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Fortunado Reyes

OSHAgate

By Steve Zeltser - The Daily Censored, February 16, 2015

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’s.

The epidemic of refinery explosions and derailments  leading to massive explosions seem to increase by the week. Behind this collapse of health and safety protection according to advocates is the failure to protect health and safety whistleblowers. The fear of workers to complain about serious health and safety problems is a key part of this failure. Now a Federal lawyer at OSHA Darrell Whitman has charged along with health and safety whistleblowers that the agency management and the DOL have not been enforcing the law to protect not only the whistleblowers but the health and safety of all Americans.

In an explosive document sent to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez in May 2014, Federal OSHA attorney Darrell Whitman, charged that there is systemic corruption in the agency that is preventing the protection of health and safety whistleblowers. As a result of making these charges with extensive documentation, Whitman has himself become a target of workplace bullying and moves to terminate him from the agency. In fact according to Whipple his supervisor Joshua Paul who is also an attorney at the agency ordered him to falsify federal documents  which is a criminal felony. On February 21, 2015 the agency sent a mover to his house and took his documents and badge preventing him from doing his work.
Whitman has a lot of years under his belt. He has been working over 10 years for state and Federal agencies so he knows a bit about how the Federal government operates.

His latest job was as an investigator in the OSHA program that investigates health and safety complaints by workers in industries from oil, rail, trucking and other companies in OSHA region 9 which covers nearly 40 million workers in the West.
As one of the 6 OSHA staff in this unit, there have been only three that actually doing investigations. Whitman investigates whether OSHA complaints by workers are valid and then makes a determination of whether or not their complaints are serious enough to gain a merit status. Under Federal law this merit status provides full back pay and can provide punitive damages to workers who are terminated for making their health and safety complaints.

Capital Blight: Alliances Between Workers and Environmentalists Must be Built from the Ground Up

By x344543 - July 12, 2013

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’s.

It's a commonly expressed hope among younger, radical environmentalist activists that Judi Bari's vision of "green syndicalism" (worker lead reorganization of the new world within the shell of the old into a post capitalist, post technocratic, biocentric society) will manifest itself by big AFL-CIO unions--such as the building trades, UMWA, Teamsters, etc., refusing to build or operate the machinery that is destroying the environment, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline or the trains transporting coal, or the ships exporting that coal to China.

They recall the "Teamsters and Turtles" coalition that sprang up during the anti-WTO demonstrations on November 30, 1999 in Seattle; they might mention the Earth First! alliance with the United Steelworkers (at Kaiser Aluminum) against Maxxam the previous year; some invoke the Australian "Green Bans" that saved Kelly's Bush in Hunter's Hill (New South Wales) in the early 1970s, where construction workers refused to construct a building that would destroy one of the last remaining open spaces in that community.

These are all real examples to be sure, but they represent the exception--not the rule--and that realization leaves some wondering why, while others--like Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman--simply write the workers off.

Both views are wrong in my opinion, because both fail to understand the depths of the problem. They might respond by asking how Judi Bari was able to succeed, including co-founding what came to be known as Earth First! - IWW Local #1, made up of environmentalists and timber workers, where others failed, and why others cannot simply replicate her efforts. I am certain others can, but we must recognize what made Judi Bari's efforts so special and unique to begin with: she correctly recognized the union officialdom (not to mention the leadership of the mainstream environmental organizations) as typically being part of the problem and not the solution.

Earth First! in Northern California – Interview with Judi Bari

By Douglas Bevington, Summer 1993 – reprinted in The Struggle for Ecological Democracy

Douglas Bevington: Please describe the region in which you are organizing and that region’s key players. How far do your activities and influence extend?

Judi Bari: The area is the northern California red-wood region, which at this point is mostly Mendocino and Humboldt counties. It’s a big, sprawling area, rugged and sparsely populated. There are only 80,000 people in Mendocino County, where I live, and there are no large towns, no urban centers. Humboldt is a little different be-cause they have a university, Humboldt State, and a large town, Eureka. Both counties are rural impoverished areas. Our county governments are broke. They are closing down libraries and cutting back on police. Because of this, and because of the lack of urban influence, there is kind of a “wild West” mentality. There are some towns—Whitethorn and Covelo come to mind—that are virtually lawless areas, over two hours’ drive from the nearest sheriff’s deputy.

There are three main corporations in the redwood region. Louisiana Pacific (L-P) is the biggest redwood landowner, with 500,000 acres spread over the entire area. Tied for second are Georgia-Pacific (G-P), which owns 200,000 acres in Mendocino County, and MAXXAM, which owns 200,000 acres in Humboldt.
L-P has been around since 1975, and they’ve been liquidating ever since they’ve been here. Last year, they even admitted that 90 percent of their marketable trees in this county have already been cut. They are a cut-and-run company and they are almost done. G-P has been here a little longer. G-P has just one big sawmill and it’s still running. But most of their timberlands have been clearcut. They are about 70 percent done, so it’s just a matter of time.

MAXXAM is probably the best known of the three companies, mostly because of its outrageous financial practices. The 200,000 acres now owned by MAXXAM used to be owned by Pacific Lumber Co. (PALCO), a 120-year-old locally owned company, one of the oldest in the area. PALCO didn’t clearcut, and they had the closest thing to sustainable logging practices around. Because of this, they have the most old growth left. They have the best of what is left in the world. But in 1986, MAXXAM Chairman Charles Hurwitz, a corporate raider from Texas, took over PALCO in a forced junk bond buy-out scheme and then tripled the cut of old-growth redwood to pay off their junk bonds. This area has had pretty much a singular economy based on timber. Many of the logging families here go back five generations. Everybody knows each other, everybody grew up together and often are related to each other. It’s hard to understand the phenomenon of the company town until you live in one. King Timber controls all aspects of the society—the jobs, the schools, the hospital, the newspaper, and the police.

This singular economy and isolated rural culture got interrupted around 1970, when the back-to-the-land hippies moved in with their politically sophisticated, radical urban culture. What the hippies do for a living is grow the best marijuana in the world. In the mid-1980s, they actually included marijuana in the agricultural report of Mendocino County and found that it was the biggest cash crop, bigger than timber. This gives people a way to live in this area without being economically dependent on timber. Because timber is such a fluctuating market of booms and busts, during the low periods it is the marijuana money that keeps the towns going. Garberville, in southern Humboldt County, is probably the best-known local town built up with marijuana money. Many early growers used their money to open “legitimate” businesses. As the hippies gained economic influence, they also gained political influence, including passing voter referendums on local issues and electing candidates to the Board of Supervisors.

So, we basically have a bipolar social situation, with the hippies and the loggers. Of course, there are other social/cultural groups in our community, including Mexicans, Indians, fishermen, etc. But the main players in the Timber Wars are the hippies, the loggers, and, of course, the big timber corporations.

Judi Bari interviews Louisiana Pacific Mill Workers

Transcript of a KZYX FM radio interview; Reprinted in August 1992 issue of the Industrial Worker.

Mill workers Don Beavers and Randy Veach have worked in the non-union Louisiana Pacific mill in Ukiah for 15 and 14 years, respectively. This KZYX FM radio interview with Judi Bari took place a few days after they publicly criticized the company for safety violations in the local media.

Judi Bari: I think a lot of people listening have never worked in a plant anything like L-P. Could you start by describing what it's like to work there?

Don Beavers: First of all, we're Graders, so it's our job to grade the lumber. We stand up all day, we breathe sawdust and dirt all day--it comes off the lumber. About every 2 seconds we have to turn over a board and grade it...

Randy Veach: ...as it's coming down the chain, it's constantly moving.

Don Beavers: It continually moves. It doesn't stop. They put in some new machinery a few years back and so now we not only have to turn over one board and grade it, but we have to split that board sometimes and put two grades on one board with trim marks and all kinds of stuff. So we don't have a whole lot of time to do this...

Randy Veach: ...but we're expected to do it...

Don Beavers: ...and on top of that they change our marks and make new grades for us all the time, and they don't give us time to get used to this, they don't do anything but speed it up.

Randy Veach: You're expected to do exactly what they tell you to do without any argument.

Don Beavers: All the time, for eight hours a day, five days a week, day in and day out, every minute standing up working...turning lumber over, grading it.

Judi Bari: And they have bells for when you start, when you take your break and stuff...

Don Beavers: Whistles.

Randy Veach: ....or whistles, I mean really, a lot of people haven't experienced this kind of thing since elementary school, and I guess L-P is a little like elementary school in a lot of ways, but just presume you're talking to somebody that has no experience with this.

Don Beavers: No, I would say more like boot camp.

Randy Veach: Yeah, that's probably a better description.

Judi Bari: A bunch of elementary school kids in boot camp.

Don Beavers: We're expected to be at our work stations exactly when that whistle blows.

Randy Veach: We were late one time by 3 seconds to be at our work stations. This is a true story too. And we were told not to be late any more. And I was 15 feet from where I was supposed to be and I was on my way walking there... and the machine wasn't even running.... We get yelled at for things that are totally made up. The foreman looks for ridiculous things to yell at us for.

Don Beavers: And he apparently seems to enjoy it, that's why he does it.

Randy Veach: Exactly, it's his head trip, he enjoys yelling at people that's why he's a foreman.

Don Beavers: That's what they want, really. I guess.

Randy Veach: That's right. They intimidate the workers by fear and that's why they have him there. Everybody around here is so afraid that if something gets crossed up ...lumber gets crossed up... they will try to fix it without stopping the machine for fear of being yelled at by the foreman if they do not stop the machine. It's a constant environment of fear, totally.

Notes From Hell - Working at the L-P Mill

By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, April 17, 1991; Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

"I've worked in the sawmill for 13 years, and every year the logs get smaller. Everyone knows L-P is leaving. It's just a matter of time," a Ukiah L-P millworker told me last spring. Since that time L-P has laid off over one-third of its workforce in our area. They have closed or are closing their mills in Potter Valley, Covelo, Cloverdale and Calpella, and they have laid off the graveyard shift in Ukiah. Meanwhile, they have opened up their redwood planing operation in Mexico, using machinery that they took out of the Potter Valley Mill. yet despite all this, we have not heard a peep of complaint from the L-P workers. How does a company as cold and crass as Sleaziana Pacific (sic) keep their workforce so obedient? A look behind the barbed wire fence that surrounds their Ukiah mill might yield some clues.

"It's their little world, and when you step through the gate you do what they say or you don't stay in their little world," says one millworker. The work rules are designed to turn you into an automaton. There's a two-minute warning whistle, then the start-up whistle. You have to be at your work station ready to go when the start-up whistle blows, or you can be written up for lateness (three white slips in a year for the same offense and you're fired). You stay at your work station doing the same repetitive job over and over for two and a half hours (two hours in the planing mill and a half hour in the sawmill) until the break whistle blows. then you get a ten-minute break, except that it takes you two minutes to walk to the break room and two minutes to walk back, so you only get to sit down for six minutes. And don't get too comfortable, because there's a two-minute warning whistle before the end of breaktime, then you have to get back to your station ready to go when the start-up whistle blows again. If you ever wondered what they were training you for with all those bells in public school, here's the answer--life at L-P.

In the Land of the Free, democracy stops at the plant gates. The Bill of rights is supposed to protect against unreasonable or warrantless searches. But not at L-P. Their drug policy reads like the gestapo: "entry onto company property will be deemed as consent to inspection of person, vehicle, lockers or other personal effects at any time at the discretion of management. Employee refusal to cooperate in alcohol and other drug testing, or searches of other personal belongings and lockers are subject to termination [sic]." And, before you even get hired you have to submit to a urine test and sign a consent form to let them test your urine any time "for cause," again at the discretion of management.

Amid constant noise and visible sawdust in the air, millworkers do jobs that would shock people who are familiar with factory work. take the job of offbearer. As whole logs come into the mill they are stripped of their bark, then run through 9-foot-tall band saws to make the first rough cut. The off-bearer stands a few feet from these saws and uses a hook to grab the slices of log and set them up for the edgerman. There are no guards on the sawblades, just exposed, high-speed, spinning teeth. The off-bearer must wear a face shield to protect himself from flying knots or metal debris from the logs, but that's not always enough to prevent injury. "it's even worse," says one experienced off-bearer, "because the knots are few and far between, so you're not on the alert. It can run cool for a week or a month, then wham!--something pulls the saw off."

This is what happened in the famous tree-spike case at the Cloverdale mill, when the band saw hit a metal spike and broke. Saw blade fragments went flying, and a 12-foot piece hit off-bearer George Alexander in the face, cutting right through his face guard and nearly decapitating him. That's why [groups in] Northern California [who are part of] Earth First! renounced tree-spiking, and that's why no one in Earth First! will ever convince me that tree-spiking is safe or okay.

Loss of life or limb is a constant danger at L-P, but it doesn't happen every day. What does happen every day is the mind numbing tedium of the job, and L-P's constant rush for production. Take the job of lumber grader. Rough cut lumber, 2x12 and up to 20 feet long, comes up on the chain, and the grader has to scan it, turn it over, decide the best way to trim it for length and split it for width, and put the grade marks and trim marks on the board. You have two to three seconds to perform all these tasks, while the chain keeps moving and the next board comes up. All night long. Back injuries, tendonitis, and shoulder strains, common among graders and other millworkers, are caused by turning over the heavy lumber. But the company just wants its production quotas. "We broke a production record in our section," said one of my sources. "We used to get pizzas and beer for that, but this time they just got us one of those six-feet submarine sandwiches. We probably made them $200,000 in L-P's pocket that night and they gave us a sandwich."

Timber Wars: Footloose Wobs Urgently Needed

By Judi Bari, Industrial Worker, October 1989; Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

"You fucking commie hippies, I'll kill you all!" A shotgun blast goes off and the Earth First!ers scatter. What started as a peaceful logging road blockade had turned violent when a logger sped his truck through our picket line and swerved it towards the demonstrators. The loggers also grabbed and smashed an Earth First!er's camera and, for no apparent reason, punched a 50-year old protester in the face, breaking her nose.

The environmental battle in the Pacific Northwest has reached such a level of intensity that the press now refers to it as the Timber Wars. At stake is the survival of one of the nation's last great forest ecosystems. Our adversaries are giant corporations--Louisiana Pacific, Georgia Pacific, and MAXXAM in northern California, where I live, joined by Boise Cascade and Weyerhauser in Oregon and Washington.

These companies are dropping trees at a furious pace, clogging our roads no less than 18 hours a day, with a virtual swarm of logging trucks. Even old timers are shocked at the pace and scope of today's strip-logging, ranging from 1000-year old redwoods, one tree trunk filling an entire logging truck, to six-inch diameter baby trees that are chipped up for the pulp-mills and particleboard plants.

One-hundred-forty years ago the county I live in was primeval redwood forest. At the current rate of logging, there will be no marketable trees left here in 22 years. Louisiana Pacific chairman Harry Merlo put it this way in a recent newspaper interview: "It always annoys me to leave anything lying on the ground. We don't log to a 10-inch top, we don't log to an 8-inch top or a 6-inch top. We log to infinity. It's out there, it's ours, and we want it all. Now."

So the battle lines are drawn. On one side are the environmentalists, ranging from the big-money groups like Wilderness Society and Sierra Club to the radical Earth First!ers and local mountain people fighting the front line battles in the woods. Tactics being used include tree-sitting, logging road blockading, and bulldozer dismantling, as well as the more traditional lawsuits and lobbying.

On the other side are the big corporations and the local kulaks who do their bidding. Tactics used by them have included falling trees into demonstrators, suing protesters for punitive damages (and winning), buying politicians, and even attempting to ban the teaching at a local elementary school of a Dr. Suess book, The Lorax, which the timber companies say portrays logging in a bad light.

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