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IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus

Welcome to the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus

"Judi Bari did something that I believe is unparalleled in the history of the environmental movement. She is an Earth First! activist who took it upon herself to organize Georgia Pacific sawmill workers into the IWW…Well guess what friends, environmentalists and rank and file timber workers becoming allies is the most dangerous thing in the world to the timber industry!"

--Darryl Cherney, June 20, 1990.

To contact us or locate an active IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus (EUC) group (which report to their nearest chartered IWW branch), select "contact us" and you'll find a (more or less) current list of active EUC groups and/or one of our members will contact you.

If you're ready to get involved with the IWW EUC, select "join" and follow the instructions listed there.

If you'd like to learn more about what the IWW EUC does or what our general positions are on the issues that surround the intersection of revolutionary unionism, climate justice, and ecology, visit our "Green Unionism" library.

If you'd like to keep current with a variety of news sources that are more or less relevant to environmental unionism, (with perspectives that match our own and many that don't), visit our "News Feeds" and you'll find syndicated content from other sites and sources. (We also recommend you "like" our Facebook Page, where our members post additional content).

If you'd like to connect with other organizations, movements, and/or networks doing similar or complimentary work, please visit our "links" page (please note a link to another organization's site does not constitute an endorsement of their actions, perspectives, or opinions and are intended for information purposes only).

If you are looking for the main IWW site, we have included a link for that as well.

IWW EUC Report for the June 2024 San Francisco Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch Meeting

By x344543 - IWW Eco Union Caucus, June 6, 2024

I. May 24 (Judi Bari Day).

A. History - On May 24, 1990, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney (both members of the IWW and Earth First!) were the victims of an assassination attempt when a bomb, planted in Bari’s automobile exploded while they were driving through Oakland. The Oakland Police and FBI claimed that the bomb was theirs (Bari’s and Cherney’s), and that the two were knowingly transporting it for the purpose of engaging in “an act of ecoterrirism”. This was, of course, completely false, and the two would later be exonerated, and would win a $4 million+ lawsuit in 2002 against both agencies for violating their civil rights (though Bari had passed away in 1997 due to cancer). The City of Oakland would later declare May 24 as “Judi Bari Day” (but doesn’t do anything to mark the day).

B. Background - for a detailed history of our late Fellow Worker, the following sources provide useful information:

C. WISERA IWW Convention - At the invitation of the WISERA Environmental Committee, I gave a presentation on Judi Bari’s IWW organizing. It was a bit scattered at first, but ultimately well received. It was recorded, but I don’t have a copy of the video yet, so I can’t share it, but I will once it’s made available.

D. Memory Against Forgetting - Long time Bay Area Earth First!er, Karen Pickett, was interviewed by the Green and Red Podcast, and she gave an excellent overview of Judi Bari’s Earth First! / IWW organizing. It’s well worth a listen: Memory Against Forgetting: The Story of Judi Bari w/ Earth First!er Karen Pickett https://greenandredpodcast.org/2024/05/22/memory-against-forgetting-the-story-of-judi-bari-w-earth-firster-karen-pickett/

E. Marking the Moment - I attended the annual “Marking the Moment” Judi Bari Day event, where her comrades gather to keep her organizing and wisdom alive. I was the sole (currently active) dues paying IWW member present, though there were some other former members there. I was able to provide some of the IWW contextual history, which was well received (by a crowd of approximately 20).

F. It’s Going Down Podcast - There is a possibility that IGD will interview me about Judi Bari, but details are still being worked out. I will let you know more if and when it happens.

Renewable Energy is (Mostly) Green and Not Inherently Capitalist, Volume 1: Wind Power (REVISED)

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Eco Union Caucus, Revised January 16, 2024

Is renewable energy actually green? Are wind, solar, and storage infrastructure projects a climate and/or envi­ronmental solution or are they just feel-good, greenwashing, false "solutions" that either perpetuate the deep­ening climate and environmental crisis or just represent further extractivism by the capitalist class and the privileged Global North at the expense of front-line communities and the Global South? 

This document argues that, while there is no guarantee that renewable energy projects will ultimately be truly "green", there is nothing inherent in the technology itself that precludes them from being so. Ultimately the "green"-ness of the project depends on the level of rank-and-file, democratic, front-line community and working-class grassroots power with the orga­nized leverage to counter the forces that would use renewable energy to perpetuate the capitalist, colonialist, extractivist system that created the cli­mate and environmental crisis in which we find ourselves.

In‌ order to do that, we mustn't fall prey to the misconceptions and inaccuracies that paint renewable energy infrastructure projects as inherently anti-green. This series attempts to do just that. This first Volume, on utility scale wind power addresses several arguments made against it, including (but not limited to) the following misconceptions:

  • Humanity must abandon electricity completely;
  • Degrowth is the only solution;
  • New wind developments only expand overall consumption;
  • Wind power is unreliable and intermittent;
  • Wind power is just another form of "green" capitalism;
  • The extraction of resources necessary to build wind power negates any of their alleged green benefits;
  • Wind power is an extinction-level event threat to birds, bats, whales, and other wildlife (and possibly humans);
  • Only locally distributed renewable energy arrayed in microgrids should be built without any--even a small percentage--of utility scale wind developments;
  • Only nationalized and/or state-owned utility scale renewable energy developments should be built;
  • No wind power developments will be green unless we first organize a socialist revolution, because eve­rything else represents misplaced faith in capitalist market forces.

In fact, none of the above arguments are automatically true (and the majority are almost completely untrue). However, they're often repeated, sometimes ignorantly, but not too infrequently in bad faith. This document is offered as an inoculation and antidote to these misconceptions and misinformation.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Class Struggle Environmentalism, Degrowth, and Ecosocialism

By x344543 - IWW Eco Union Caucus, May 27, 2023

Calling for "DeGrowth" without conditions or even "Ecosocialist DeGrowth" is far too vague and could potentially alienate the working class (and no version of socialism, let alone ecosocialism, can be achieved without support of the working class.

Consider the report that the UC Labor Just Released: Fossil fuel layoff - The economic and employment effects of a refinery closure on workers in the Bay Area. This report de­tails the experience of union refinery workers who have lost their jobs at the Martinez

On October 30, 2020, the Marathon oil refinery in Contra Costa County, California, was perma­nently shut down and 345 unionized workers laid off. The Marathon refinery’s closure sheds light on the employment and economic impacts of climate change policies and a shrinking fossil fuel industry on fossil fuel workers in the region and more broadly.

In the aftermath of the refinery shutdown, workers were relatively successful in gaining post-layoff employment but at the cost of lower wages and worse working conditions. At the time of the survey, 74% of former Marathon workers (excluding retirees) had found new jobs. Nearly one in five (19%) were not employed but actively searching for work; 4% were not employed but not look­ing for a job; and the remaining 2% were temporarily laid off from their current job. Using standard labor statistics measures, the post-layoff unemployment rate among Marathon workers was 22.5% and the employment rate was 77.5%. If workers who have stopped actively searching for work were included, the post-layoff unemployment rate was higher at 26%.

Former Marathon workers find themselves in jobs that pay $12 per hour less than their Mar­athon jobs, a 24% cut in pay. The median hourly wage at Marathon was $50, compared to a post-layoff median of $38. A striking level of wage inequality defines the post-layoff wages of former re­finery workers. At Marathon, hourly pay ranged between $30 to $68. The current range extends as low as $14 per hour to a high of $69. Workers reported benefits packages comparable to their pre-layoff Marathon benefits.

Workers found jobs in a range of sectors. The single most common sector of re-employ­ment was oil and gas, where 28% of former Marathon workers found post-layoff jobs but at wages 26% lower than at Marathon. These lower rates of pay stem from loss of seniority and non-union employment.

Overall, workers reported worse working conditions at their post-layoff jobs, even in higher wage jobs. Workers described hazardous worksites, heavy workloads, work speed-up, increased job responsibilities, and few opportunities for advancement. Above all, workers cited poor safety prac­tices and increased worksite hazards as the most significant and alarming characteristics of degraded working conditions.

Some caveats:

  • While this report frames the closure as a result of energy transition in its press releases and in the media, they admit that the refinery really closed due to COVID, although the employer is opportunistically retool­ing the refinery for "renewable biodiesel" (a greenwashing scam, mostly);
  • Job losses and retooling happens all the time under capitalism.

This is NOT an example of "DeGrowth" andy more than it is an example of "Decarbonization" or "Energy Transi­tion", because fossil fuel profits are experiencing record and/or near record highs (for a variety of reasons)

Review - A Planet to Win:Why We Need a Green New Deal

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, May 11, 2023

In spite of this book's straightforward sounding title, A Planet to Win, Why We Need a Green New Deal (Verso, 2019), by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and The Riofrancos, this relatively short and concise book would be much more accurately titled, "Why we think our version of the Green New Deal is the best one of the lot," because there isn't a single "Green New Deal", but several, as we have noted here on ecology.iww.org. This, however, is not necessarily a negative aspect of this book.

The authors, all of them ecosocialists with a transformative approach, are quick to explain that the particular Green New Deal they seek is one that addresses most critiques of the Green New Deal in general. 

  • Would the Green New Deal repeat the mistakes of the original New Deal and exclude BIPOC people? Not the authors' version.
  • Would the Green New Deal rely heavily on social democratic Keynesian state intervention? Not the author's version!
  • Would the Green New Deal perpetuate endless growth in hubristic ignorance of the natural limits to growth, not if these authors have any say in the matter;
  • Would the Green New Deal further the continued exploitation by the Global North of the Global South? Not if the authors have anything to do with it!
  • Would the Green New Deal merely be a case of the capitalists saving themselves, with a putatively green branding? Absolutely not, the authors say.

Certainly, if given the choice, that sounds quite good to me. Clearly these authors aren't content with a naive faith that just because something is called a "Green New Deal" it will actually be a good deal.

IWW EUC Presents, Who Bombed Judi Bari?

Fellow Workers!

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.

When: May 28, 2023 07:00 PM Universal Time UTC 

In honor of Judi Bari Day (May 24), the WISERA IWW Environmental Committee and NARA IWW Eco Union Caucus present a showing of the documentary, "Who Bombed Judi Bari?" - https://youtu.be/HWApxvSjMKY and will follow that with a discussion about the film and its relevance to Green Unionism.

Did you know that the bombing that nearly claimed Judi Bari's life was prompted by Redwood Summer?

Did you know that Redwood Summer--which was well known as a radical, albeit nonviolent, environmental uprising--was actually also a continuation of IWW organizing efforts, specifically among timber workers in northwestern California?

Did you now that Judi Bari and her comrades were proposing class struggle environmental unionism and just transition more than three decades ago, long before the current "Green New Deal" framing? It's true! Come watch this documentary with us and find out more about green unionism and how the IWW was one of the early adopters of this essential revolutionary organizing approach.

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtc-iopj8rEtHZzkJ35d2nINJedzqA-GR_ 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

A note on the links in this article:  each of the links elevant to terms listed in this text lead to a whole series of articles, texts, videos, and other media in reverse chronological order, from newest to oldest, and each list is routinely updated.

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.

Editorial: The Jevons Paradox Myth

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, April 6, 2023

As the climate crises deepens and the push to decarbonize the world's energy systems intensifies, a chorus of skeptical and pessimistic voices continually warns against placing hope in renewable energy as a solution (whether partial or wholly), arguing instead for vastly reducing energy consumption (as well as everything else). One of the most commonly invoked pieces of putative evidence made to bolster the argument is the oft cited, but poorly understood concept known as "Jevon's Paradox" (see also Wikipedia for a quick reference).

For example, in an article featured on the degrowth blog, Resilience (run by degrowth advocate Richard Heinberg), "Resources for a better future: Jevons Paradox", author Sam Bliss declares:

In 1865, (English economist William Stanley) Jevons found that as each new steam engine design made the use of coal more efficient, Britain used more coal overall, not less.

These efficiency improvements made coal cheaper, because steam engines, including the ones used to pump water out of coal mines, required less coal to produce a given amount of useful energy. Yet increasingly efficient steam engines made coal more valuable too, since so much useful energy could be produced from a given amount of coal.

That might be the real paradox: the ability to use a resource more efficiently makes it both cheaper and more valuable at the same time.

In Jevons’ time, more and more coal became profitable to extract as more and more uses of coal became profitable. Incomes increased as coal-fired industrial capitalism took off, and profits were continually invested to expand production further.
A century and a half later, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that as industrial processes have gotten more efficient at using dozens of different materials and energy sources, the overall use of these materials and energy sources has grown in nearly every case. The few exceptions are almost all materials whose use has been limited or banned for reasons of toxicity, like asbestos and mercury.

In an economy designed to grow, the Jevons paradox is all but inevitable. Some call it the Jevons phenomenon because of its ubiquity. Purposefully limiting ourselves might provide a way out.

This is by no means the only such example, nor is it even necessarily the most illustrative one, but it perfectly summarizes the all too often careless application of what is an overused and debatable trope.

There are several problems with Jevon’s Paradox and the way in which Bliss presents it:

Discussions on the New Anti-Union Laws

By staff - Earth Strike UK, February 1, 2023

The labour movement is facing a grave threat in the form of a raft of new and incredibly restrictive anti-union laws. These laws will make all-out strike action in several industries outright illegal and are designed to immobilise our movement.

Current anti union laws limit legal strike action to disputes between a specific group of workers and their employer over workplace issues, ruling out strikes over “political issues” or in support of other workers. The law also imposes a slow and bureaucratic balloting process and sets strict ballot thresholds. The new laws will also require unions in some sectors to break their own strikes and continue providing a minimum service level, set by the government.

In response to this threat Earth Strike UK and Free Our Unions organised a demonstration outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the government department responsible for both environmental and trade union policy. There was drumming, chanting, banners, and we heard from workers from across numerous industries who explained how current anti-union laws affected them and the threat posed by these new ones. Following the demo, we held a small assembly to discuss in more detail the challenges posed by all anti-union legislation and begin to develop a strategy of resistance. During the meeting we discussed 3 questions. Here are some of the outcomes of that discussion.

Question 1. What are the most important ways in which existing anti-union laws hinder workers’ struggles and the Labour movement? How will the proposed new laws do so?

Green Unionism and Human Rights: Imaginings Beyond the Green New Deal

By Chaumtoli Huq - Pace Environmental Law Review, January 2023

Web Editor's Note: This publication contains an error, identifying the International Woodworkers of America (IWA), a CIO union, as an IWW affiliate. This is inaccurate. The IWA was cofounded by many radical workers, including (but not limited to) members of the IWW, but it was never an IWW union itself.

The Green New Deal harkens us back to the nostalgia of the New Deal era when a diverse and comprehensive set of federal legislation, agencies, programs, public work projects and financial reforms were implemented between 1933 and 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to promote economic recovery. Among them, relevant to this essay’s focus on labor, was the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which provided legal protection to organizing, and supporting unionization and collective bargaining. However, due to political compromises, categories of workers including domestic workers and agricultural workers, who were mostly Black and immigrants were excluded from the NLRA’s coverage. Despite these exclusions, it was a time when the New Deal state seemed to be a strong ally of workers and the labor movement. Industrial peace and security were dominant narratives fueling much of the New Deal legislation. This industrial peace and security rhetoric suppressed the radicalization and rising militancy of the labor movement of the time such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Moreover, the law was actively used to prosecute criminally radical unionists and through other extra-judicial means.

New Deal policies solidified one form of unionism, referred to as business or contract unionism which is based on the idea that the union or labor movement brokers wages, benefits from its members, through collective bargaining agreements, and unions become servicers or administrators of those benefits. Such an approach heavily defers to law, state and legislative spaces as the protector of labor rights; thereby, ceding power away from worker or community control. In contrast, social unionism espoused the view that the role of the labor movement was to build worker power which gives them greater control over their livelihood, workplaces and environment. This view encompassed a wide spectrum of political ideologies and strategies. Social unionism broadly advanced that unions should address the economic interests of its members, encourage them to be active on broader issues of social justice and engage with the state to pass protective worker legislation.18 Under the social unionism view, syndicalists like IWW were skeptical or at most contemptuous of the legal system and emphasized the direct role of the union as agents of social change and governance.

Read the report (PDF).

Defend The Land: End Toxic Gold Mining

By staff - Ireland IWW, July 22, 2022

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) has condemned the recent issuing of gold and diamond licences to international prospecting companies by the North of Ireland, Department for Economy. It is estimated that a number of exploration licences have been granted to several companies seeking to prospect in counties Fermanagh and Tyrone.

News came as the Industrial Workers of the World Ireland Branch held its Annual General Conference. Representatives of the IWW Ireland Branch, which brought forward a motion of solidarity to its members, reiterated it's 'opposition to any toxic gold mining in the Sperrins' mountain range stating; 'This motion extends its continued solidarity with the communities in resistance in the Sperrin Mountains in Co. Tyrone, and the continued opposition to Toxic Gold Mining in the region by Canadian multinational Dalradian Gold. In turn the union will continue to campaign and highlight the impact of toxic gold mining.'

An IWW spokesperson said that "The motion was overshadowed by media reports of a number companies (Flintridge Resources, Karelian Diamond Resources and Mount Castle) recently granted prospecting licences. This will undoubtedly see increased prospecting in other counties Fermanagh and Tyrone, an act that the vast majority of local communities would overwhelmingly object to.

"The membership of our union past a motion of our continued support with local communities fighting toxic gold mining in the Sperrins and our opposition to the environmental destruction of our land and that of our communities."

Commenting on the issuing of further prospecting licences by the Department of the Economy, a spokesperson responded stating "We have no doubt the those in power believe that it's open season for welcoming big businesses when it comes to mining in the North West. It's clear that for some, the priorities of profit comes first over the lives of workers and working class communities as well as the destruction of our environment.

"For those who still support or gain financially from those multinational companies profiting from toxic gold mining, yet still turn a blind eye to the impact it will have on all our lives, what more can be said. With the information now gathered and widely available on the devastation toxic mining will cause, our union calls for all mining licences to be immediately withdrawn. Nothing more than the immediate end to toxic mining will be acceptable to our union and that of the local communities who continue to resist and defend the land or environment."

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The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

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