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Humboldt County

Chapter 2 : Pollution, Love it or Leave it!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

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"Since when are humans solely a biological product of wilderness? (What is ‘wilderness’?) If you accept an evolutionary development of Homo sapiens, as I do, it does not mean that you profess a disbelief in God. Quite the contrary. It was God, the Creator, who created humans, who imbued them with a will, with a soul, with a conscience, with the ability to determine right from wrong. It is inconceivable that the Creator would create such vast resources on earth without expecting them to be utilized."

—Glenn Simmons, editor of the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, February 1, 1990.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

—Edward Abbey

Earth shattering though it may have seemed, the IWW’s victory was both transitory and incomplete, and historical currents would never again mesh as perfectly. To begin with, the strike on the job had taken place only in the Pacific Northwest, and had excluded California at that. The Wobblies recognized one strategic weakness in this situation in noting that the employers could have eventually organized a lockout of that region and relied instead on wood production from the southern or eastern United States. They knew—in the abstract at least—that their victory would never be complete until they organized all lumber workers nationally and internationally.[1] The Wobblies inability to make inroads among the highly skilled redwood loggers of California’s North Coast was especially troublesome, and it portended their undoing. Two companies, Pacific Lumber (P-L) and Hammond Lumber Company (HLC) had each adopted separate techniques that had kept the IWW out and would soon be duplicated by the Lumber Trust elsewhere. That combined with the much larger shockwaves brought on by the Russian Revolution in 1917 conspired against the One Big Union and led to the eventual decline of the American working class as an adversarial force and the liquidation of the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Although most corporations comprising the Lumber Trust had refused to budge, lest they embolden the Wobblies, there were those that adopted “welfare capitalism” on their own initiative, in which they would provide amenities and benefits to their workers—union or not—in an attempt to win over their loyalty. It was in the crucible of timber worker unionism, Humboldt County, where this was first attempted with any lasting success, by the Pacific Lumber Company (P-L), based in Scotia, beginning in 1909. P-L had discovered that by creating a wide variety of social programs, employee benefits, and community based events, it was able to secure the loyalty and stability of its workforce. P-L general manager A. E. Blockinger described these efforts in great detail in an article featured in the Pioneer Western Lumberman:

"A reading room with facilities for letter writing and any games, except gambling, is easily and cheaply put into any camp. Arrange subscription clubs for papers and periodicals or let the company do it for the men. If you can have a circulating library among your camps and at the mill plant, it will be much appreciated. Let the daily or weekly papers be of all nationalities as represented in your camp. Lumber trade journals are especially interesting to the men and they can and will readily follow the markets for lumber and appreciate that you have some troubles of your own.

“Organize fire departments among your men. The insurance companies will give you reductions in rates for such additional protection while it offers another opportunity for your men to relax and enjoy themselves.

“Shower baths at the camps or mill are easily and cheaply installed. They will be used and appreciated after a hot, dusty day’s work.

“Get your men loyal and keep them so. Let this replace loyalty to a union. The spirit is what you want in your men. Ten good men will accomplish as much as fifteen ordinary laborers if the spirit and good will is there. Treat them right and they will treat you right.”[2]

The employers’ introduction of paternalism achieved its intended goal. The Secretary of the Pacific Logging Congress, an employers’ association had declared in his 1912 report, “The best cure for the IWW plague—a people without a country and without a God—is the cultivation of the homing instinct in men.”[3] When the IWW campaign for the eight hour day ensued in 1917, P-L simply added more programs. Carleton H. Parker, a onetime U.C. Berkeley economics professor working for the War Department as a mediator during the lumber workers’ strike, had previously conducted sociological studies on workers, including agricultural and timber laborers. Parker was familiar with P-L, and had some fairly extensive knowledge of the Wobblies.[4] Some of the latter had been gained through first-hand studies by two of his assistants, Paul Brissenden[5] and F. C. Mills[6] who had posed as IWW members and later produced extensive studies on the organization. Using this knowledge, Parker offered many suggestions to Disque which the latter somewhat reluctantly adopted. The LLLL created social halls for its members and replaced the employment sharks with free employment agencies. The IWW quite rightly recognized these amenities as a means to buy the workers’ loyalty and likely to be liquidated when the employers drive for profits once again accelerated, but this process would take a long time, and convincing the workers of a threat that could take one or more generations to manifest proved futile.[7]

Chapter 1 : An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

The mill men all insist on one thing: that the Government will grant the manufacturers protection from the lawless element of the I.W.W.’s”

—J. P. Weyerhaeuser, 1917

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might,
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
The union makes us strong…

—Lyrics excerpted from Solidarity Forever, by Ralph Chaplin, ca. 1915

The timber industry has, throughout nearly its entire history, been in the control of an elite minority of the very rich and powerful, and they have been especially avaricious, violent, and repressive towards all who would challenge their power. They have also—in spite of a barrage of slick propaganda trumpeting their careful management of the resource—depleted most of the virgin forests of the Pacific Northwest. Many environmental organizations can trace their origins to opposition to such practices, and in the struggles by environmentalists to preserve forestlands, timber workers have had a reputation for being their fiercest adversaries, and in many cases, this is true. Timber workers have a well deserved reputation for being outspoken about the pride of purpose in their job, as well as a deeply ingrained cultural machismo. Yet lumber harvesting and production is historically one of the ten most dangerous jobs in the industrialized world, and timber workers are among those most exploited by their employers. One would logically expect the timber workers to be highly resistant to such treatment, but in recent years they haven’t been. This wasn’t always so. To understand why, one must examine the industry’s origins.

Before the arrival of European-American settlers to the Pacific Northwest, the entire region stretching from northern California to Canada and Alaska from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains was dominated by coniferous old growth forests. At least 20 million acres of this land was forested, dominated by various species of trees, some of them hundreds of feet in height, over a dozen feet in diameter, and centuries or even millennia old.[1] In the southwestern part of this region, stretching from Big Sur to roughly what is now the Oregon state line, in a belt that was at least twenty miles wide for most of its expanse a very unique species of tree dominated, Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the California redwoods, some of them standing over 350 feet tall. Their close (and similarly large) cousins, Sequoiadendron giganteum, better known as the Giant Sequoia, only grew in a few isolated spots in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada foothills. These vast forests were far more then the trees, however. Hundreds, if not thousands of plant and animal species lived and flourished within these wooded habitats, and as far as is known, the indigenous population of the Americas had no significant lasting impact on California’s ancient redwood forests, nor did they have any lasting effect on the timberlands of the Pacific Northwest in general.[2] Like the Native Americans, the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest had remained left more or less untouched for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.

The coming of the white man changed all of that. The Russians first began exploiting the redwoods for the construction of Fort Ross in 1812, during their very brief settlement there.[3] As more Europeans arrived, the forests south of San Francisco were the first to be logged, usually through clearcutting, until these ancient stands were completely liquidated by 1860. In those days, loggers used hand saws, and felling an ancient redwood could take anywhere from two-to-five days to complete. The redwoods to the north of the Golden Gate in what is now Marin County were logged next, especially along rivers that allowed easy transportation by the available modes of the day. By this time, around 1881, the steam engine had replaced pack animals. Though this first wave of automation did not have a significant impact on the number of workers involved in the logging process, it greatly increased the impact logging had on the redwoods. Entire forests were liquidated, no matter how small the tree, because even the baby trees were used to build the skid roads used for hauling the larger ones. These forests were never replanted, and very few of them grew back, and in some cases, farmlands replaced them. By the beginning of the 20th Century, all but a few of these ancient trees were gone and logging operations migrated north to Sonoma County. One quarter century later, most of these old growth forests were likewise gone.[4]

Redwood Uprising: Introduction

By Steve Ongerth

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

I know, I know. I need to write a book about all this. Fighting to save the redwoods, building alliances with the loggers, getting car bombed and finding out what we’re up against not just the timber industry but also the FBI. Then coming back home and ending up back on the front lines again. I fully intend to write about it eventually, but it’s hard to write about something when you’re still in the middle of it.”

—Judi Bari, introduction to Timber Wars, 1994

“All this,” is a very complex and intriguing story (not to mention a call to action), and while most people have never heard it, a great many are at least partially aware of its defining moment.

On the morning of May 24, 1990, two activists, Judi Bari and her friend and comrade Darryl Cherney, set out from Oakland, California, while on a tour to organize support for a campaign they had organized called Redwood Summer. They were part of the radical environmental movement known as Earth First!, which had a reputation for militant tactics, including the sabotaging of logging and earth moving machinery as well as spiking trees—the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter logging operations. The previous year in Arizona, five environmentalists, including Peg Millett and Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman, had been arrested and charged by the FBI for a conspiracy to sabotage power lines in protest against nuclear power. Some welcomed Earth First!’s uncompromising reputation. Others denounced them as reckless, or even as terrorists.

According to the mainstream media, Earth First!’s radical agenda earned them the animosity of the timber workers whose jobs the environmentalists supposedly threatened. They were described as “outside agitators” (among many other things) who had “polarized” the timber dependent communities of northwestern California’s redwood region—historically known as the “Redwood Empire”, but more recently as the “North Coast”—with their militant and uncompromising “environmental extremism.” Their alleged hard-line anti-logging stances were seen as too extreme even by most environmentalists, and they supposedly stood upon the radical fringes of the ecology movement. Redwood Summer was reportedly planned as a summer-long campaign of direct actions by these “fringe” environmentalists to thwart the harvesting of old growth redwood timber in northwestern California, specifically Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma Counties.

On May 24, however, Bari’s and Cherney’s planned destination was Santa Cruz County, where—just one month previously—power lines had supposedly been sabotaged by unknown perpetrators calling themselves the “Earth Night Action Group”. Just before 11:55 AM a bomb in Bari’s car exploded, nearly killing her and injuring Cherney. Within minutes the FBI and Oakland Police arrived on the scene and arrested both of them as they were being transported to Highland Hospital. The authorities called them dangerous terrorists and accused the pair of knowingly transporting the bomb for use in some undetermined act of environmental sabotage when it had accidentally detonated. The media spun the event as the arrest of two potentially violent environmental extremists.

As the Biden Administration Eyes Wind Leases Off California’s Coast, the Port of Humboldt Sees Opportunity

By Emma Foehringer Merchant - Inside Climate News, January 5, 2022

The administration wants to sell its first lease in 2022, and a new bill in California requires a plan. Some in Humboldt have been waiting years for this moment to arrive.

In the early 20th century, the U.S. Census Bureau declared Humboldt County, California—now famous for its redwoods—the “principal center” of the state’s lumber industry. In 1900, the product accounted for nearly 60 percent of the region’s exports. 

But now, though lumber yards and wood suppliers still line Humboldt Bay, the industry is a shadow of its former self. 

“You look at old photographs of Humboldt Bay from back then and there’s mills everywhere, pulp mills and ships and docks,” said Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority. “As that retracted there’s a lot of available land and waterfront …. So, there’s a big opportunity.”

The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA)—a power organization formed by the County of Humboldt and Northern Californian cities such as Trinidad and Eureka—has been working for years to prepare for that opportunity. In 2018, RCEA submitted an unsolicited application to the U.S. Department of the Interior in hopes of building wind energy in waters just west of Humboldt Bay. 

Songs About and by Judi Bari at the Mendocino County Museum, Remembering Judi Bari Exhibit

California Offshore Wind: Workforce Impacts and Grid Integration

By Robert Collier, et. al. - UC Berkeley Labor Center, September 2019

This report presents research findings on offshore wind development, pursuant to a Proposition 84 Sea Grant from the California Ocean Protection Council to the UC Berkeley Labor Center and Energy & Environmental Economics (E3). Our study addresses two separate but complementary questions for California in the years and decades ahead: 1) what benefits would the emergence of a major offshore wind power sector create for California workers and communities, and what policies might optimize these impacts; and 2) would offshore wind power be a competitive source of renewable energy in comparison to other clean energy sources? These questions are discussed in two sections: Workforce Needs and Policies for Offshore Wind (Chapters 1-6) and Integrating Offshore Wind in California’s Grid: An Assessment of Economic Value (Chapters 7-11).

The urgency of these questions derives from the fact that recent studies by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) indicate that the state will require two to six times more renewables capacity by 2045 than is installed today. However, California’s planning processes have only recently begun to consider offshore wind as a component of this future energy supply.

The exponential development of offshore wind power around the world and its projected growth on the East Coast of the United States shows that offshore wind could serve an important role in California’s clean energy supply. Globally, offshore wind capacity now tops 22 gigawatts (GW), a tenfold increase over the past decade, with about 20 percent of that installed in 2018 alone. This total is projected to reach between 154 GW and 193 GW by 2030, with at least half expected to be in Europe and much of the rest in China.3 In the United States, several Northeastern states have made offshore wind a cornerstone of their future clean energy portfolios, with about 22 GW of new capacity mandated by 2035.

California differs from the East Coast and much of Europe in that the state’s deep coastal waters will require its wind turbines to be on floating platforms rather than on structures fixed to the seabed. This floating technology has been successfully demonstrated in multiple locations worldwide, with larger-scale commercial projects being planned and contracted for deployment in the near future. While the cost of floating offshore wind today is higher than fixed-bottom offshore wind, the technology is well understood and its cost is expected to decline rapidly with commercialization and greater scale of deployment.

Read the report (PDF).

¿Quién le puso una bomba a Judi Bari? / Who Bombed Judi Bari? (Spanish Subtitles)

By Darryl Cherney - YouTube, November 27, 2017

Premiering on youtube and winner of 6 awards, this feature documentary filled with music, humor, and inspiration is a blueprint for activism in these more than urgent times. The Martin Luther King of the Redwoods, Judi Bari was an Earth First!er, AFL-CIO and IWW labor organizer, radical feminist, world class orator, author of Timber Wars, fiddler and songwriter, fundraiser, mother of two girls and a force of nature. See why she was car bombed and arrested by the FBI and Oakland Police for the deed done against her. Then learn how to save the forests, forge alliances and beat the feds. Foreign subtitles coming soon. Produced by her organizing partner and fellow car-bomb victim and litigant, Darryl Cherney. Directed and edited by Mary Liz Thomson. You can learn more and purchase DVD's, t-shirts and bumper stickers here: http://whobombedjudibari.com/ You can "like" us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Who-Bombed-J...

The Image Seen 'Round the World

By Judy Hodgson - North Coast Journal, December 1997; with contemporary IWW EUC Commentary by the Ramblin' Dude

[Trigger Warning! - the embedded video depicts scenes of young women being tortured by police]

We present this retrospective article and video to illustrate a point:

You know what's really HILARIOUS about these self-shot videos of neo nazi assholes reacting to being pepper sprayed as though they had received grievous trauma wounds in battle?

Twenty years ago, a group of protesters, most of them small, young women, peacefully occupied (Republican Congressman, Frank Riggs's) office (in Eureka, California). Police were called, and eventually they swabbed law enforcement grade pepper spray directly in to the eyes of the peaceful protesters. The protesters held on. Many of them were swabbed multiple times. They held on. Even while their eyes were being pried open and swabbed, they didn't flail, kick, or bite. They held on. Several did not release until they had been picked up and carried outside.

These supposed "manly men" who are out to save America were bested by a group of hippie girls twenty years ago.

Who Bombed Judi Bari? Feature Documentary

By Darryl Cherney - YouTube, Feb 9, 2017

Premiering on youtube and winner of 6 awards, this feature documentary filled with music, humor, and inspiration is a blueprint for activism in these more than urgent times. The Martin Luther King of the Redwoods, Judi Bari was an Earth First!er, AFL-CIO and IWW labor organizer, radical feminist, world class orator, author of Timber Wars, fiddler and songwriter, fundraiser, mother of two girls and a force of nature. See why she was car bombed and arrested by the FBI and Oakland Police for the deed done against her. Then learn how to save the forests, forge alliances and beat the feds. Foreign subtitles coming soon. Produced by her organizing partner and fellow car-bomb victim and litigant, Darryl Cherney. Directed and edited by Mary Liz Thomson. You can learn more and purchase DVD's, t-shirts and bumper stickers here: http://whobombedjudibari.com/ You can "like" us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Who-Bombed-J...

Chapter 20 : Timberlyin’

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

For the past 3 years we’ve been talked at, talked about, talked down to, and talked up. Isn’t it time that we start talking? Time that we started talking to each other about what’s happening at Palcotraz. Talking about overtime. Talking about who we are really working for anyway? Talking about Uncle Charle selling our logs across the ocean and selling us down the river.

Of course, working for 50 or so hours a week there’s not much time to talk to anyone. Nobody remembers the last time they talked to their wife or kids. So we need a real employee newsletter, don’t we? We can’t count on Uncle Charlie or Soupman John to tell us the truth. Let’s stop listening to their timber lyin’!

—Anonymous Pacific Lumber Workers, July 1989.

As bad as things might have seemed for the marginally organized Georgia Pacific millworkers of IWA Local 3-469, the nonunion Pacific Lumber experiences could easily be described as several degrees worse. For example, on Friday, May 19, 1989, 63 year-old Pacific Lumber maintenance millworker Clifford L. Teague, a ten-year company veteran, died when he fell or was sucked into the machinery and was dismembered while tending the hog conveyer belt in Scotia mill B. P-L vice president and controller Howard Titterington claimed that nobody witnessed the event, but some employees were convinced he had fallen into the chipper which ground up unused wood scraps into hog fuel. Fellow P-L employee Bob Younger, Teague’s friend and a harsh critic of the Maxxam regime, was convinced that the accident happened due to fatigue as a result of the 60-hour workweeks now common since the takeover. “They’re working us too hard…There have been too many accidents in the last three months…when you get tired and don’t stay alert all the time, you do things you probably wouldn’t do again…people don’t pay as much attention as they should,” declared Younger, and noted an accident in which another employee had been hit by a forklift and another in which a separate employee had lost a toe. [1]

Fellow P-L dissident Pete Kayes agreed that accidents had risen since the institution of the longer workweeks, but wasn’t sure that Teague’s death was directly attributable to them, since it had happened early in the shift, though perhaps Kayes had not considered the possibility of cumulative exhaustion. Titterington, on the other hand, flat-out denied that accidents had increased, and neither TEAM nor WECARE had anything to say about the matter. [2] Nobody knew for sure why this happened, and Maxxam was not particularly forthcoming about it. None of the pro-(Corporate)-timber publications issued so much as a blurb about the incident, although the matter was serious enough to warrant a mention in the Earth First! Journal. Although the latter neglected to mention Teague by name and though they got some of the details (such as his age and the date of his death) wrong, they at least covered the story. [3]

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