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The AFL-CIO's Keystone Pipeline Dreams

By x344543, x356039, x362102, and x363464 - February 9, 2014

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 IWW maintains that we must not only abolish wage slavery, we must also, "live in harmony with the Earth". The same economic forces that subject the working class to wage slavery are those that are destroying the planet on which we all live. Logically, if the business unions are not fighting to abolish wage slavery, it follows that they will be unable to take a meaningful stand on environmental issues.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that the AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka has officially declared his support for the Keystone XL Pipeline, specifically stating, “there’s no environmental reason that [the pipeline] can’t be done safely while at the same time creating jobs.”

He has further gone on to speak in favor of increasing natural gas exports, opining,

“Increasing the energy supply in the country is an important thing for us to be looking at…all facets of it ought to be up on the table and ought to be talked about. If we have the ability to export natural gas without increasing the price or disadvantaging American industry in the process, then we should carefully consider that and adopt policies to allow it to happen and help, because God only knows we do need help with our trade balance.”

Do we really need to elaborate on the foolishness in suggesting that Keystone XL is either good for the environment or creating jobs, because it most certainly is neither, and we can readily prove that.

To begin with, it’s not the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline itself that’s the primary issue, but what will inevitably be transported through it that is the bone of contention. Nobody disputes that it will transport oil extracted from Canadian tar sands mining, and such oil will be anything but green.

Cole Strangler's article in In These Times, Angering Environmentalists, AFL-CIO Pushes Fossil-Fuel Investment Labor’s Richard Trumka has gone on record praising the Keystone pipeline and natural gas export terminals, lays out a fairly strong case that Trumka’s claims are false, stating:

The anti-KXL camp has long argued that construction of the pipeline will facilitate the extraction of Alberta’s tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. Many also oppose Keystone XL on the grounds that its route crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground sources of fresh water. “We invite President Trumka to come to Nebraska and visit with farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are directly put at risk with the Keystone XL pipeline,” says Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, which has organized local opposition against the pipeline. “To say the pipeline will not harm our water is ignoring real-life tragedies witnessed by all of us with the BP explosion, the Enbridge burst pipe into the Kalamazoo River and tar sands flowing down the street in Mayflower, Arkansas.”

“Brendan Smith, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, a group that works with labor unions and environmental groups to fight climate change, took issue with Trumka’s argument that Keystone would create jobs.  “There is plenty of work that needs to done in this country, and we can create far more jobs fixing infrastructure and transitioning to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” says Smith. “Why build a pipeline that will significantly increase carbon emissions and will hurt our economy when there is a more robust and sustainable jobs agenda on the table?”

However, the author’s critique barely scratches the surface.

Capital Blight - Grist's Ben Adler Throws the Working Class Under the Bus.

By x344543 - January 12, 2014

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.

Recently grist.org climate writer Ben Adler wrote an article, Hey, protester, leave those Google buses alone, excoriating anti-gentrification protesters for organizing a blockade of a private charter bus, contracted by Google, in protest of that company's contribution to the ongoing gentrification of the precious few remaining working class neighborhoods in San Francisco.

In the article, Adler made the rather glib argument that the protesters were ignoring the needs of the Earth, "because", he argued,

Driving in one’s own private car is far more elitist than sharing a bus with one’s coworkers. It is also vastly worse for the environment. The buses take cars off the road. Fewer cars mean less traffic, and less idling in traffic, which is especially polluting.

I'm sorry, but this has to be one of the most asinine articles Grist ever published, and it's wrong on so many levels.

First of all, to accuse those residents who are protesting very real economic threats to their ability to keep living in San Francisco with "class antagonism" is the height of accusing the victims with commuting the crimes. Capitalist economics, by nature, are institutionalized class antagonism of the working class by the employing class, and this is no different. If this were the mid 1850s, the author may very well have been accusing the abolitionists with stirring up "race hatred".

Secondly, it's highly ironic that Grist would be now defending Google, when they, themselves have rightfully called them out for organizing a fundraiser for climate change denying Senator Jim Inhofe (R, Oklahoma).

Thirdly, Adler makes a nonsensical argument that gentrification is "good for the environment", an argument which is contradicted by Adler's own previously published article, Pushing Poor People to the Suburbs is Bad for the Environment.

Indeed it is. Gentrification is a form of capitalist oppression which not only does not deliver on its own promises, it harms workers, people of color, and the environment. In fact, Gentrification is another form of colonialism.

Capital Blight: a Green-Syndicalist Responds to David Walters "Socialist" Defense of Nuclear Energy

By x344543 - November 22, 2013

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.

I read with interest David Walters's recent article, "A Socialist Defends Nuclear Energy, wondering what I would find. I soon discovered there was very little credible "defense" and for that matter, not much "socialism" (other than the citation of various Marxist quotations that Marx and Engels would have bristled at given their context here) in it. In fact, it read to me as a typical capitalist defense of its standard operations wrapped in a rather threadbare and tattered red flag.

Michael Friedman has thoroughly debunked Walters's claims about the "safety" of (conventional) nuclear (fission) energy and the "ease" at dealing with the nuclear waste in his own piece so there is no utility in elaborating further on that matter. It is my intention to address the issues that Friedman didn't cover.

To begin with, if David Walters is so willing to overlook peer reviewed science and factual evidence that clearly shows that conventional nuclear fission energy is unsafe and the problem of nuclear waste not easily handled, he may as well also argue in favor of thorium based breeder reactors, nuclear fusion power, fracking, tar sands, "clean" coal, or even hydrogen fuel cells which are equally questionable technologies (and please note that I am not arguing in favor of any of these things here, though I think hydrogen fuel cells are worth a look at least).

Additionally, Walters lumps in all greens into a single, monolithic group, dominated by primitivism and Malthusianism. This is as inaccurate as arguing that all communists take their marching orders from Stalin. This is the rhetoric one expects to hear from the most reactionary elements of the capitalist class's punditocracy rather than an informed anti-capitalist. To me this is a clear indication that his entire argument is mere propaganda and has very little substance.

Capital Blight - What is it?

By x344543 - November 19, 2013

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.

I suppose I should explain why I chose the name "Capital Blight" for my column-blog-thingy.

To begin with it's a play on words, a sort of send up if the term "capital flight" which is the process by which capitalists withdraw their capital (equipment, physical plants, investments, etc.) in a particular community or region. Their reasons for doing so include the quest for cheaper labor, lower taxes and tariffs, and more lax regulations. Sometimes capital flight occurs after the extraction of locally available resources peak or become depleted. Other times advances in technology make hitherto impractical relocations in production more feasible.

Regardless of the cause, the results of capital flight tend to negatively impact the communities which have been abandoned by the capitalists, particularly in the loss of jobs (both direct and residual) and tax revenue. It also shakes up political and social relations in such places, as much of these are influenced by the suddenly missing elephant in the room.

The less diverse and resilient the economy of said community, the more devastating the short term damage can be. While capital flight can literally spell doom for small rural hamlets, even big cities can be broken by it. This partially explains the desperation experienced throughout what is known as America's "rust belt ".

Earth First! and the IWW, Part 4 - I Knew Nothin' Till I Met Judi

By x344543 - Industrial Worker, November 2013

"Every once in a while a new radical movement arises and illustrates the social firmament so suddenly and so dazzlingly that many people are caught off guard and wonder: “What’s going on here? Who are these new radicals, and what do they want?...

"This new movement...starts delivering real blows to the power and prestige of the ruling exploiters and their governmental stooges. This in turn inevitably arouses the hostility of the guardians of the status quo...who raise a hue and cry for the punishment and suppression of the trouble making upstarts...

"The new movement, with wild songs and high humor, captures the imagination of masses of young rebels, spreads like wildfire, turns up everywhere, gets blamed for everything interesting that happens, and all the while writes page after page in the annals of freedom and justice for all..."

These words were written by IWW member Franklin Rosemont in one of his four articles about Earth First! In the May 1988 edition of the Industrial Worker. In doing so, he brought the IWW squarely into the middle of a firestorm of controversy, and not just on the left, but in timber dependent rural communities as well.

On the left, Earth First! had been (with some justification) excoriated for the reactionary sounding positions taken by Dave Foreman, Ed Abbey, and Chris Manes on starvation among Africans, limiting immigration, and AIDS being "nature's" remedy for excess population, all of which were based on the wrongheaded notion that Thomas Malthus's views on population and starvation had any merit or any relevance to the environment (they don't).

Timber dependent communities lambasted Earth First! for entirely different reasons. Obviously, the bosses hated Earth First! because the latter threatened their profits. Timber workers--many of whom suffered from a sort of capitalist induced "Stockholm Syndrome", not the least of which was made worse by collaborationist business unions (where they existed at all)--echoed the bosses rhetoric, particularly when the capitalists used the word "jobs" when they actually meant profits. Earth First!'s association with tree spiking, and their stubborn refusal to jettison the tactic didn't help matters much.

Ironically, few on the left, and practically nobody in the corporate media paid any attention to what was going on in "ground zero" for the timber wars, California's northwestern redwood coast. Earth First! there had never used tree spiking, and they had gone to great lengths to express their sympathy for the timber workers' plight-identifying capitalist timber harvesting practices as the actual threat to the workers' livelihoods.

Capital Blight: To Wrench or Not to Wrench, a Response

By x344543 - October 29, 2013

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.

A few days ago, I read To Wrench or Not to Wrench: A Brief History of Direct Action in the Environmental Movement and its Potential Consequences, Ethical Implications, and Effectiveness, by By Jeriah Bowser, of the Hampton Institute with particular interest, because it deals with a subject with which I have a good deal of familiarity. Having worked alongside Judi Bari and her fellow Earth First! - IWW Local #1 organizers, I learned a good deal from listening to the ongoing and evolving discussions and debates over strategy and tactics within both Earth First! and the IWW, and so Bowser's article immediately caught my attention.

To be certain, I wanted to make sure I read his piece very carefully, because the subject he covers is particularly contentious and--in my humble opinion--often misconstrued in any number of frustrating ways. I found some things to agree with in Hampton's piece, but there are some glaring errors and oversights in his argument, not to mention some very dangerous and damaging mistakes as well.

For starters, Bowser establishes a false dichotomy between environmental (or other) groups which "engage in direct action" and those that "stick to the democratic process". There are many that do both and see no contradiction in doing so. There is an old debate about "working within the system" versus "tearing the (rotten) system down". Certainly the IWW advocates the later in regards to capitalism ("capitalism cannot be reformed") philosophically, but as a matter of day-to-day survival the IWW is not adverse to working within established systems to make small gains, knowing full well that ultimately the IWW's intended end, the abolition of wage slavery and the establishment of a cooperative commonwealth (that lives in harmony with the Earth) cannot be achieved within the context of capitalism, no matter how much one tries to reform it. Often times, the IWW alsoadvocates working outside the system through direct action, specifically at the point of production. Most times, the IWW favors the latter, but sometimes the boundaries aren't entirely clear. The same holds true with radical environmentalists.

On the flip side, Bowser either naively or even dangerously lumps all forms of "direct acton" together and all groups that engage in a whole range of direct action tactics into a single grouping. Specifically he conflates Earth First!, Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) into one category. I suppose that's essentially accurate on a certain level, and it's been a good long time since I have been an "active" Earth First!er (however that is defined), but when I was active in Earth First! (1995-98), we never engaged in or advocated some of the tactics commonly associated with either ALF or ELF, including, especially arson. Arson was not only not condoned, the Earth First! groups I worked with specifically eschewed such tactics as counterproductive and self destructive. To my knowledge, that is still the case, even if Earth First! favorably reports on the activities of ELF and ALF.

Bowser also makes few distinctions between the veritable aresnal of direct action tactics that exist, simply labeling "tree sitting, blocking logging roads, and street protests" as "passive, non-violent" civil disobedience, then mentioning "tree spiking, or driving huge nails into trees" as an escalation of Earth First!'s militancy. He then goes on to declare that the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) escalated those tactics by "defacing" billboards (although, perhaps "culture jamming" would be a more accurate term, because simple defacement and repurposing the message into an anti-capitalist or ironic satire is substantially more meaningful) followed by "burning" (or) "cutting them down". I know of no proven examples of the latter, but I'll accept that I don't know everything and take the author at their word. However, the author then goes on to state that "arson slowly emerged as the preferred method of resistance, however, and was co-opted by other emerging environmental and animal rights groups- most notably the ELF and ALF," as if there were a logical and linear progression from one to the other, which is a dubious argument.

Jerry Brown: The Wrong Stuff

By Steve Ongerth - Originally published at Counterpunch, October 17, 2013

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.

On Thursday, October 17, 2013, the Blue Green Alliance will award Governor Jerry Brown a “Right Stuff” Award for “catalyzing the clean energy economy”.

The Blue Green Alliance is a coalition of AFL-CIO labor unions and environmental organizations. I am a union worker—a San Francisco ferryboat deckhand –and an environmentalist. You would think I would be supportive of this event. However, I am not.

A member of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) since 1995, I and two Earth First!ers sparked what became the Blue Green Alliance in the fall of 1998. We envisioned a coalition of environmentalists fighting to save Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County and steelworkers on strike at Kaiser Aluminum in Washington, Louisiana, and Ohio.

An oddball idea? Not really. The Headwaters Forest was in danger of being mowed down by Maxxam Corporation, a Houston corporate raider, to pay for the debt with which it saddled Pacific Lumber in its takeover. Three years later, Maxxam acquired Kaiser Aluminum in a similar fashion.

At first the alliance continued that spirit. Earth First! activists marched on steelworkers’ picket lines. Steelworkers encouraged nonunion Pacific Lumber workers to organize for better working conditions. The combined forces agreed that an “injury to one is an injury to all”, and “no compromise in defense of Mother Earth!” These efforts spawned the “Teamsters and Turtles” protest at the 1999 WTO meetings.

The Blue Green Alliance, while well meaning, has made far too many compromises to corporations. I support renewable energy, but it must be produced sustainably and deployed in harmony with the environment. Workers who manufacture, install and maintain the equipment must work under good and safe working conditions. Giving Jerry Brown an award is proof the Blue Green Alliance has lost its way.

Capital Blight - The Root of the Problem

By x344543 – October 8, 2013

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.

I really would rather not be writing this; I honestly wish that I didn’t feel that it was necessary. However, some things simply cannot be left unaddressed.

As one of the half dozen or so charter members of the IWW’s Environmental Unionism Caucus, I comb through a good deal of class struggle and/or environmental news sources, since one of our goals is raising awareness. These sources come from a variety of directions, including syndicalist, socialist, anarchist, progressive environmentalist, and deep green (though not Deep Green Resistance, because of the latter’s transphobia and rigid primativist tendencies). Naturally, one of the most logical sources for this last tendency is Earth First!. Rarely is any source 100% in line with what I and my fellow “Green Wobblies” think represents our position (loosely defined though that may be), and Earth First! is no exception. That which doesn’t fit is generally ignored, and we “stand aside” as they say in the language of modified consensus process. Sometimes, however, our sources will publish something so egregiously wrong, in our opinion, that we feel compelled to respond.

Saturday, October 5, 2013, Earth First! re-published just such a story, called Thanks A Lot, Nebraska, by the Tucson chapter of Root Force (TURF).

What is Root Force you ask? Here’s their mission statement:

Root Force (Fuerza Raíz) is a campaign that recognizes the fundamental connection between the oppression of the Earth and the oppression of its people. The precursor to ecocide and genocide is the separation of people from the land so that both can be exploited. Thus Root Force is a biocentric campaign, asserting that no oppression can be overcome without addressing the relationship a society has with the Earth. To achieve either social or ecological justice, we must achieve both.

Therefore, Root Force aims to help dismantle the system that is killing and enslaving our planet and its people. This will be achieved by (1) identifying the system’s strategic weak points, and (2) targeting those points, thus providing an offensive component to existing ecodefense, international solidarity, and anti-colonialist efforts.

One strategic weak point is the U.S. dependence on the resources of Latin America. The exploitation of these resources is dependent on transportation, energy, and communications infrastructure. Hence this U.S.-based campaign focuses its efforts on opposing infrastructure expansion projects in Latin America, such as Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) and the South American Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA).

The campaign provides a framework for people to take effective action in solidarity with local resistance to these projects without traveling to Latin America. It is structured to allow for a diversity of tactics, to be undertaken by a wide network of autonomous individuals and groups.

This seems reasonable enough; in fact, I cannot find any really objectionable position in this mission statement at all. Much of it could easily mesh with the Preamble to the IWW Constitution, so having established that, I find the content of the article itself to be quite disturbing.

Essentially, TURF is miffed that a coalition including Nebraska ranchers and farmers, the Nebraska Farmer’s Union, Bold Nebraska, 350.org, Sierra Club, Credo, and billionaire Tom Steyer are protesting the impending construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline by constructing a wind- and solar- powered barn in its projected pathway.

Granted there are many criticisms one could make of this action, such as the fact that a great many of these folks are capitalists or enablers of capitalists, the fact that Keystone XL is not the only pipeline we need to worry about, or the obvious fact that Keystone could simply build the pipeline somewhere else (there are enough rural counties sufficiently beholden to corporate fossil fuel interests to ram through the permits barn or no barn), but in spite of these shortcomings, there are lot of good things that could be said about the project as well, including—in my opinion at least—the advocacy of renewable energy, such as wind and solar which could allow a state such as Nebraska which has a fairly good abundance of both to potentially generate all of its own electricity and perhaps even export a bit.

No doubt doing so would lessen that state’s reliance on fossil fuels, and though some of those are extracted and refined locally, the impact of those on the environment effects us globally in ways that greatly outweigh any significant impact from wind and solar. Certainly that would seem to fit the mission of Root Force would it not? Evidently the answer is a resounding “no”. Root Force is overwhelmingly opposed to renewable energy arguing that it simply props up the existing system and perpetuates the destruction of the Earth (and to be certain, the Earth First! Journal published Root Force's position paper on renewables in February 2009).

Brown is not Green (and he's no Friend of the Workers Either!)

by x344543, x356039, and x363464 - October 3, 2013

The IWW Environmental Unionist Caucus recently learned that California Governor Jerry Brown will be appearing at an event in San Francisco at 55 Cyril Magnin Street (near Union Square) at 530 PM on Thursday, October 17.

At this event, Jerry Brown will be receiving an award from the Sierra Club and the Blue Green Alliance for "environmental stewardship".

However, Brown is a green washer and a union buster!

In the past few months, Brown has:

  • Signed SB 4 which allows fracking in California;
  • Pushed for the so-called "Peripheral Tunnels" in the Central Valley Delta, a project opposed by environmentalists;
  • (At the behest of corporate developers) Pushed to water down CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act!

He also issued a 60 day cooling off period during the recent BART strike thereby aiding the BART bosses in their ongoing campaign of vicious union busting - detailed at transportworkers.org.

Several environmental groups are protesting this sham award in protest of Brown's green washing. We call for workers to join this protest in opposition to Brown's aiding of union busting!

All out on October 17!

Brown isn't "Blue" or "Green" and he's not the workers' friend!

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Endorsed By:

Bay Area IWW

To add your name or organization as an endorser, contact is at euc@iww.org

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Why Environmentalists Need to Support Transit Workers' Struggles - Solidarity With Bay Area Transit Workers!

By x344543 and x363464 - October 1, 2013

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 the San Francisco Bay Area union workers at BART and AC Transit are embroiled in bitter contract fights with their bosses. Details on these struggles can be found at the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (TWSC) site: transportworkers.org

Without going into a long analysis why we know this to be true (TWSC has already done that) we simply assert that the demands for concessions by the BART and AC Transit bosses is a result of the austerity measures being demanded of the 99% by the employing class in order for the latter to shore up their sinking capitalist ship.

Rank and file transit workers are organizing a militant response in the face of repression from their bosses (and the wider capitalist class in general) as well as the class collaborationist bureaucrats in their AFL-CIO unions, who simply cannot accept that this assault on the basic rights and livelihoods of trhese workers is happening.

Environmentalists should support the transit workers and oppose the bosses for the following reasons:

  • (1) Contrary to the information you might get from the capitalist media, these workers are not greedy and overpaid. In the Bay Area, an urban megalopolis with one of the highest costs of living in the US, these workers--on average--are barely making enough to survive.
  • (2) The bosses' latest contract offers are full of concessionary demands, and their wage offer amount to a pay cut.
  • (3) The transit bosses are following a pattern being followed by public agencies around the US of funding cuts, union busting, service cutbacks, outsourcing, and privatization.
  • (4) All of these are linked and are part of the systemic functions of capitalism which demands that wealth be continually transferred from the working class to the employing class.
  • (5) Capitalism cannot be reformed and cannot be effectively regulated. Even if temporarily constrained as it was in the Keynesian era, it ultimately seeks a way out of those constraints. Only working class solidarity and organization can effectively check and overcome the power of the employing class.
  • (6) Capitalism is inherently anti-ecological.
  • (7) Because an attack on the transit workers by the employing class enables the latter further, the bosses' actions are also an attack on the environment.
  • Negative consequences to the environment from the bosses actions have and will continue to manifest themselves thusly:

    • Cuts in service (resulting in lower ridership and increased use of personal automobile usage);
    • Cuts in maintenance which risks the safety of workers and commuters as well as causing increased long term wear and tear;
    • Less expansion of service to much needed areas;
    • Anti environmental practices within each agency.
  • (9) The arguments made by the bosses that the above conditions are caused by "workers' greed" are bogus. The bosses make far more by comparison and the real issue is one of allocation of adequate public funds.

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