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IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus

COP26: We Only Want the Earth

By IWW Ireland - IWW UK, November 7, 2021

World leaders gathering in Glasgow for COP26 are more concerned with the theatrics of playing to the media than the climate catastrophe.

The vocal pledges and emotive speeches hold little weight against the refusal to hold large corporations to account. Despite a planet which is slowly eating itself alive, world leaders repeatedly hold back when it comes to holding their profit driven capitalist projects to account. Instead, they are opting for wishful thinking as exemplified by the Trevi fountain stunt.

As members of the Industrial Workers of the World gather to protest in support of our earth, we do so knowingly that what is actually called for is the immediate end of capitalism and that of the power structures which keep it intact. Nothing short of the complete destruction of global capitalism, here and now, will prevent us from free-falling into an irreversible environmental catastrophe for the world and all its inhabitants.

Due to the unjust structures in our world, it is those at the lower ends of capitalist hierarchies that are most affected by climate distress. Those in lower-profit countries, people of colour, women, the trans community, those who are disabled and the working class have an increased chance of experiencing the negative impact of climate change.

Simultaneously, it is those least affected who cause the most damage to our planet. During the first lockdown, when everyone stopped, carbon emissions only decreased by 3%. 71% of global emissions are produced by 100 companies including Amazon and the US Military.

For ourselves, as revolutionary syndicalists, it is our belief that the working class ultimately has the power and strength to end this nightmare for all. From the outset as a revolutionary union, our principles and vision refuses to compromise.

“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

“Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organise as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”

COP26 is a piece of theatre. As members mobilise on the streets of Glasgow, in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and across the world, we do so without hesitation at the importance of the challenges that lay ahead of our earth. There must be no ceasefire in the class war as our mission remains as important as it was back in 1905. Only organising industrially, within the workplace, within our communities, our streets and home can begin to form the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

You can play your part by joining the IWW today where you work or live and encourage others to do likewise.

From the words of James Connolly, founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, we echo today, “Our demands are most moderate, We only want the earth!

Solidarity with NHS workers from Earth Strike UK

By Staff - Earth Strike UK, July 30, 2021

Earth Strike is a grassroots movement for workers, youth, and community organisers to challenge the root causes of the climate crisis. Our mission is to disrupt the capitalist system that is causing the climate crisis and to fight for a better future for the global working class.

We extend our solidarity to, and practical support in, your struggle for pay rises of at least 15%. We will support you on any potential picket lines. Workers fighting for decent pay and to protect the standards of our healthcare system should be able to take direct action in pursuit of these demands at a time and in a manner of their own choosing. We therefore oppose all legal restrictions on the right to strike.

We are environmentalists supporting and seeking to mobilise for your struggle, and we want to see other environmentalists do the same. Our struggles are much closer than many might imagine. Healthcare jobs are climate jobs, and the refusal to fund and support healthcare properly is a damning indictment of this system’s response to climate breakdown. As air pollution chokes children in the streets of London, disproportionately in working-class and black and brown communities, the hospitals which should mitigate the damage are underfunded, with workers in them underpaid and overworked. As the effects of climate breakdown worsen, it will be healthcare systems having to deal with the impact. Meanwhile, we do not forget the vast wealth inequalities that exist between this country and others, particularly where climate destruction is already felt hardest.

As climate activists, we particularly oppose the ban on strikes over so-called “political” issues, and the ban on strikes in solidarity with other workers. Those laws prevent workers from striking directly to demand radical action on climate change, to oppose NHS privatisation and cuts, and to directly support your demands – as miners, postal workers, dockers, print workers, and others did in the 1980s. Our new “Empower the Unions” initiative aims to highlight the injustice of these restrictive laws, and mobilise both climate and trade union activists against them.

So we say: all power to the NHS workers! Your fight for 15% is a key part of the wider struggle for a genuinely socialised healthcare system, free at the point of use and run by workers and service users, which in turn is part of the struggle for a different kind of society – one in which human and environmental need, rather than the needs of profit, comes first.

An injury to one is an injury to all – solidarity!

Suds and Socialism Forum: Workers and the Environment

Bristol Earth Strike: Action for Earth Day

By Earth Strike UK - Bristol Earth Strike, April 21, 2021

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day was started on 22nd April 1970 and has continued annually since then. Each year, on 22nd April, a wide range of events take place globally with the aims of enacting transformative changes to tackle environmental crises and build a sustainable future.

Why is this important?

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned us that we must cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, and reach carbon neutrality by 2050, or we risk the planet heating beyond 1.5 degrees. If we fail to curb our carbon emissions and the average global temperature continues to increase, we risk triggering a climate breakdown that we will have no hope of stopping, causing global devastation.

Despite this stark warning by the scientific community, many governments and employers continue to act as if there were no crisis at all.

To bring about the change needed will require holding all sectors of the global economy accountable for their role in the environmental crisis and calling for bold, creative, and impactful solutions. This will require action at all levels, and we as workers have a part to play in ensuring a global just transition, the sustainability of our workplaces, and the compliance of our industries with scientific climate targets.

Regardless of how important you feel the Climate and Ecological emergency is, changes to the economy to address these issues are already happening. We feel it is important that Workers are fully involved in how these changes happen so that they can secure the rights and livelihoods of themselves and future generations.

Response to Greg Butler's critique of the Green New Deal and the Rank-and-File Strategy

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, February 7, 2021

As stated in our standard disclaimer (at the end of this editorial), the opinions expressed in this text are those of the author alone and do not represent the official position of the IWW or the IWW Environmental Union Caucus. This piece includes very strongly worded opinions, therefore the author deemed it best to emphasize that point.

There are certainly plenty of constructive, comradely criticisms of the Green New Deal, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Kim Moody's "Rank-and-File Strategy", The North American Building Trades Unions, and Jacobin (none of which are either mutually inclusive nor mutually exclusive). Unfortunately, Greg Butler's The Green New Deal and the "Rank-and-File Strategy", published on December 17, 2020, by Organizing Work, is not a good example. In fact, Butler's piece is little more than a sectarian swipe at a number of targets which are only indirectly related to each other, and worse still, it's full of inaccuracies and unfounded claims that have no evidence to support them.

Just Transition and Extractive Industry Workers

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, January 26, 2021

In some ways it might be easier to establish dialog and find common ground with resource extraction workers (on issues such as climate change, just transition, and the Green New Deal) than we think. In other ways it may prove more difficult than we expect. That’s not as contradictory as it may sound, however:

First, let’s acknowledge that we’re primarily discussing decarbonization of the energy system and the economy, particularly fossil fuel capitalism, specifically coal, oil, and gas.

We’re discussing entire supply chains, from exploration and extraction to transportation and refining, to distribution, power generation to marketing and sales.

Extraction includes all forms of mining.

Transportation includes rail, road, ship, aircraft, and pipelines. It also includes storage, distribution hubs, and control centers.

Refining is a highly specialized and labor as well as capital intensive process.

How it might be easier than we think:

Most of the jobs involved in the aforementioned supply chains are not directly related to fossil fuels themselves:

For example:

  • Exploration (ie search for new “deposits” could instead be repurposed for siting renewable energy sites;
  • Offshore oil rig workers could be retrained as offshore wind power technicians (and many of the ancillary jobs, such as transportation of workers to and from sites, dispatching workers (or power), clerical work, etc. is directly transferable);
  • Transportation of goods and commodities can be utilized to transport alternative goods and commodities (eg grain rather than coal);

Where jobs may not be directly transferable, they can be retained for the repurposing or decommissioning of infrastructure or the restoration of damaged ecosystems. Such efforts often require years or decades, thus providing enough job-years for mature workers (often those with the highest seniority, wages, and benefits anyway) to last until retirement, or at least, allow sufficient time for just transition;

Failing that, many of these jobs can be made much “greener” without decommissioning, if a wholistic approach as opposed to an all-or-nothing approach is utilized, and transition efforts focus on the “low hanging fruit” (such as retiring older, more polluting facilities first, etc.);

The Prospects for Revolutionary Green Union Led Transformation

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 8, 2020

The evidence becomes more and more clear with each passing day: in order to avoid climate catastrophe and the irreparable destruction of our planet's biosphere, we need nothing less than a revolutionary green transformation of our civilization from stem to stern. These are sobering truths. The reassuring news is that the number of people that realize this, and are prepared to act, is growing day-by- day, throughout our world, in spite of the threats of resurgent fascism, capitalism's perpetual melt downs, and pandemics caused by the likes COVID-19.

The evidence can be seen by the following:

  • A growing number of people willing to take direct action to protect the earth from ecological destruction, climate catastrophe, and capitalist extractivist projects;
  • Increased awareness of the inseparability of ecocidal capitalism, colonialism, racism, and misogyny; this has corresponded with the growth of intersectionality.
  • The decline of climate change denialism;
  • The cancellation of numerous pipeline and other fossil fuel mega projects;
  • Persistently high levels of support for transformative frameworks, like the Green New Deal, limited and reformist though it may ultimately prove to be;
  • And, notable among these trends are growing levels of class consciousness among the climate justice and ecological movements, as shown by the rapid growth and widespread calls for just transition for workers affected by the transitions and transformations the current crises demand.

These developments are welcome, and they point to both the broadening and deepening of an anti-capitalist green transformational movement. However, no transformation can occur without the active support of the working class, and such support is but the beginning of what is needed to motivate the transformation. No revolutionary green transformation can occur without the participation of workers organized at the points of production and/or destruction, because it is precisely there where the capitalist class maintains its economic stranglehold of power over our civilization.

Is achieving such organized power even remotely possible?

The good news is the answer is "yes"; the not so good news is that getting to "yes" will be challenging.

Jeremy Brecher Webinar on Using Our Power to Stop Climate Disaster and Create a Just World

By Jeremy Brecher - System Change not Climate Change - July 26, 2020

Labor organizer, climate activist, and historian Jeremy Brecher speaks about the role of the strike weapon in fighting the deepening and intertwined crises we face.

Future Beyond Fossil Fuels: California’s Just Transition

By staff - Sunrise Movement, May 1, 2020

You may have heard the term ‘Just transition’ floating around, but what does it mean? This webinar will focus on what a just transition means for workers in California, and how the vision of a Green New Deal can guide the much-needed economic recovery from the COVID crisis.

This video features IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus cofounder, Steve Ongerth, speaking on workers, unions, and just transition in Northern California.

Know the Union: Steve Ongerth

By Editorial Collective - Industrial Worker, Fall 2019; IWW leaflet hand drawn by Judi Bari, October 1989.

How would you like your name printed? (Options include first and last, first and last initial, first, X-number, etc. It’s completely up to you)

Steve Ongerth

What are your pronouns?

He/Him

What branch or local are you affiliated with?

Bay Area IWW GMB

Do you hold a local or national office? If so, what is it?

No

Why did you join the IWW?

I was inspired to join by reading the work of Judi Bari (“Timber Wars”) and greatly appreciating her green syndicalism (she was also an IWW member) in 1995.

Why have you stayed?

I believe in what the IWW stands for and its potential (in spite of its imperfections and limitations).

Is there a wobbly (current or historical) you most admire? 

Judi Bari (of course! And I actually was friends & comrades with her from the time I met her and joined the IWW in May 1995 until she passed away in 1997).

The revolution is over, the wage system is abolished, we installed whatever post-capitalist system you prefer. What are you doing Saturday?

Hiking in the woods or along the Bay (which hopefully isn’t drowning the SF Bay Area due to climate change and sea level rise)

What are you working on right now (union-wise)?

I am one of the cofounders of and active organizers of the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus (I also maintain its webpage https://ecology.iww.org) I am also the Bay Area IWW Tabling Coordinator.

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