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International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)

Unions Rally for Ceasefire in Gaza as Climate Crisis Lurks

By Ted Franklin - Labor Rise, November 22, 2023

Labor Unions across the country are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, one of the most climate-challenged places on Earth. In the best of times, Gazans live on the frontline of climate change. Now they are living in a warzone rapidly turning to rubble.

U.N. experts say Israel’s bombing campaign has hit wells, water tanks, and other water supply infrastructure necessary to supply the minimum amounts of water needed to sustain human life. In early November, the UN reported that only 5% of Gaza’s water needs are now being met. The enclave lacks potable groundwater and depends on power and water supplies that have been cut off by the Israeli siege. UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, has warned that 70 percent of people in the Gaza Strip are now drinking contaminated water.

In mid-October, Palestinian trade unions issued an urgent global call to action, calling on workers everywhere to halt the sale and funding of arms to Israel and block related military research. The responses of the U.S. labor movement have varied. Some unions have aligned themselves with Palestinian calls for an end to Israeli occupation. Some have focused on ending U.S. support for the Israeli military effort. All are backing a ceasefire that President Biden and most U.S. politicians have so far refused to endorse.

Despite Intimidation, Union Voices Get Louder for Ceasefire in Gaza

By Keith Brower Brown and Caitlyn Clark - Labor Notes, October 31, 2023


Workers from three Chicago hospitals marched October 21. Photo: @lowisiana on X.

In the U.S. and across the world, hundreds of thousands of people have taken the streets to protest Israel’s assault on Gaza, which has killed at least 8,300 Palestinians, including 3,300 children, since October 7. On October 27, the United Nations called for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce.”

In the U.S., those protesting Israel’s attacks have faced a wave of repression by employers.

Management retaliation has struck journalists and academics. Michael Eisen, editor-in-chief of the open-access science journal eLife, was fired after sharing a satirical article from The Onion that criticized media responses to the loss of Palestinian life. Jackson Frank, a sports writer for PhillyVoice, was fired after criticizing a pro-Israel post by the Philadelphia 76ers.

After publishing and signing a letter of prominent artists and critics for a ceasefire, to stop an “escalating genocide,” Artforum Editor-in-Chief David Velasco was fired after 18 years at the magazine and six in that role. Three other editors resigned from the high-profile magazine in protest.

The National Writers Union is documenting such cases—both to connect writers with individual support, and to push for industry-wide reforms.

Meanwhile in Gaza, at least 25 journalists have been killed by Israeli airstrikes.

ILWU secures jurisdiction in Humboldt Bay offshore wind project

By Staff - ILWU, August 11, 2023

On August 10, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District approved a project labor agreement (PLA) for the construction of an offshore wind terminal at the Port of Humboldt Bay that also secures the ILWU’s traditional, historic, and geographic jurisdiction at the Port.

More than 40 ILWU members from ILWU Locals 14, 18, 34, 54, and the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) came to the meeting and spoke in favor of the agreement. Longshore work is not a part of the PLA, which only covers the construction of the terminal, however, the ILWU and the California State Building Trades Council negotiated an amendment in the agreement that ensures that loading and unloading of cargo “shall remain the sole jurisdiction of the ILWU.”

The ILWU Executive Board’s Offshore Wind Subcommittee, chaired by Local 34 President Sean Farley, has been working with the ILWU Organizing Department and Washington, D.C. Legislative Department for more than two years. They have been meeting with officials at the federal, state, and local levels, offshore wind developers, and the California State Building Trades Council to protect ILWU jurisdiction and to make it clear that ILWU members will be loading and offloading all cargo and that the members of the IBU will also be performing their traditional work on these projects.

Members of Local 14 in Eureka have been meeting with Humboldt Bay Harbor District Commissioners for more than a year and attending Harbor District meetings monthly to learn about this new industry, build relationships, and protect the ILWU’s jurisdiction.

Construction on the terminal is not expected to start until 2025 and could take up to three years to complete. The offloading of any cargo could be at least 7 years away but it is essential to be involved in the process early to protect longshore work and the work of IBU mariners.

“The Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind project will be the first, but not the last offshore wind project on the West Coast,” said ILWU International Vice President Bobby Olvera, Jr. “Securing our jurisdiction on this first project sets an important precedent as we continue to fight to protect our work on future offshore wind projects.”

Harbor Commissioners Approve ‘Once in a Generation’ Project Labor Agreement for Humboldt Offshore Wind Terminal Project; Union Reps Laud Unanimous Decision

Text and images by Isabella Vanderheiden - Lost Coast Outpost, August 11, 2023

Local contractors and labor union members packed Eureka’s Wharfinger Building Thursday night to give the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board of Commissioners their two cents on a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the Humboldt Offshore Wind Terminal Project that could guarantee local jobs for years to come.

The PLA outlines the general terms and conditions for labor employment affiliated with the first stages of port development on Humboldt Bay. The agreement has sparked opposition from some local construction companies that run non-union shops as it will require non-union workers to pay toward the union trust fund.

The Harbor District has spent the last year working with members of the Humboldt-Del Norte County Building and Construction Trades Council, the State Building and Construction Trade Council of the State of California, and other local labor representatives to develop the agreement, which is required by federal law. The contractors and subcontractors who are awarded contracts to work on the heavy lift marine terminal will be subject to the provisions of the agreement, including no-strike, no-lock-out clauses to eliminate delays associated with labor unrest. 

“This is an agreement between the district and the labor unions that we’re going to have a smooth labor transition and that there’s going to be no disruption to the workforce,” said Larry Oetker, executive director of the Harbor District. “But in return, there are some hiring stipulations that are included in [the document].”

The agreement details hiring priorities for “disadvantaged workers,” or local residents who, prior to the project, experienced barriers to employment, as noted in section 2.9.

Trial Run for California's Offshore Wind Workforce

By Robert Collier, et. al - IBEW Local 1245, et. al., July 5, 2023

California’s offshore wind industry can fill its workforce training needs largely through negotiating labor contracts with unions, thus providing access to the state’s well-honed apprenticeship system. But some workforce gaps exist in the offshore marine services, caused mainly by legal and regulatory hurdles. These are some of the key findings of a new, state-funded report issued by an alliance of industry, labor and academia. Unlike many other desktop research reports issued in recent years about California offshore wind, this report was based on empirical, hands-on planning for California’s first offshore wind project: CADEMO in northern Santa Barbara County.

The new report was produced by the Offshore Wind High Road Training Partnership (HRTP), funded by the California Workforce Development Board. The HRTP members include: Floventis, CADEMO’s owner and developer; the State Building and Construction Trades Council; electrical union IBEW 1245; San Luis Obispo County Office of Education; SLO Partners; and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

CADEMO is a demonstration project comprising four full-size, 15-MW floating turbines in state waters off the coast of Vandenberg Space Force Base. It is expected to be operational in late 2027, years before the first larger-scale projects planned in federal waters.

California Aims To Boot Dirty Investment With California Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (SB 252)

By Zachary Shahan - Clean Technica, February 9, 2023

California continues to be a climate and cleantech leader. One of its big recent announcements in this regard is that state policymakers have introduced the California Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (SB 252).

Naturally, this divestment move was stimulated by young adults, students. It was then introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), and Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) in the California Senate. The package actually covers a range of topics. It is “a suite of bills that work together to improve transparency, standardize disclosures, align public investments with climate goals, and raise the bar on corporate action to address the climate crisis.”

One of the shocking stats that the parties use to emphasize the importance of this matter and the stunning reality of human-induced global heating is that 71% of greenhouse gas emissions to date have come from just 100 companies. “Without corporate action to reduce these emissions, California would be unable to meet its climate goals,” the state senators surmise. “At a time when rising anti-science sentiment is driving strong pushback against responsible business practices like risk disclosure and ESG investing, these bills leverage the power of California’s market to continue the state’s long tradition of setting the gold standard on environmental protection for the nation and the world.”

How Unions Are Fighting for Public Pension Fossil Fuel Divestment

Are Refinery Workers Climate Enemies? - Part 2

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, May 25, 2022

For context and background, see part one, here. Unlike the first installment, this second response has ommitted the comments that preciptated it, for the sake of clarity, as well as the fact that the author tried to echo the rebutted points in the response. It should be noted that only one individual has expressed outright opposition to showing solidarity with striking refinery workers. It's a foregone conclusion that the overwhelming majority of the IWW does not share this one individual's view.

First of all, let me be clear: my position is that humanity must collectively phase out burning fossil fuels for energy, transportation, and locomotion as rapidly as possible.

That said, nobody seriously believes we can collectively cease burning fossil fuels in a single day, so the likelihood is that the burning of them will continue for some time (I aim to make that as little time as possible).

Regardless of how long it takes, no oil refinery is going to simply shut down just because large masses of people, even 3.5% of the population demand it. It’s not even technically possible, let alone economically or politically possible. Most of the Environmental Justice and Climate Justice organizations (other than a few ultra-sectarian extremists) get this, and they’ve crafted their demands accordingly.

While there’s a degree of variation among the various organizing, most of them call for the following:

  1. No new extraction of new fossil fuel sources;
  2. Rapid phase out of existing fossil fuel sources;
  3. Managed decline of the existing fossil fuel supply chain;
  4. Just transition for any and all affected workers in the entire fossil fuel supply chain;
  5. Repurposing of equipment for non fossil fuel burning purposes;
  6. Bioremediation of damaged ecosystems across the extraction supply chain;
  7. Reparations for the affected communities and tribes.

Supporting refinery workers involved in a strike is not in any way contradictory to the above demands.

Are Refinery Workers Climate Enemies?

By an anonymous ex-member of the IWW (with a response by Steve Ongerth) - ecology.iww.org, April 28, 2022

Editor's Note: Since Monday, March 21, 2022, the workers at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, members of the United Steelworkers Local 5 have been on strike and picketing the facility after voting down the company’s latest contract offer, which workers say contained insufficient wage increases and demanded cuts in union staffing that focused on health and safety in the refinery. The bosses have responded by bringing in scabs (including managers from other Chevron facilities). Meanwhile, USW Local 5 members have been picketing the refinery 24-7, and have been, at times, joined by members of the local BIPOC and/or environmental justice community. After IWW EUC cofounder and long-time Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch member, Steve Ongerth, brought a call for solidarity with the striking workers to the April branch meeeting, a disgruntled member (who has since resigned from the organization), sent the following letter to the branch (name deleted for privacy reasons).

Message from a Disgruntled (former) Member:

I’m sorry to say how disappointed I am in the IWW. I’m a relatively new wobbly and although I believe in standing in solidarity with fellow workers it seems at some point lines must be drawn.

As I’ve read through these last emails about the USW Local 5 and the call to action for us to stand with them as they strike, many questions come to mind. The first one is what if fellow climate activists, many of whom are wobblies were to implement a protest blockade to stall production of this refinery in defense of the environment? I wonder if those refinery workers with whom we are picketing would come outside and join our protest line? I also wonder if they would be interested in the invitation to join the 2022 Global Climate Strike that you forwarded to us? In both cases I assume it is reasonable to conclude they would not.

As wobblies, where do we draw the line? What if oil pipeline workers go to strike for hazard pay because a tribal nation, whose land the pipeline is planned to cross blocks safe access to thier jobsite in protest of the poisoning of thier waterways? Would the IWW Environmental Caucus also put a call out to picket with those Union workers? We draw the line when it comes to police unions who’s membership is hellbent on beating and imprisoning people protesting civil injustices. Why are we supporting refinery workers? This makes no sense. Iunderstand that just about every industry is to some degree tainted with These workers primary job is to process and prepare for market the product that’s catapulted us into the current global warming apocalyptic meltdown!

Green Unionism on the Chevron Richmond Refinery Workers Picket Line

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, April 15, 2022

Since Monday, March 21, 2022, the workers at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, members of the United Steelworkers Local 5 have been on strike and picketing the facility after voting down the company’s latest contract offer, which workers say contained insufficient wage increases. The bosses have responded by bringing in scabs (including managers from other Chevron facilities). The strike has gotten a good deal of media coverage:

However, the capitalist (and progressive) media have mostly missed some important details.

First of all, the striking refinery workers and their elected union leaders continue to emphasize that their issues extend beyond narrow bread and butter issues, such as wages and benefits. A major concern that they continue to articulate is that Chevron continues to try and cut unionized safety jobs and refuses to hire sufficient workers to safely and adequately staff the facility. Workers have complained of 12-hour days and six-day workweeks. All of these deficiencies not only risk the health and safety of the workers, but the surrounding, mostly BIPOC communities as well. Worse still, they have adverse environmental effects, a problem that hasn't been lost on the striking workers. As stated by USW Local 5 representative, B.K White:

“If we had more people and could get a better pay rate, maybe our members wouldn’t feel obligated to come in and work as many as 70 hours a week to make ends meet. We don’t believe that is safe. (that and the use of replacement workers) is at the detriment of the city of Richmond and the environment.”

Even less noticed by the media has been the presence of environmental justice activists (including, but not limited to, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Extinction Rebellion, Fossil Free California, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Sierra Club, Sunflower Alliance, Sunrise Movement, and 350), various socialist organizations (including DSA in particular), and members from the nearby front-line BIPOC communities, who have joined the pickets in solidarity with the workers, something the workers have also not hesitated to point out. Indeed, in spite of the fact that many environmental justice activists and community members are harshly critical of Chevron's role in turning the city of Richmond into a capital blight infested sacrifice zone, they recognize that the workers are not their enemies nor are the latter responsible for the damage done by the company. On the contrary, many recognize that the unionized workforce is one of the best mitigations against far worse capital blight (it bears mentioning that there has also been a good deal of support and picket line presence from rank and file workers and union officials from many other unions, including the AFSCME, IBEW, IWW, ILWU, SEIU, UFCW, and the Contra Costa County Central Labor Council).

Such seemingly unlikely bonds of solidarity, though delicate and, at times, fragile didn't arise out of thin air, but, in fact, have resulted from years of painstaking grassroots organizing.

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