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Farmworkers Lead the Way To Climate Justice

By Edgar Franks - Front and Centered, April 21, 2016

We at Community to Community (C2C) have been in solidarity with the Boycott Driscoll’s campaign led by Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) since 2013. We believe that movements are most successful when led by the most affected. It’s not often, if at all, we see a union that is led by indigenous people, FUJ union members are Mixteco and Triqui people and they are dramatically shifting the ways in which we think about farm worker organizing. We have learned from Cesar Chavez and the California farm workers’ strategies on winning contracts using the boycott and in WA State we are continuing that legacy.

FUJ is making history not only in taking on a corporate giant but in the ways they have been able to educate people on the complexities of the food system. Through the boycott of Driscoll’s we are now able to see the dramatic shift that agriculture has been going through. Driscoll’s is an example of why we need a new food system. Apart from the tremendous amount of labor exploitation the fight against Driscoll’s is also about climate and environmental justice.

We can’t call corporate businesses farms or say that they are practicing agriculture. Our campesino way of food production and feeding our people is at odds with the profit/commodity market. Through the industrial agriculture model we see an intensifying use of pesticides and fertilizers, most of which are petroleum based and contribute to ozone depletion. The water that is extracted is drying up our rivers and reservoirs. For example, California is currently going through a historic water shortage mostly due to the amount of water that is used in industrial agriculture.

So when farm workers are calling for a boycott of Driscoll’s berries, it is a much deeper call to action. It is a challenge to all of us to fight for a better way of living and build the food system and economy that we need to thrive in harmony with Mother Earth. We at C2C are working to create a local solidarity economy where profit is not the motive, but living well is the driving factor of our labor. We want food sovereignty for all communities, where communities can decide how to feed their people in an equitable, participatory manner. We want agroecology as the way to build the new food system and to end the corporate industrial model of food production. By doing this we can raise the political consciousness of our people and build solidarity across movements.

Farming for a Small Planet: Agroecology Now

The struggle of dairy farmers gives us an opportunity to democratise our world's food system

By David Miller - Open Democracy, February 15, 2016

It is no secret that global trade is going through a major transformation. The EU-US TTIP agreement under consideration has been compared in scale by negotiators to the European internal market, while Hillary Clinton has called it an “economic NATO”. In addition, the recently-released TPP deal between a dozen Pacific nations, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, covers an area that generates 40% of the world’s GDP.

This crucial phase of the push to create a new global economic system through proposed free trade deals, on top of policy changes being carried out by existing institutions such as the European Union, will have many effects of a currently uncertain nature. One certainty, however, is that their impact on the global working class will be harsh, especially for workers in the global agriculture system. Recent struggles over dairy pricing demonstrate how some of the people who stand to lose the most from these deals have begun to fight back.

This past summer, Europe was rocked by a wave of dramatic cross-border protests, cows occupying store aisles and clashes between thousands of dairy farmers and Brussels riot police. The actions, led by the European Milk Board, the European Farmers’ Union (Copa), and the European Coordination Via Campesina, were a coordinated response to the European Commission’s elimination of milk supply quotas, in place since 1984. The full repeal at the start of April was followed by a 24% drop in prices over five months, leading much of the press to declare that milk was now “cheaper than water”.

Following two years of rapidly decreasing global demand for milk, and already increasing global supply, the quotas’ end placed major strain on dairy farmers that could yet do great damage to their ability to make a living in the industry. The EU, as the largest dairy-producing region in the world, maintained its commitment to trade liberalisation despite the uproar, and has already begun the process of replacing direct market interventions with US-style subsidies. Meanwhile, the reduction in the cost of milk products greatly benefits large food processing companies like Nestlé by improving their access to cheaper ingredients, at the expense of small producers.

As Europe continued reeling from the summer’s developments, a major point of contention in the TPP negotiations was Canada’s interventionist system of dairy ‘supply management’. Thanks to last-minute concessions, supply management appears to be safe for now, although the included import increases will still pose a hardship for small farmers and yet more will have to be spent on subsidies to counter its ill effects. The comparatively gentle terms of the dairy provisions in the final agreement, and the electoral collapse of the country’s social-democratic NDP opposition in October, mean the issue is likely settled for now, although organised opposition to TPP remains.

While North American dairy farmers may be pacified for the time being, the stakes will be just as high in the battle against TTIP. Dairy is one area of trade where tariffs remain relatively high, and US agribusiness is expected to target economic supports for “non-competitive” farmers in the TTIP – particularly the EU Single Farm Payment. The dairy industry, therefore, remains a major field in the global war on small farmers, agricultural and food production workers, and on the food rights of the world’s poor.

Cowspiracy: stampeding in the wrong direction?

By Danny Chivers - New Internationalist, February 9, 2016

‘Why do you keep talking about fossil fuels? Don’t you know that animal agriculture is the biggest cause of global warming? Why don’t you campaign on that? Watch Cowspiracy!’

If you’ve posted anything online about fossil fuels and climate change lately, the chances are you’ve seen a response like this. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret may have started as a crowdfunded documentary by US filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn but following a year of online success a new version of the film – executive produced by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio – has now been launched on Netflix. The film follows Andersen’s investigation into the climate impact of animal agriculture, and his attempts to get a series of large US environmental NGOs to speak to him about it. It’s a compellingly told story, as most of the green groups seem reluctant to answer his questions or to justify their focus on fossil fuels rather than livestock emissions.

The film has built a sizable and vocal following, as evidenced by the critical Cowspiracy-inspired comments that frequently pop up on articles about climate change, bemoaning the lack of coverage of the climate impact of animal agriculture. In Paris for the climate talks in December, there was no escape either. I spotted the headline statistic from the documentary – ‘animal agriculture is responsible for 51 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions’ – emblazoned on at least one placard or banner at most of the protests I attended in Paris. Kip Andersen himself even turned up at the anti-oil protest outside the Louvre, with a film camera and the 51 per cent figure printed on his shirt, presumably to denounce such fossil-fuel-bashing antics as a waste of time compared to stopping the livestock industry.

There’s only one problem with this eye-grabbing stat: it’s a load of manure. Emissions from livestock agriculture – including the methane from animals’ digestive systems, deforestation, land use change and energy use – make up around 15 per cent of global emissions, not 51 per cent. I’ve been vegan for 14 years and have been asked to justify my dietary weirdness at more friend and family meals than I can count, so believe me – I’ve looked into it. If meat and dairy really were the biggest cause of global climate change I’d be trumpeting that statistic myself every chance I got.

But I don’t. Because it’s not true. The 51 per cent number comes from a single non-peer-reviewed report by two researchers – a report littered with statistical errors. This study counts the climate impact of methane from animals as being more than three times more powerful as methane from other sources [1], adds in an inappropriate chunk of extra land use emissions [2], and incorrectly includes all the carbon dioxide that livestock breathe out [3].

Setting aside this deeply flawed paper and looking instead at more reliable studies, we find that livestock’s real climate impacts – methane, land use change, energy use – make up just under 15 per cent of the global total.

The thing is, 15 per cent is still a huge amount, more than all of the world’s cars, ships, trains and planes put together. Environmental campaigners – including large NGOs - certainly should be doing more to tackle it. Which is why the 51 per cent fake statistic is so painfully groan-inducing. It undermines an important argument and makes otherwise well-meaning people look foolish when they use it.

'Cowspiracy" or capitalism: what's causing the climate crisis?

By Dr J - Your Heart's on the Left, December 11, 2015

Cowspiracy shines a light on the carbon emissions of the animal agriculture industry, but its beam is so narrow that it leaves the rest of agriculture and the economy hidden from view, and elevates dietary choice to political strategy.

Like many people, Kip Anderson watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and was frustrated by the limited lifestyle choices to stop climate change—like bike riding more often or using less water. He then found out that animal agriculture is responsible for significant emissions and is backed by major powers but is not the focus of many environmental NGOs. He then made a choice.

He could have made a film connecting animal agriculture to the rest of the oil economy, exposing the massive corporations who dominate the food supply and who have warped our relationships with animals. He could have called for vegans and non-vegans to unite, supporting front-line communities who bear the brunt of climate change, and integrating vegan concerns into a movement for system change and real control over food production and distribution.

But instead he chose to make a film that counterposes animal agriculture to the rest of the oil-dependent economy, dismisses the challenge to tar sands and fracking and the need for climate jobs, blames cows and those who consume animal products, shames environmental NGOs instead of agribusinesses, ignores traditional knowledge about how to live sustainably with animals, and calls non-vegan environmentalists hypocrites—while preaching veganism as the panacea for everything from climate change to world hunger.

The result: protesters inspired by his film denounced the recent People’s Climate March in Edmonton: “The organizers only wanted to focus on oil and gas, the safe climate topics and not ‘switch focus’ to address personal behaviors that can actually make difference.” There would not be a People’s Climate March and a climate justice movement were it not for Indigenous communities who have challenged tar sands and fracking, while defending their rights including hunting, fishing and trapping. It’s ridiculous to dismiss as “safe topics” the challenge to these powerful industries, and to blame diets that communities have followed sustainably for millenia. How do we place industrialized animal agriculture in its proper context so that the concerns of vegans can integrate with the climate justice movement?

Strawberry Jam

By Frank Bardacke - Stansbury Forum, August 12, 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.

In April, 1993 Cesar Chavez died. In October, 1995, John Sweeney became the President of the AFL-CIO. Although the Arturo Rodriguez-led UFW was a minor supporter of Sweeney at the convention that elected him, nothing connected Cesar’s death to Sweeney’s election. But without the conjunction of those two events, there would have been no UFW/AFL-CIO strawberry campaign. Its very existence was rooted in happenstance. That should not surprise anyone interested in politics. Machiavelli claimed that half of politics was luck, or as he called it, fortuna. In the case of the strawberry campaign, at first it seemed like good luck, but by the end, for those who hoped for UFW and AFL-CIO renewal, it was surely bad.

In her eulogy at Cesar’s funeral, Dolores Huerta declared that Cesar died so that the UFW might live. It is a dubious claim—there is no indication of a Chavez suicide—but her meaning was not lost on many of the mourners. Under Cesar’s direction, the UFW had backed off organizing farm workers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, had lost most of its contracts by the mid-80s, and was, at the time of his death, no longer a force in the fields but rather a cross between a farm worker advocacy group and a mid-sized family business. As long as Chavez was alive that was not likely to change. Once he was gone, the UFW was free to make an effort to get back in the fields again.

They began, as they had to, by trying to improve their reputation among undocumented workers. Originally a union of mostly Mexican-American grape pickers, they had officially opposed “illegals” in the fields before 1975, championing the use of the Border Patrol against them and even setting up their own patrol on the Arizona border for a few months in 1974. That policy changed in 1975 with the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA), which made all farm workers, including the undocumented, eligible to vote in farm worker elections. But the changed policy never completely undid the original damage, and since the leadership of the union in the early 1990s continued to be Mexican-American and there were, by then, few Mexican farm workers left in the union, the UFW was considered by many farm workers, a “pocho” (slang used by Mexicans to describe Mexican-Americans) organization.

Thus, the UFW’s first step back into the fields was to take a leadership role against Proposition 187, the 1994 California initiative that denied State benefits to the undocumented and their children. Having made their new sympathy for the undocumented clear, the union won a new contract in the Central Valley roses, fought a victorious campaign in the mushrooms, and even signed a vegetable contract with their old nemesis, Bruce Church Inc. (although on close inspection the contract seemed to cover only a small percentage of Bruce Church workers). In 1995, the UFW leadership was lathered up, in the starting gate, and ready to race.

John Sweeney was also ready to go. Having won the AFL-CIO presidency with a rousing pledge to replace the conservative ways of the old bureaucracy with a new aggressive campaign to organize the unorganized, he was looking for an easy early victory. The UFW seemed to promise one. Relying on Rodriguez’s account of UFW popularity in the fields, and with no alternative assessment available, he went all in, put other organizing on hold, and committed his troops to what promised to be an opening victory for the New Voice coalition. As Gilbert Mireles, author of a pretty good (but also the only) book on the campaign, puts it: “It was almost inconceivable [to the strategists at the top] that workers would not be in favor of the union.”

Agroecology as a Tool for Liberation: Transforming Industrial Agribusiness in El Salvador

By Beverly Bell - Upside Down World, August 18, 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.

Excerpts from an interview with Miguel Ramirez, National Coordinator of the Organic Agriculture Movement of El Salvador.

"We say that every square meter of land that is worked with agro-ecology is a liberated square meter. We see it as a tool to transform farmers' social and economic conditions. We see it as a tool of liberation from the unsustainable capitalist agricultural model that oppresses farmers.

We in the Organic Agriculture Movement see the soil as Mother Earth, a living organism, which gives birth to all kinds of life. Mother Earth is agonizing, and needs to be rescued. Even a new small plot of land under organic management is part of the effort to revive her.

We now have around 3,700 small local producers who are educated and working on organic agriculture in El Salvador. We're just about one percent of all small producers, but 15 or 20 years ago we had no organic agriculture.

Our territory is made up of just 20,000 square kilometers, with 70 percent of the territory dedicated to agriculture. The challenge is to keep winning over new farmer families that will re-convert to organic farming and liberate the land.

For 60 years, Salvadoran peasants have been marginalized and impoverished by the agro-industrial model [chemically dependent, large-scale, corporate-controlled agribusiness], which is based on resource and human exploitation. Today, peasants in El Salvador, as throughout Latin America, are living in a system of semi-slavery and are subjected to expensive and toxic technology that doesn't belong to them.

People are facing some very serious health problems. Prolonged exposure to pesticides and other toxins in our food is causing low renal function, cancer, and diabetes.

Another problem we face as a result of this system of production is the extreme degradation of our natural resources. El Salvador has the most soil degradation in all of Central America. Eighty percent of our land is degraded and 99 percent of our rivers are contaminated.

The Politics of California’s Water System

By Will Parrish - Counter Punch, July 31, 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.

In a decision bursting with symbolism, the California State Water Resources Control Board recently announced its intention to draw down the main water supply reservoir for a the half million people who live just outside of the state capital to only 12% of capacity by September 30.

Lake Folsom on the American River - the main water source for Roseville, Folsom, and other Sacramento suburbs - will plummet to 120,000 acre-feet by that date, according to a forecast by the water board, which announced the plan at an unusually lively Sacramento workshop on 24th June.

The artificial lake will therefore be only months away from turning into a dreaded 'dead pool', a state in which a reservoir becomes so low it cannot drain by gravity through a dam's outlet.

Such an outcome would leave area residents scrambling for water - if recent predictions of an El Niño weather pattern fizzle and rain fails to appear later in 2015. If that were to happen, then Folsom could be a harbinger for the rest of California.

Indeed, as the American West lurches through its fourth summer of an historic drought, numerous major reservoirs are at or near historic lows relative to the time of year. New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, which was only 16% full as of last week, appears likely to meet the same fate as Folsom this year.

A study by UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2008, three before the current drought began, warned that the nation's largest reservoir, Nevada's Lake Mead (which supplies much of Southern California), has a 50-50 chance of running dry by 2021.

Natural diasaster or human mismanagement?

So far, a consensus of state and federal officials is that this state of emergency has come to pass due to a natural disaster beyond their control. Water board member Steven Moore has called the drought "our Hurricane Sandy".

In April, after Jerry Brown stood on a Sierra summit barren of snow and announced the state's first-ever mandatory water restrictions, an official press release from the governor's office asserted that for "more than two years, the state's experts have been managing water resources to ensure that the state survives this drought and is better prepared for the next one."

But according to critics, the opposite is true. The main reason California's reservoirs have plummeted to nearly cataclysmic lows, they say, is that federal and state water managers sent enormous quantities of water in recent years to senior water rights holders, especially water districts that supply agribusinesses in the dry San Joaquin Valley.

The Costco Connection: Farmworkers bring Driscoll’s Boycott to Respected Washington Grocery

By Káráni: Escribir o Volar - Káráni, June 30, 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.

Bellingham, WA – Farmworker families in northwest Washington have brought their berry boycott to Costco Wholesale, a respected Washington grocer that purchases berries from Driscoll’s, global small-fruit supplier that sources berries from Sakuma Bros. Farms and from several farms in the San Quintin Valley in Baja California, Mexico where there are ongoing labor disputes over unfair wages and wage theft, mistreatment and sexual harassment in the workplace, and against the dependency upon child labor for production.

A small independent farmworker union called Familias Unidas por la Justicia began their boycott of Sakuma Bros. Farms berries in 2013, successfully forcing the firm to discontinue selling fresh market berries with under their own label. In 2014, after discovering that the firm had shifted production towards processed berries and began packing fresh market berries exclusively into Driscoll’s label cartons, the farmworker union began to focus their campaign on Driscoll’s because the wholesaler refused to meet the union’s demands, stating instead that they fully supported Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc. and had not found any wrongdoing via their corporate audits of their supplier. A finding that the Skagit Valley Superior Court’s legal register disproves when it comes to the firm interfering with the farmworker’s right to engage in concerted activity, reprisals, their tenant rights, and the firm’s failure to follow Washington state’s legislation regarding paid rest breaks. Meanwhile, the farmworker union’s boycott campaign convinced five US cooperative grocers and the University of Washington to discontinue sourcing berries from Driscoll’s by early 2015.

On March 17, 2015 over 50,000 Mexican farmworkers organized a general strike in Baja California’s San Quintin Valley in the berry fields of Driscoll’s subsidiaries, BerryMex and MoraMex, Reiter Affiliated Companies along with several other fruit and vegetable growers in the region. As a result, J. Miles Reiter, the owner of the subsidiaries, stepped down as CEO of Driscoll’s on March 31, 2015 and was replaced by Kevin Murphy. The powerful strike immediately impacted the supply chain for all fresh market commodities in California on the U.S. side of the border.

On April 8, 2015 the emerging independent farmworker union named La Alianza de Organizaciones Nacionales, Estatales, y Municipales por la Justicia Social joined forces with Familias Unidas por la Justicia by announcing their endorsement of the Driscoll’s boycott and calling for it’s expansion to an international scale. Familias Unidas por la Justicia leadership had reached out in solidarity to the emerging union shortly after the strike because their extended family members who lived in the San Quintin Valley had participated in the strike and were reporting incidents of reprisals.

EcoUnionist News #53

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 23, 2015

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

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism


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