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Memory Against Forgetting: The Story of Judi Bari w/ Earth First!er Karen Pickett

IWW WISERA Environmental Committee and NARA IWW EUC Reading Group 2: Notes from Hell

Fellow Workers (and fellow travelers, too!)

We are inviting you to the second session of our monthly, online reading group dedicated to discussing the work of and writings by IWW Organiser and Earth First! environmental activist Judi Bari.

The texts we will be reading and reviewing are Notes From Hell - Working at the L-P Mill, by Judi Bari [By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, April 17, 1991; Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press] and its companion piece, Judi Bari interviews Louisiana Pacific Mill Workers [Transcript of a KZYX FM radio interview; Reprinted in August 1992 issue of the Industrial Worker].

This meeting will be held on zoom.  Register here.

Chapter 3 : He Could Clearcut Forests Like No Other

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

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“Come to light: L-P’s literally poisonous policies literally poisoning forest workers. Has any other business a higher profit-to-wages ratio? And yet, are any local workers at higher risk? Where’s the IWW? The first Wobbly who writes in gets a free lunch, courtesy of RADIO * FREE EARTH.”

—Marco McClean, Mendocino Commentary, April 18, 1985.

Harry Merlo is one of the highest paid executives in the industry. He makes $353,000 and he just got a 10 percent raise”

—Harold Broome, carpenter.

“Harry was down to see the strike in his mink coat the other day.”

—Walter Newman, spokesperson and business representative for Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Union Local 2592.

Americans are raised on the mythology of the “self-made man”, the “enterprising go-getter” archetype who creates his own fortune and charts his own destiny. Very often he faces incredible odds, and, armed only with his wits and will to succeed, he alone overcomes disadvantages to become a leader among his fellow Americans. The gender specific pronoun is intentional, because in these stories, women more often than not play a subordinate role. There is an element of “pioneer” spirit within this narrative, and this is not entirely coincidental, because much of the narrative stems from the European-American subjugation of indigenous peoples and the wild. This archetype certainly matches the description of most “captains of industry”, particularly railroad bosses, oil magnates, and timber barons. There is more than folktale about such individuals. Indeed there is a strong ideological component to them, a personification of capitalism, perhaps expressed most unapologetically, albeit crudely, in the narratives of Ayn Rand, particularly Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.

Whether fact or fiction, in these narratives, the entrepreneur is always the hero—virtuous to the core—and he is held up as an example to the rest of us to follow. Very often they not only rely on their own means, they often struggle against a cool and callous society, usually personified by a bureaucratic government, who appropriates some or all of the hero’s self-made fortune to serve its own political ends. What these stories consistently omit, is that most often these “conquering heroes” are neither self-made nor are they virtuous. They often lie, cheat, bend or break the rules, stab those close to them in the back, and rely on the benefits provided by the very same “government” they decry when it doesn’t serve their every need. They appropriate the fruits of others’ labor and call it their own. If there are consequences to their actions, they are shifted to the general public, usually upon the backs of those most unable to resist. And, it is the richest and the most powerful among them who commission the narratives that celebrate their triumphs, sanitizing their own histories so that it is difficult to tell what constitutes fact or fiction.

Harry A. Merlo Jr. was such a man. He began his career as a shipping foreman at a small, independently owned mill, advanced to partner, and then, after the mill was bought out by Georgia Pacific (G-P) he quickly moved up ranks of the G-P corporate structure.[1] Georgia Pacific spun off Louisiana Pacific (L-P) as a result of an antitrust suit brought by Boise Cascade (B-C) against the former for monopolistic practices in 1973. The Federal Trade Commission had threatened to break up the former for monopolizing the timberlands of northwestern California after acquiring holdings formerly held by Boise-Cascade, including the Fort Bragg California mill.[2] Merlo took over as head of the newly created L-P, and, under his management, the latter quickly expanded to become the second largest lumber company in the United States with 110 plants and at least 13,000 employees nationwide, with annual sales in excess of $1 billion.[3] Despite Merlo’s reputation as a self-made man, he received achieved many of his “successes” on the backs of others.

Chapter 2 : Pollution, Love it or Leave it!

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

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

"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.

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

Redwood Uprising: From One Big Union to Earth First! and the Bombing of Judi Bari (Steve Ongerth)

Introduction
Chapter 1 : An Injury to One is an Injury to All!
Chapter 2 : Pollution, Love it or Leave it!
Chapter 3 : He Could Clearcut Forests Like No Other
Chapter 4 : Maxxam’s on the Horizon
Chapter 5 : No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!
Chapter 6 : If Somebody Kills Themselves, Just Blame it on Earth First!
Chapter 7 : Way Up High in The Redwood Giants
Chapter 8 : Running for Our Lives
Chapter 9 : And they Spewed Out their Hatred
Chapter 10 : Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!
Chapter 11 : I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi
Chapter 12 : The Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes
Chapter 13 : They’re Closing Down the Mill in Potter Valley
Chapter 14 : Mother Jones at the Georgia Pacific Mill
Chapter 15 : Hang Down Your Head John Campbell
Chapter 16 : I Like Spotted Owls…Fried
Chapter 17 : Logging to Infinity
Chapter 18 : The Arizona Power Lines
Chapter 19 : Aristocracy Forever
Chapter 20 : Timberlyin’
Chapter 21 : You Fucking Commie Hippies!
Chapter 22 : I am the Lorax; I speak for the Trees
Chapter 23 : Forests Forever
Chapter 24 : El Pio
Chapter 25 : Sabo Tabby vs. Killa Godzilla
Chapter 26 : They Weren’t Gonna Have No Wobbly Runnin’ Their Logging Show
Chapter 27 : Murdered by Capitalism
Chapter 28 : Letting the Cat Out of the Bag
Chapter 29 : Swimmin’ Cross the Rio Grande
Chapter 30 : She Called for Redwood Summer
Chapter 31 : Spike a Tree for Jesus
Chapter 32 : Now They Have These Public Hearings…
Chapter 33 : The Ghosts of Mississippi Will be Watchin’
Chapter 34 : We’ll Have an Earth Night Action
Chapter 35 : “You Brought it On Yourself, Judi”
Chapter 36 : A Pipe Bomb Went Rippin’ Through Her Womb
Chapter 37 : Who Bombed Judi Bari?
Chapter 38 : Conclusion

This entire book and all of its chapters are also available for viewing at judibari.info.

Eco Wobblies: Revolutionary Ecology and the Development of Earth First!-IWW Local #1

By Michael Gonzales - dissertation - May 19, 2017

Environmental historians have shown that the development of the modern environmental movement has been marked by a perceived tension between the interests and attitudes of workers and those of environmental activists. This paper details an important exception to that trend. In late 1989 members of the radical environmental group Earth First! joined with lumber workers in Northern California to form Earth First!-IWW Local #1.

In the words of Local #1 leader Judi Bari, this labor union acted as a “bridge between environmentalists and timber workers.” This essay examines the factors that brought workers and environmental activists together in this short-lived experiment in what some have termed “green syndicalism.” This essay utilizes archival documentary evidence and the accounts of movement activists to demonstrate a more complex relationship between Earth First! and the IWW (and between labor and environmentalism in general), with deeper historical roots than has been previously understood In doing so, this essay challenges the assumptions of the environment versus labor dichotomy and suggests the potential for solidarity and cooperation between environmentalists and workers.

Read the Report (PDF).

The Secret History of Tree Spiking, Part 3

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 11, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Note: The Secret History of Tree Spiking Part 1 and Part 2 were written by Judi Bari in 1993.

Twenty-five years ago, a group of Earth First!ers, including Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, and Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle held a press release in Samoa, California (a small town west of Eureka, in Humboldt County, northwestern California) at the Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill and export dock. There, they issued the following statement:

In response to the concerns of loggers and mill-workers, Northern California Earth First! organizers are renouncing the tactic of tree spiking in our area. Through the coalitions we have been building with lumber workers, we have learned that the timber corporations care no more for the lives of their employees than they do for the life of the forest. Their routine maiming and killing of mill workers is coldly calculated into the cost of doing business, just as the destruction of whole ecosystems is considered a reasonable by-product of lumber production.

These companies would think nothing of sending a spiked tree through a mill, and relish the anti-Earth First! publicity that an injury would cause.

Since Earth First! is not a membership organization, it is impossible to speak for all Earth First!ers. But this decision has been widely discussed among Earth First!ers in our area, and the local sentiment is overwhelmingly in favor of renouncing tree-spiking. We hope that our influence as organizers will cause any potential tree-spikers to consider using a different method. We must also point out that we are not speaking for all Earth First! groups in this pronouncement. Earth First! is decentralized, and each group can set its own policies. A similar statement to this one renouncing tree spiking is now being made in Southern Oregon, but not all groups have reached the broad consensus we have on this issue.

But in our area, the loggers and mill workers are our neighbors, and they should be our allies, not our adversaries. Their livelihood is being destroyed along with the forest. The real conflict is not between us and the timber workers, it is between the timber corporation and our entire community.

We want to give credit for this change in local policy to the rank and file timber workers who have risked their jobs and social relations by coming forward and talking to us. This includes Gene Lawhorn of Roseburg Lumber in Oregon, who defied threats to appear publicly with Earth First! organizer Judi Bari. It also includes the Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and Pacific Lumber employees who are members of IWW Local #1 in northern California.

Equipment sabotage is a time-honored tradition among industrial workers. It was not invented by Earth First!, and it is certainly not limited to Earth First! even in our area. But the target of monkey wrenching was always intended to be the machinery of destruction, not the workers who operate that machinery for $7/hour. This renunciation of tree spiking is not a retreat, but rather an advance that will allow us to stop fighting the victims and concentrate on the corporations themselves.”

For those not familiar with the tactic of "tree spiking", Earth First cofounder Dave Foreman describes the act in great detail in the book, EcoDefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. While that text is not official Earth First! literature--in the sense that Earth First!, as a loose ad hoc organization that prefers to think of itself as a movement, has long distanced themselves from the text, and Dave Foreman, due to the latter's borderline racist and classist perspectives, has long been associated with Earth First!, and Earth First! has long been associated (for better or worse) with Tree Spiking, and to this day, there are many Earth First!ers who continue to support the tactic, or--at least--choose not to renounce it.

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The Fine Print I:

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