, CRMW workers submitted their request for voluntary union recognition to management with no resistance. Workers are now awaiting formal consent from the board of directors, who meet only every few months, thereby slowing the process. Regardless, Walker says that workers have received every indication that the CRMW Union will be recognized by the end of August.

Walker emphasizes that managers at CRMW are “about as good as they come.” Workers are seeking the right of union representation to preserve their current working conditions and, as mentioned, to express solidarity with organizing efforts at allied organizations, like OVEC.

On a personal level, Walker describes the CRMW Union as carrying on a family legacy. His grandfather was a longtime member of the United Mine Workers of America and went on strike against Massey Energy, the first non-union coal company in the area, in the 1980s. Massey was also the parent company of a subsidiary that is now seeking a permit for mountaintop removal mining, which CRMW opposes due to its devastation of mountainside biodiversity and release of carcinogenic blasting dust.

“The fact that I now have a union card in my pocket makes me really proud,” says Walker. “This is the first time I’ve been in a union in my life.”

Are you interested in forming a union at your workplace? Contact the IWW today!

Long Hours, Sleepless Nights: Nonprofit Workers Unionize in the Appalachian Coalfields

By Caitlin Myers - Strike Wave, August 13, 2021

Nonprofit workers can be a self-abnegating bunch. As a sector tasked with solving the world’s ills in ways the state can’t or won’t, from filling gaps in social services and campaigning for environmental justice to running charities and educational programs to ostensibly end poverty, nonprofits can induce in their workers a sense of moral obligation not to complain. After all, almost everyone else is worse off, right? 

That sense of obligation kept the staff of one West Virginia environmental nonprofit quiet for many years. As paid community organizers for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), their principal duty was to organizational members, with whom they fought against mountaintop removal coal mining, natural gas development, and petrochemical buildout through lobbying, direct action, and sustained campaign work. In coalitions such as the Alliance for Appalachia and Reimagine Appalachia, OVEC organizers have contributed to policy proposals and lobbying efforts designed to bring the region an explicitly pro-labor, ecologically sustainable economic transition away from coal.

When he was hired, Dustin White was thrilled to be able to dedicate his life to the fight against strip mining, and like many organizers, built a deep and complex network of relationships in communities like the one that raised him. But, he says, paid organizing is time-consuming, travel-intensive, and deeply emotional work, and he found it draining to a degree he felt management simply didn’t understand. 

“Self care ended up being work, too,” said White. As a result of long-term issues with burnout, he and others on staff privately reached out to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the winter, and hoped to go public on Earth Day. 

“I have had long work hours, sleepless nights, countless hours on the road, hundreds of blisters on my feet, and more during my time with OVEC,” White wrote in a letter to the staff and board. “Time after time I have been told that we trust and support each other and our board of directors would always have our back.” 

A staff member spilled the beans early, though. According to White, management was incensed, and after months of vitriol he and fellow staffer Brendan Muckian Bates were fired. White was fired allegedly for violating the organizational handbook’s civility rules, and Bates for organizing as a manager. Both were prominent in the union effort, though, and believe management’s goal was to discourage others involved in the unionization effort. White had experienced a series of health problems; Bates was a new father. But the lesson from this historically pro-labor organization was this: unions are great for coal miners, but you don’t need one. You have it easy. 

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