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Summing up the Kaiser strike and lockout 1998-2000: Union Leaders Fear A Self-Directed Rank And File More Than Defeat

By Robby Barnes and Sylvie Kashdan - November 5, 2000

At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Eugene Debs asserted that the role of the established AFL union leadership was "to chloroform the working class while the ruling class went through its pockets." This was accomplished through blocking workers' participation in direct democracy in the unions, short-circuiting activist strategies that were favored by the majority, and ignoring or persecuting critics. Unfortunately, this tradition is not dead yet.

When the Kaiser steelworkers' strike and lockout began in 1998, their union, the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), published an article comparing the good old days in the company under Henry J. Kaiser with the bad new days of vicious anti-union and anti-worker practices since Kaiser has been owned by MAXXAM, under the direction of Charles Hurwitz. Henry Kaiser was cited for recognizing and rewarding his workers for their intelligence, craftsmanship, achievements and hard work. Mr. Kaiser was also praised for being responsive to workers' concerns. The article said, "

It's no secret that Henry J. Kaiser is dead, because if he were still alive, we would not be on strike at Kaiser Aluminum. That's because labor relations at our company used to be governed by Mr. Kaiser's philosophy. And as a result, a job at Kaiser Aluminum used to be something special. In contrast to many of today's corporate executives, Mr. Kaiser insisted on treating us like 'human beings', not as disposable tools in the production process. The company's strategy for improving productivity was based on recognizing our "ability, skill and good will."

And when you got a job at Kaiser, it was a job for life." ("Kaiser, Then and Now," from USWA Trentwood Local forum, Why We're On Strike at Kaiser Aluminum A Message to our Communities from the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local Union 329, Spokane, Washington, Local Union 338, Spokane, Washington, Local Union 341, Newark, Ohio, Local Union 5702, Gramercy, Louisiana, Local Union 7945, Tacoma, Washington. Published in Mid 1998 and available at http://www.choicenet1.com/steelworkers/forum/default.asp)

This union perspective helped to define the workers' struggle in artificially limited terms. By romanticizing Henry Kaiser and his workforce policies, it downplayed the real significance of the workers' struggles that convinced this savvy New Deal era businessman to give his employees better-than-average wages and benefits in order to head off the disruptions and financial losses resulting from insurgency. It glossed over many currently relevant issues, including the recent trends in capitalist "restructuring" and "downsizings" which have become standard practice for corporations throughout the world in the past 20 to 30 years. The union bureaucrats also encouraged people to think of the recent problems with Kaiser's policies as due to unusually greedy and evil managers, guilty of bad business practices. They held off placing the Kaiser worker's problems squarely in the context of current trends toward intensified workforce exploitation--as corporations strive for higher rates of profits by simultaneously eliminating skilled jobs, in offices, stores and factories, etc., and demanding that people work harder for lower wages. And on a more basic level, the union leaders continued to encourage the rank and file to believe that their problems lay in having to fight against bad bosses, rather than against the usual interests of employers and socio-economic relations in the world.

They also distorted the realities of Kaiser Aluminum's exploitative practices before 1988, when MAXXAM acquired the company. Even before 1988, Kaiser was periodically demanding that the workers accept sacrifices, including layoffs and lower wages. But at that time union leaders encourage the workers to be "loyal" and accede to those demands. They only began to consider resistance when it became clear that the company was directly attacking the union, by closing unionized facilities and moving production to "right-to-work" states, where laws make it extremely difficult for unions to organize and bargain.

Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

Dan Fortson Interviews Dave Chism and Bob Cramer - The Public Outlaw Show on November 27, 1997, KMUD 91.1 FM Southern Humboldt County, 88.3 FM Northern Humboldt County, and 88.9 FM Mendocino County

Dan Fortson: Good evening everyone. This is Dan Fortson, and we're gonna have a talk show here. I've a couple of guests in the studio with me; Dave Chism, former union representative, Dave, welcome.[1]

Dave Chism: Hi, how are you doing?

Dan Fortson: Just fine, and Bob Cramer, member of Taxpayers for Headwaters and outspoken advocate, welcome Bob.

Bob Cramer: Thank you.

Dan Fortson: Why don't we start off with a little bit of introductions. Dave you want to tell us something about yourself?

Dave Chism: Well, I'm a local boy

Dan Fortson: Okay

Dave Chism: --grew up in Trinidad, in that area. I went to work in the timber industry at the paper mill at Simpson. A lot of the members of my family have worked for various companies around here. I think we've worked for pretty much all of them. LP and Simpson primarily. I was pretty active in union politics out there and trying to build some working relationship with the environmental community. So it was kind of an interesting place to be in, especially when the mill went down, there was a lot of animosity about that.

Dan Fortson: And Bob, what have you been up to lately?

Bob Cramer: Well, I'm a native Californian, I've been living up here for five years. I came up here to go to school after I lost my job because of a corporate takeover and because I'm a Vietnam veteran, a disabled veteran. The V.A. offered to send me up to go to school here on vocational rehabilitation. My major was Environmental Science, and I had a little problem with [Calculus] II. So I decided to get into Environmental Ethics, and while I was in environmental ethics I started learning about what was actually going on up here. Of course, because of the lack of news about what was going on, I really didn't have any Idea. But when I found about what was going on in the Headwaters, I joined the protesters last September 15th [1996]. I noticed that all of the people that were at the [MAXXAM property] line who were waiting to cross over [to be arrested] were all about my age, which is 53 right now, by the way, and I was kind of stunned! It looked like members of the community were all around me. And we started talking.

So anyway, after that action a few of us formed Taxpayers for Headwaters. Because we felt that the people who were representing environmentalism in this area were not just Earth First! And EPIC and Trees [Foundation], but also people up in Eureka, Fortuna, and the other areas who were business people and professionals and regular taxpaying citizens, if you will, who are very concerned about overharvesting of our natural resources. Because we can see into the future a little bit. It doesn't take much to extrapolate what happens when you overharvest and not only that, there is a great History of overharvesting and how it has devastated other areas of the country. And we just didn't want to see it happen to this area. So we formed Taxpayers for Headwaters and now were about 800 members strong. And we've been involved in doing a lot of things. We've gone before the [Humboldt] County Board of Supervisors. We've talked to law enforcement, we've been to several hearings, senate hearing, natural resources hearings. We've called for grand jury investigations, we've just really been involved in the situation and basically that's what my background is and why I'm here today.

Corporate America Has a Lot to Answer For

A speech given by Jim Hard, director of SEIU Local 1000, AFL-CIO at the Headwaters Rally September 14, 1997

Sisters and Brothers; all my relations; hello! Thanks to the organizers for inviting me to this great event. But I hope that this is the last year that we have to come here to demonstrate, because by next year, we should be celebrating that the Headwaters has been protected, and we can return to admire that which we have preserved. I bring you greetings from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 (AFL-CIO), The California State Employees Association, representing over 86,000 state workers in California. And we've never seen the Headwaters Forest; were not allowed to visit this national treasure. Although I understand that some of you have.

I live in Sacramento, where our daily newspaper sometimes has articles about the confusing negotiations about the fate of Headwaters, but I've never seen anything about the necessity for its preservation. I haven't seen any TV programs about the Headwaters, because the idea of saving the Headwaters doesn't have a corporate sponsor.

And today, I hope our numbers will put the Headwaters issue in the newspapers and on the TV screens across this country. It's important that you and I are here today. As in so many working class issues and I consider protecting the environment a working class issue--our strength is in our numbers. Its our numbers versus corporate legal staff. It's us against corporate media. It's us against corporate greed. Our adversaries are powerful, but history shows they can be defeated.

In the early 70s, before coming up here and attending Humboldt State University (HSU), I was an organizer for the United Farm Workers (UFW). Then as now we had a just cause and powerful corporate adversaries. We fought on many fronts and we prevailed. And the farm workers won their right to organize. The fight to save the Headwaters is being fought on many fronts. Today in this field, but also with direct action up in the woods. In the courts and by all of us wherever we happen to be. My union recently took up the issue of Headwaters and MAXXAM Corporation at our executive board meeting. We passed a motion requesting the [California] Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest retirement system in the United States, to divest their 318,000 shares from MAXXAM contingent upon results of Headwaters negotiations. The State Teachers Retirement Fund has already done that.

But What About Jobs?

By Judi Bari, Fall 1996

When Redwood National Park was created in the 1970's, the loggers and millworkers in this region still had unions to represent them. Those unions negotiated an agreement in which displaced timber workers were paid two thirds of their wages for the next six years, to give them a chance to re-train or re-locate and find a new job.

Since then, the unions have been busted, and the only ones pretending to speak for the workers are MAXXAM management and their captive congressman Frank Riggs (a Republican). For all their talk about jobs, none of their proposals have included one iota of compensation for displaced workers, although all of their proposals have included oodles of compensation for corporate criminal Charles Hurwitz.

Back in 1993, when Dan Hamburg (a Democrat at the time) had just been elected to Congress and environmentalists were drafting the Headwaters Acquisition Bill, I got a chance to look at this problem in detail. I was in charge of the committee assigned to write a worker's clause for the bill.

In order to do this, I convened a group of displaced and currently employed loggers and millworkers from MAXXAM, Simpson, and L-P, who met with a small group of hand-picked Earth First!ers. We asked the timber workers what to do about the loss of jobs that would come from saving Headwaters. Printed below is the proposal we came up with. This proposal should be part of any plan to save Headwaters.

Revolutionary Ecology, Biocentrism, and Deep Ecology

By Judi Bari - 1995 | [PDF File Available]

I was a social justice activist for many years before I ever heard of Earth First!. So it came as a surprise to me, when I joined Earth First! in the 1980s, to find that the radical environmental movement paid little attention to the social causes of ecological destruction. Similarly, the urban-based social justice movement seems to have a hard time admitting the importance of biological issues, often dismissing all but "environmental racism" as trivial. Yet in order to effectively respond to the crises of today, I believe we must merge these two issues.

Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.

I believe we already have such a theory. It's called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement. The problem is that, in the early stages of this debate, deep ecology was falsely associated with such right wing notions as sealing the borders, applauding AIDS as a population control mechanism, and encouraging Ethiopians to starve. This sent the social ecologists justifiably scurrying to disassociate. And I believe it has muddied the waters of our movement's attempt to define itself behind a common philosophy.

So in this article, I will try to explain, from my perspective as an unabashed leftist, why I think deep ecology is a revolutionary world view. I am not trying to proclaim that my ideas are Absolute Truth, or even that they represent a finished thought process in my own mind. These are just some ideas I have on the subject, and I hope that by airing them, it will spark more debate and advance the discussion.

Who Bombed Judi Bari? - Interview with Beth Bosk

Interview by Beth Bosk - New Settler Interview, January 1995

NEW SETTLER: The last my readers know of you with regard to the bombing, you are in an Oakland hospital, near comatose. Outside, the FBI and the Oakland police are accusing you of the act of transporting the bomb that blew up your car as you were careening down a street in Oakland. I'd like you to begin with your recollection of the day you were bombed: why you were in Oakland?

JUDI: I'm going to start the day before in Willits, because I think it is more logical that way... It was the eve of Redwood Summer and we were calling for people to come in from all over the country to engage in non-violent civil disobedience to stop the over-cutting; and the timber industry was mounting a campaign to portray us as violent, and to whip up hatred against us. This included my receipt of increasingly frightening death threats, and fake press releases that were being distributed not only to the press, but were being passed out in the lumber mills and on the logging jobs. The fake press releases had the Earth First! logo on them -- but they weren't written by us, and in contrast to what we were really saying, they were calling for violence and tree spiking. One of the fake press releases actually spelled Darryl's name wrong, so it was easy to prove it was fake -- as we were asserting -- yet these were still being distributed as if they were real, and treated by the press as if they were real.

And perceived real by the increasingly-angered men who work in the industry.

JUDI: We've documented all this stuff since. Louisiana-Pacific, for example, in at least one plant (I suspect in more) held a meeting -- on the clock, that workers were forced to attend -- where they passed out the fake press releases -- presented them as real -- and encouraged the workers (in the words of the plant manager) "to go to public meetings wearing your hard hat and work boots and role up your sleeves and sit down right next to one of them so they won't talk too freely." I know this because the union filed a grievance against L-P for making them listen to anti-Earth First! propaganda on company time.

The companies were very actively trying to discredit us. G-P canceled their mill tours because of the alleged "terrorist threat." That's how they were doing their part. MAXXAM (and I have actual proof from their internal company memos) MAXXAM distributed these fake press releases calling for violence to the press after they acknowledged privately that they were fake. L-P put a barbed wire fence around their Ukiah plant. There was a whole bunch of things going on to portray us as terrorists and make people afraid of us. The bombing didn't happen in a vacuum.

Our reaction, though, was to try to head off the violence. We knew a lot of contract loggers -- the gyppos -- and we wanted to meet with them face-to-face and explain to them who we really were and to allay their fears and to work things out so that we wouldn't have to face violence that summer.

We had asked Art Harwood to help us set up these meetings of local gyppo operators, in that he was one of the largest ones, and he did that and we had two mediated meetings with a paid mediator in Willits. There were some rank-and-file loggers, but mostly it was contract loggers, company owners -- Bill Bailey was there, he owns a big logger supply outfit in Laytonville. Jerry Philbrick was there. Tom Loop was there.

And we had actually been making progress: first in humanizing each other -- in learning that each other were human beings, that we really had more in common than we thought; -- and then in allaying each other's fears. At the second meeting, we had reached an agreement that we called "The No First Strike Agreement": we had assured them that we had no intention of monkeywrenching their equipment, and they had said that they would not assault us if we don't. [laughs]

So we really felt that we were making progress and that things were going well. So, that's where I was on Tuesday of the week I was bombed. That meeting was held in the evening.

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.

The Limits of Environmentalism Without Class: Lessons from the Ancient Forest Struggle of the Pacific Northwest

By John Bellamy Foster - 1993, Monthly Review Press - Capitalism, Nature, Socialism

John Bellamy Foster is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He was served as the editor for Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, which is a project of Monthly Review Press. He has written numerous books, including The Vulnerable Planet and The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism. He is also a regular contributor to The Monthly Review.

Acknowledgment. The author would like to thank Michael Dawson, Chuck Noble, Doug Boucher, and Alessandro Bonanno for their comments and support at critical stages in the preparation of this article. Acknowledgment is also given to Judi Bari, whose criticisms were useful in the development of the final version of this manuscript.

This pamphlet is a joint project of Monthly Review Press and Capitalism, Nature, Socialism/Center for Ecological Socialism. It will be published in a slightly different form in Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 4, no. 1 (March 1993).

Capitalism, Nature, Socialism (CNS) is an international journal of theory and politics which combines the themes of history and nature, society and environment, and economics and ecology, and promotes the ideals of ecological socialism and feminism. The journal is especially interested in joining the discourses on ecology; feminism; struggles for social and environmental justice; radical democracy; and the theory of capital and politics of class struggle.

CNS is published four times a year. The journal is edited by an International Editorial Board of 50 members from 18 countries and over 150 Editorial Consultants on every continent. CNS regularly publishes reports on red green politics in different countries; theoretical and empirical articles; debates; theoretical notes; conference reports; research notes; poems; review essays; and reviews.

Ecologia Politica, the Spanish language edition of CNS, is published in Barcelona and Capitalismo Natura Socialismo, the Italian language edition, in Rome. A Sibling journal, Ecologie Politique has been launched in Paris. Plans are being made for an international Forum of left ecology journals in different countries, spearheaded by Lokoyan Bulletin (India) and CNS (USA).

CNS is non-sectarian; it is affiliated with no political party or organized political tendency and is open to diverse views within the international red green and feminist movements. The journal seeks to maintain the highest possible standards of scholarship, as well as to encourage discussions and debates about all of the issues bearing on our subject.

The Secret History of Tree Spiking - Part 2

By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, March 8, 1993; reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

Tree-spiking is a failed tactic by any standard. It has been practiced by Earth First! for 10 years now, and I think it's fair to say that the results are in. Here's [an excerpt of] Dave Foreman's description of tree-spiking from Eco-Defense

Tree-spiking is an extremely effective method of deterring timber sales, which seems to be becoming more and more popular. If enough trees are spiked to roadless areas, eventually the corporate thugs in the timber company boardrooms, along with their corporate lackeys who wear the uniform of the Forest Service, will realize that timber sales in wild areas are going to be prohibitively expensive.

Believing this to be so seems to be an article of faith for some Earth First!ers. But a look at the actual history of Earth First! tree-spiking will show that it hasn't really worked out that way.

The most intensive spiking campaigns occurred in Oregon and Washington, although there have also been tree-spikings in California, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, British Columbia, southern Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, and New Jersey, to name a few. And I'm not going to say that none of them saved any trees, because in a few cases they did, especially early on, or in areas without a timber based economy. But the successes have been few and far between. Even unabashed Earth First! apologist Chris Manes, writing in his well researched book Green Rage, could only come up with two timber sales that were canceled because they were spiked, one in George Washington National Forest in Virginia, and one in the Wanatchee Forest's Icicle River drainage in Washington state. I don't know about the trees in Virginia, but the Icicle River sale has since been cut. Earth First! activists from Shawnee in Southern Illinois also report that when the hard-fought Fairview sale was finally clear-cut, the only trees that were left were a few oaks that had been spiked.

But there have been scores and scores of tree-spikings, and in the vast majority of cases, the Forest Service or timber company just sent people in with metal detectors and, often with great public fanfare, removed the spikes and cut the trees. Sometimes spikes were missed and sometimes they hit the blades in sawmills. But the timber industry has made it quite clear that this is a price they are willing to pay.

The first known tree-spiking in Earth First! history occurred in the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon in 1983, on the Woodrat timber sale on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Notice was given of the spiking, and some of the trees were marked with yellow ribbons to make them easy to find and verify. The BLM reacted by having the loggers cut the trees and leave them on the ground for firewood cutters to saw at their own risk.

In 1984, a group calling itself the Hardesty Avengers mailed a letter to the Oregon Register-Guard announcing that a 132-acre sale on Hardesty Mountain in the Willamette National Forest had been spiked. The area was scheduled for helicopter logging by Columbia Helicopter. The Forest Service responded with a plan it called "Operation Nail." sending 20 Forest Service employees into the woods to remove the nails before they went ahead and cut the trees.

The Secret History of Tree Spiking - Part 1

By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, February 17, 1993, and the Earth First! Journal, December 21, 1994; reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

In May, 1987, sawmill worker George Alexander was nearly decapitated when a tree-spike shattered his sawblade at the Cloverdale Louisiana-Pacific mill in northern California.

This grisly accident sent shock waves through our community, and eventually led Northern California Earth First! to renounce tree spiking. Southern Oregon and Southern Willamette Earth First! joined us, as well as a few Earth First!ers from Stumptown, but that's all.

The rest of Earth First! still endorses spiking, and many of them even today react to our no-spiking policy by denouncing us as traitors and dismissing us as wimps, without ever considering the reasons for our actions. Because of this, because there are so many new Earth First!ers who don't know this history, I think it is time to re-examine the issue of tree-spiking. A few years ago, George Alexander and his wife Laurie agreed to talk to me about the 1987 incident. The following account is based on my conversation with them.

"I was the perfect victim," began George Alexander, "I was nobody." George, a lifetime Mendocino County resident and son of an old-time Willits logger, was 23 years old and just married, with his wife Laurie three months pregnant at the time of the accident. George's job at the mill was called off-bearer. The off-bearer operates a huge band saw that makes the first rough cut on logs as they come into the mill, sectioning off slices of wood that will later be cut to standard lengths and planed for finished lumber.

Off-bearer is one of the most dangerous jobs in the mill. The saw that George Alexander worked on was sized for old-growth logs-52 feet around, with a ten-inch blade of high tensile steel. "That saw was so powerful that when you turned it off you could make three more cuts through a 20-foot log before it stopped," George told me. One of the dangers of working as off-bearer is that if the blade hits a hard knot or metal debris (from old fences, choker chains, nails, etc., embedded in the wood), the sawteeth can break. To protect against this, workers have to wear a heavy face mask and stay on the alert, checking each log as it goes through.

George knew the job was dangerous, but he also was confident of his skill. "I always figured that if the blade ever hit me, it would hit me on the urn." he said. He knew every sound the saw made, and could tell by listening when something was going wrong. He also knew to look for the tell-tale black stains that usually show up on the smooth surface of the de-barked logs if metal is present in the wood.

Although George Alexander was an LP employee, he was no company man. Louisiana-Pacific had earned his disrespect long ago through the callous way they treat their employees. "We're not even people to them," he said. "All they care about is production." The perfect example of this L-P management attitude was Dick Edwards, the day shift foreman. Edwards was always after everyone, but he seemed to go out of his way to harass George. In the months before the tree spiking, Edwards would often stand on the catwalk overlooking George's work station with LP Western Division head Joe Wheeler, just watching George work.

L-P has never been known to spend too much time maintaining equipment or worrying about worker safety. But in the weeks preceding the tree spiking incident, conditions had gotten worse than usual. The bandsaw blade was wobbling when it ran, and cracks had begun to appear in it. But when George and other workers complained, Edwards shined them on, saying the new blades were not in yet, and they would have to ma1ke do. "That blade was getting so bad," said George, "That I almost didn't go to work that day."

Normally when a big tree is sawed, they start from the outside and square off the edges first. But the tree that George was sawing on May 8, 1987 was a 12-inch pecker-pole, and because it was so small he took the first cut down the middle. Halfway through the 20-foot log, the saw hit a 60-penny nail. "That nail must have been recently placed and countersunk," George told me. He had checked the log when he started cutting it and had seen no sign of the metal. And because he hit the nail square-on, there was no warning sound. "Usually there's a high-pitched metal sound and you have time to get out of the way," explained George. "This time I didn't hear nothing but 'BOOM!'"

The next thing he knew, George was lying on the floor covered with his own blood. "I knew I was dying. And all I could think about was Dick Edwards, and all the shit he gave me when I complained about the saw. I tried to get up, but they pushed me back down. I tried to beckon to Edwards so he would come close enough for me to get my hands around his throat in a death grip. If I had to die, I wanted to take that bastard with me."

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