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The Foundations of Future Forestry - Interview with Judi Bari

There are two, slightly different versions of this interview, neither of which are complete, so we are treating them as separate documents. The other version, The Shit Raiser Speaks is also featured in this library.

Interview by Chris Carlsson and Med-O - Industrial Worker, December 1992.

Judi Bari was bombed by persons unknown just prior to the beginning of Redwood Summer 1990 and is currently. plaintiff to a case against the FBl for their lack of effort regarding her attempted assassination. This interview was conducted by Chris Carlson in April '92 at Judi's home in Mendocino County, California.

Chris Carlson: one of the things we like to talk about a lot is the question of identity. How many people, when you ask them "who are you?" will tell you about their jobs, or how many will tell you about something they really care about?

Judi Bari: Most people tell you their job, I think.

Chris Carlson: Yeah I guess most people assume you are expected to answer with what you do for a living. But I find that almost everybody that I talk to for a little longer actually has something else that they do. Whether they're an organizer, a musician, a wind surfer, they define their life with an outside activity. And that's really a healthy response to the work-all-day life. Why should you put your identity and your soul into this godawful miserable experience? It's already bad enough getting this measly shit money out of it.

Judi Bari: Well I guess I did when I was working because I proudly identified with the struggle. I had a bumper sticker that said "POW: Post office Worker." I proudly identified both with the job and the fact that we were resisting on that job. I think that's one of the ways for people to identify with the jobs even in a shitty society.

Chris Carlson: As a resistor?

Judi Bari: Yeah I never had a bumper sticker that said "Kiss me I'm a carpenter" but I did have one that said Post Office Worker...

Chris Carlson: Isn't there a spontaneous critique of capitalist "efficiency" in various forms of sabotage? Can you see thatleading to a broader vision of a world worth working for?

Judi Bari: I think that the machinery to a factory worker is just so alienating, that it's just a natural instinct to destroy it. It would take a lot more than destroying machinery here and there, it would take political organization, that's the problem. People are always gonna trash machinery though, no matter what. If you work on machinery like that, it's really a natural experience, this isn't a question of "are you an evil radical in your factory, and do you sabotage--" Any industrial job I've ever worked at, I imagine it's the same in the technocratic-industrial jobs, people spontaneously fuck things up. It's like the only rebellion you have. It's not organized resistance, it's just gut level rejection. Sometimes it's a way to get a break, like if you throw pieces of pallet into the conveyer belt, the thing will break and they'll have to come fix it end you can wait.

The New Wave of Environmental Loggers (Part 2)

The second part of an on air radio discussion with Judi Bari - Transcript of a KZYX FM radio program; also featured in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, September 30, 1992.

Judi Bari: This is Judi Bari. We're on the KZYX Environment Show. I'm here with Tony Pardini, Rod Balson, Ernie Pardini, and Mark Heimann talking about local logging issues. OK caller, go ahead.

Third Woman Caller: This is another Earth First!er who logged the Doug Fir on her own land.

Judi Bari: Yes. This is the one who clearcut, right?

Caller: Well, that was in '75. I left all of the redwood sprinkled all over. I didn't touch any of that. I have the same feelings as the previous caller. I was mightily impressed by the care with which my place was logged. In addition, the loggers took down eight dead Doug Fir trees they couldn't hall off to the mill because they were too long dead. They absorbed that expense.

I want to express my profound admiration for the courage of all of you in that studio. The courage of Judi to withstand all of the travail and still organize and still reach out. And the courage of you men to take her hand and say, "Yes, this is what I need to say." And you've risked everything to do it and you're going to come out in the end not as shorn lambs but Great Woolly Rams!

(Laughter in studio)

Ernie Pardini: Thank you very much. I'd like to say too that Judi and the environmentalists have fought our battle for us for several years now. All I can say is I'm ashamed it took so long. I think it's about time that we started carrying our own load.

Caller: Well, you can throw your shame away because you are carrying your own load. Thanks a lot, guys!

Judi Bari: Thanks. We have another caller.

Fourth Woman Caller (Naomi Wagner): Hello. I'd like to get onto the practical side here. I'm a little concerned here. How can you tell when you are logging that you are not only doing a clean job and a protective job, but also a sustainable job where there is going to be enough board feet growing back? The other thing I wanted ask... Some of us have had some ideas around the fact that there is a market for high quality, high value lumber products. One land owner can't always supply the demand from their land without depleting it. There's been some talk about some kind of cooperative marketing. I'm wondering if you could talk about that? ...Where do we take the wood and wood products from our land and sell them for the prices that they really deserve and maybe leave a few more trees standing in the process.

Judi Bari: I want to take those questions one at a time. First, how do you decide that what you are doing is sustainable logging? What kind of self-made logging rules do you use out on the job?

Ernie Pardini: To answer that first question... There haven't been enough studies done on a widespread basis with enough of a variety of climatic, soil conditions and environments to really get a solid fact base to say what is or isn't sustained yield. We were logging on a sustained yield basis all our lives by the seat of our pants until the corporations came in here. A good logger knows which trees he should take and which he shouldn't, the percentage of appropriate trees in that particular area. You can tell how fast they are growing by the size of their growth rings. The safest way, and the way we do it, is to underestimate it and take less than what you think would be sustained yield. That way you are always covered. When you are taking a smaller volume with a select cut the profit the land owner realizes isn't necessarily going to be as high. What we try to do is offer other alternatives. You mentioned a co-op. There is a co-op being organized that hopefully will take off and catch on that would market and manage lands and promote and encourage markets for more specialized wood products so that you can get a higher return off a smaller yield ... a smaller percentage. We do that a lot, such as where we do pepperwood burls where you're only taking 2 trees out of 400. another thing that we have to point out to landowners is, yes, maybe you're going to make only $100,000 instead of $150,000 now, but in 10 years you're going to have that same volume back again, if not more. The volume that was here before we logged will be back again in 10 years the way we are logging it, as opposed to a 50 year recovery or more like the corporations do.

The New Wave of Environmental Loggers (Part 1)

The first part of an on air radio discussion with Judi Bari - Transcript of a KZYX FM radio program; also featured in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, September 23, 1992.

Judi Bari: I'm Judi Bari, host for this evening's Environment Show on KZYX in Philo. With me tonight are local loggers Ernie Pardini and his brother Tony Pardini. In addition, we have Rod Balson and local carpenter-Earth First!er-turned-logger, Mark Heimann. There's a whole bunch of us in the studio. I'll try to remind you who's talking as we go along to keep it from getting too confusing.

What I want to get into is how this corporate overcut is affecting loggers in general and what's going on in the community. It's not just one person.

Why don't we start with a little of who you are and how long you've been in this community and what you do.

 Tony Pardini: Thank you, Judi. I'm a licensed timber operator right now. I've been in the woods for around 19 years. I've lived in Boonville ail my life. I would like to express my feelings about the environmental movement and how we can work together as a team instead of against one another. I work in the woods every day. I've got a cat and a loader now. I just finished a small job in Mill Creek... I think I do a better job in the woods than on the radio. I like lo show my colors in the woods by doing a good job, an environmentally-sound job out there in the woods, in the trenches.

Judi Bari: And who do you work for? Do you work for the corporations? Do you work for L-P? Do you work for small jobs?...

Tony Pardini: I do not work for L-P. I've been in business for myself for two years. All my jobs in that time have been working for private timber owners. As far as I know they have all been pleased with my work. I hope that my work will bring good things in the future.

Judi Bari: Rod, how about you? Why don't you say who you are, how long you've been in this community?

Rod Balson: I've been here since 1974. I came from L.A. so that was quite a culture shock. I've been working in the woods probably since 1979. There's not much work anymore in the woods.

Tony Pardini: I think there is not much work because of the slow down in logging on corporation lands, mainly. I think most of the timber is cut off. I was talking the other day about the string of logging trucks that used to go through the town of Navarro where I live. Nowadays they are few and far between. The timber is not there, the jobs are not there. In my opinion it's not Earth First! or environmentalists that are stopping these jobs, eliminating these jobs it's the corporations that have overcut in the past eight years.

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.

Taking Back the Woods: Judi Bari Interviews Ernie Pardini

Judi Bari Interviews Ernie Pardini on KZYX FM in Philo, reprinted in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, July 29, 1992 and Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

Judi Bari: I want to start by you talking a little about who you are. What's your background, how long have you been in this county, how long you've been logging?

Ernie Pardini: Let's see--how old am I? I was born and raised here. My great-grandparents came here from Italy. They actually moved to Navarro during a logging boom, and built a hotel there in the days of the boom. But my family's been in the logging business in some capacity or another ever since, and I've been logging since I was 17. I'm 37 now, so that puts 20 years behind me. I am currently a licensed timber operator.

Judi Bari: And just so the listeners will know who they're listening to, everybody knows that the timber operator at the Albion cut is Pardini, so what relationship to you is the Pardini in Albion?

 Ernie Pardini: Well, that's my uncle. He just happened to be the unlucky guy who got the bid.

Judi Bari: And are you currently employed?

Ernie Pardini: I'm self employed right now. I'm starting a fledgling, struggling business. It's logging in a sense--I do some commercial logging. Probably by now it's clear that I won't do a job that's not in line with having timber in the future to log on that some piece of property. But I'm not against logging. Logging has to be done and should be done, I feel, but in a conscionable manner. And that's my complaint with the corporations, that they're not doing that.

Judi Bari: In your article in the Anderson Valley Advertiser a couple of weeks ago, you said you left the area for a while, and when you came back you saw things that opened your eyes. Could you describe that?

Ernie Pardini: Yes, I could. The business that I'm in now requires that I'm out and about a lot. I see a lot of country, a lot of the woods. And when I got back from New York--I was there for four and a half years--I found myself in areas that I had logged 10 years previously, when I worked for Masonite, on Masonite lands at the time, which are now L-P lands for the most part. And I saw areas that were logged when I was actively involved with Masonite that had been re-logged--and when I say re-logged I mean re-logged, there was nothing left but stumps and tan oak scrub--with entire new road systems cut in on steep ground, across the roads that we used when we were in there, which wasn't necessary as far as I could see. There's no logical reason for that, but it was done. This one job that sticks out in my mind looked like a checkerboard effect--it was skid roads this way and skid roads that way. And no trees. I thought, well maybe that's an isolated case, and then as I saw more and more of the corporate lands I saw more and more that it wasn't an isolated case--that there is very, very little timber out there on corporation lands.

The sh*t raiser speaks! Interview with Judi Bari

There are two, slightly different versions of this interview, neither of which are complete, so we are treating them as separate documents. The other version, The Foundations of Future Forestry is also featured in this library.

Chris Carlsson and Med-o interview workplace and environmental activist Judy Bari on April 20, 1992 - featured in Processed World, Winter 1992-93

Judi Bari was born in Baltimore in 1949. She attended the University of Maryland, where she majored in anti-Vietnam War rioting. Since college credit is rarely given for such activities, Judi was soon forced to drop out of college with a political education but no degree. She then embarked on a 20-year career as a blue-collar worker. During that time she became active in the union movement and helped lead two strikes--one of 17,000 grocery clerks in the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area (unsuccessful, smashed by the union bureaucrats) and one (successful) wildcat strike against the U.S. Postal Service at the Washington D.C. Bulk Mail Center.

In 1979 Judi moved to Northern California, got married and had babies. After her divorce in 1988, she supported her children by working as a carpenter building yuppie houses out of old-growth redwood. It was this contradiction that sparked her interest in Earth First!

As an Earth First! organizer, Judi became a thorn in the side of Big Timber by bringing her labor experience and sympathies into the environmental movement. She built alliances with timber workers while blockading their operations, and named the timber corporations and their chief executive officers as being responsible for the destruction of the forest.

In 1990, while on a publicity tour for Earth First! Redwood Summer, Judi was nearly killed in a car-bomb assassination attempt. Although all evidence showed that the bomb was hidden under Judi's car seat and intended to kill her, police and FBI arrested her (and colleague Darryl Cherney) for the bombing, saying that it was their bomb and they were knowingly carrying it. For the next eight weeks they were subjected to a police- orchestrated campaign in the national and local press to make them appear guilty of the bombing. Finally the district attorney declined to press charges for lack of evidence. To this day the police have conducted no serious investigation of the bombing, and the bomber remains at large.

Crippled for life by the explosion, Judi has returned to her home in the redwood region and resumed her work in defense of the forest. She and Darryl are also suing the FBI and other police agencies for false arrest, presumption of guilt, and civil rights violations. Judi now lives in Willits, California with her two children.

Why I Hate The Government

By Judi Bari - Industrial Worker, October 1991.

I hate the government, and I've never had any faith in working through the system. My 20 years of political activism have all been out on the front linesfrom anti-war riots to wildcat strikes to Earth First! logging blockades. I know the history of violent repression of the Wobblies the Communists, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement. But nothing in my knowledge or experience could have prepared me for the sheer horror of being bombed and maimed while organizing against big timber last year. And I never thought I would be doing something as grandiose and apparently ingenious as suing the FBI. But neither did I expect to find our movement under attack by a COINTELPRO-type operation led by Richard Held, the very same FBI/Gestapo agent who framed and jailed Leonard Pettier and Geronimo Pratt.

Richard Held is the head of the San Francisco FBI office. He is the agent in charge of my and Darryl's case, and he went on TV after the bombing to say that Darryl and I were the only suspects in the assassination attempt that nearly took my life. Held became notorious during the 1970s for his active role in COINTELPRO, an outrageous and illegal FBI program to disrupt and destroy any group that challenged the power that be. COINTELPRO's method was to foment internal discord in activist groups, isolate and discredit them, terrorize them, and assassinate their leaders. The best known example of this was Black Panther Fred Hampton, who was murdered by Chicago police in an FBI-planned assault as he slept in his bed in a Chicago apartment in 1969.

Richard Held's personal role in COINTELPRO began in L.A. in the early 1970s, where he ordered the FBI to draw and send insulting cartoons, supposedly from one faction to another in the L.A. Black Panthers. This heated up antagonisms between the factions so much that, with a little help from FBI infiltrators, they erupted into shooting wars that left two Panthers dead. Richard Held also sent fake info to the press to discredit actress and Panther supporter Jean Seberg, who eventually committed suicide as a result. Held's final coup in L.A. was to frame and jail Geronimo Pratt for supposedly murdering two people on a tennis court over a petty robbery.

Held was also on hand in Pine Ridge South Dakota in 1975 to help direct the FBI's reign of terror against the American Indian Movement. In this case the FBI took advantage of existing divisions in the native community to hook up with a vigilante group called GOONS, or Guardians of the Oglala Nation. These local thugs were armed by the FBI and guaranteed that they would not be prosecuted for crimes against AIM members. They attacked over 300 AIM people and killed 70 of them. The Pine Ridge campaign ended with a military sweep of the reservation by 200 SWAT agents, and with the framing and jailing of Leonard Peltier.

Another of Richard Held's accomplishments was in San Diego, where he was instrumental in organizing an FBI-funded right-wing paramilitary group called the Secret Army organization (SAO). The SAO kept tabs on leftists, burned down a community theater, and tried to assassinate a radical professor at San Diego State University.

In 1978 Richard Held was transferred to Puerto Rico where he oversaw the execution of two Independista leaders who were made to kneel, then shot in the head. Held stayed on until 1985, when he stage managed an island-wide SWAT assault by 300 agents who busted in doors and rounded up activists.

For all his good work, Richard Held was then promoted to be in charge of the San Francisco FBI, where he still works today. And I don't know if the FBI put that bomb in my car, but I know for certain that they tried to frame me for it and made sure the real bomber wasn't found. Looking back on the bizarre events that took place around the bombing, it is now clear that the techniques of COINTELPRO were being used against us. What is not clear, based on the way this story has played in the mainstream press, is what we were doing to merit the wrath of such a notorious assassin as Richard Held. You can be sure that it was more than just trying to save some pretty trees.

Jobs vs Ecology, a Dilemma Manufactured by the Profit System: Part 2

By Andrea Bauer - Originally published at Freedom Socialist, May 1991

Part One of "Jobs vs. Ecology" discussed the debate over the spotted owl, the state of the forests, and the corporate timber barons. This concluding installment looks at conditions for timber workers, the environmental movement, and what action can be taken to preserve both jobs and nature.

‘Owl vs. Man' was the headline for Time magazine's multi-page spread on the bird's listing as a threatened species last year.

'Owl vs. Man.' Them vs. us. Polluters and exploiters like to see environmental issues framed this way, as if a sound ecology were inimical to human interests. If we accept this view, they profit. Meanwhile, we suffer.

Why? Because the "environment" doesn't just include plant and animal subspecies few people have even heard of until their survival is in question. "Environment" also means everything from where toxic waste is dumped to the fact that our immune systems are weakened by the degradation of the planet’s ozone layer.

The environment's quality means life or death for working people. Ecology is our issue, and we need to claim it in order to turn things around.

Cutting forests, squeezing workers. It is big business, not ecology, that is hostile to most human interests. Nowhere is this truth more stark than in the timber industry.

Harry Merlo, CEO for timber giant Louisiana-Pacific (L-P), summed up the corporations' attitude to natural resources in these words: "We log to infinity. Because we need it all. It's ours. It's out there, and we need it all. Now."

The companies consider workers in the same way-as a resource to be purchased as cheaply and exploited as thoroughly as possible. L-P is the outfit which closed a California mill in order to reopen it in Mexico, where they pay the employees 87 cents an hour. They are also willing to murder their workers to keep profits high.

In September 1989, at the L-P sawmill in Ukiah, California, a worker named Fortunado Reyes was mangled to death when he climbed onto a conveyor belt to clear it of jammed lumber. The machines were supposed to be turned off before a jam was cleared, but workers were bullied into disregarding safety rules in order not to slow production down.

The way L-P operates is the norm. In February 1989, at a Georgia-Pacific (G-P) lumber mill in Fort Bragg, California, a pipe burst in Frank Murray's face, causing him to swallow oil full of carcinogenic PCBs.

At the hospital, the company tried to prevent his stomach being pumped, claiming the substance was just mineral oil. The spill area was not closed off, and sixteen people were contaminated and three shifts of workers endangered before the G-P stopped stonewalling.

The union, International Woodworkers Association (IWA), refused to represent the contaminated workers. IWA later tried to cut a deal with G-P that would have reduced an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fine for "willful poisoning."

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."

Jobs vs Ecology, a Dilemma Manufactured by the Profit System: Part 1

By Andrea Bauer - Originally published at Freedom Socialist, February 1991

Two endangered species of the Pacific Northwest are front-page news these days — the northern spotted owl and the logger. Portrayed as irreconcilable antagonists, they are in fact ecological kin, dependent on the same environment. Their existence is threatened by the same voracious predator — the timber industry.

The ancient forests which once covered the greater part of the U.S. have sustained both the logger and the owl. Now these forests are nearly gone, with most of the remaining old-growth stands concentrated in an ever-thinner and spottier strip running along the western Cascades through Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

The fates of owl and logger are indissolubly bound up with their habitat — which is disappearing at the rate of nearly 70,000 acres every year.

This isn’t the case for the corporations whose chainsaws are leveling the forests. The whole planet is their “habitat,” and the redwood or the Douglas fir just another commodity.

When corporate raider Harold Simmons is through clearcutting the old growth he acquired in 1984 near Butte Falls, Oregon, for example, he will still have another means of survival: a two-billion-dollar empire in sugar, petroleum, chemicals, and fast-food restaurants.

The immediate fact is that protecting the owl will mean the loss of between 25,000 and 50,000 timber jobs in the next decade. But the bigger truth is that the timber companies’ feeding frenzy has already brought about a sharp, continuing decline in the number of industry jobs — as well as the near-annihilation of an irreplaceable resource, the ancient forest, which is a vital part of the planet’s overall life-support system.

Owl, forest, earth. The spotted owl is an unlikely candidate to have gained such notoriety, attracted so many champions, and earned so many enemies. Mostly nocturnal, the owls stand two feet tall or less and weigh little more than a pound. They claim territory in pairs, staying in the same home areas for as long as they can.

After years of foot-dragging and resistance, the Fish and Wildlife Service in June 1990 listed the spotted owl as a threatened species. This means that the government is required by the Endangered Species Act to guard the owl’s survival — and for its survival it needs extensive quantities of very old forest. It thrives in the unmanaged forest, with its variety of tree species and types of wildlife, many standing dead trees, and, on the forest floor, messy natural litter.

The owl is an “indicator species” for the ancient forest ecosystem. It’s the canary in the mine. The health or precariousness of the forest and its other inhabitants mirrors the owl’s status.

The old-growth forest provides a home for thousands of species, many of whom cannot survive in any other type of environment. For humans, it provides a home away from home, a refuge and renewal. For scientists, it is an incomparable data bank and laboratory.

Even more fundamentally, the kinds of life that exist on earth today can not exist without the forests. Almost all of the water we use flows ultimately from forests, and forests help prevent flooding and erosion.

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