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Rising Tide North America (RTNA)

An Open Letter to my Fellow Railroad Workers

By Jen Wallis - Railroad Workers United, September 4, 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 author wants to make it clear that her views are not necessarily those of her union, Railroad Workers United, or the members of either.

Dear fellow rails:

On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, five residents of Seattle and Everett working with Rising Tide Seattle, stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett by erecting a tripod-structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of a mile-long oil train.

Just to be clear, I had nothing to do with the action. Direct actions are the result of affinity groups, who plan these things completely amongst themselves within their own organizations. All I did was share the message of how dangerous one-person crews would be. I'm thrilled that they listened, but I'm actually opposed to most formal coalitions. All of the ones I've been involved with have ended by either imploding because of the hostile factions they inevitably splintered into, or became appropriated by the bureaucrats. I'm more inclined to simply keep lines of communication open between our respective movements, but personally it goes much deeper than that.

Every age has their growing pains. Growing as a society means that those who advocate social or economic change are invariably encumbered with a lot of “isms” or “ists” for their beliefs. More than 100 years ago, and for centuries before that, it was not universally accepted that slavery was wrong. If you believed that it was, you were labelled a “abolitionist”, along with the other colorful labels that went with it. If you helped slaves gain their freedom, you went to jail. Now it is universally accepted that enslaving people is wrong.

100 years ago, it was not universally accepted that women should have the right to vote. If you believed that women had the right to vote, you were called a “suffragist”, along with all of the labels and misconceptions that went along with it. Believing in it often landed you in jail. It was a controversial opinion to be held in that era, but in America, it is now universally accepted.

Just 50 years ago, if you believed that Jim Crow laws were wrong, you were called a “civil rights activist”, along with all of the horrible names that went along with that. If you believed that segregation was wrong, you often went to jail. Now at least it is not directly advocated, though we still have a ways to go.

All of these changes, which are now universally accepted as truths, came about as the result of numerous acts of non-violent civil disobedience and direct actions. The actual legislation came about much later as the result of public pressure.

Climate change is not a myth. It is scientifically proven, and many of the effects of the causes we have made in the last 30 years are irreversible. We have the opportunity to stop the destruction, but we are well past the time to act on it. It’s upon us right now. It is our obligation to our children and their children’s children to stand up and say, “Enough! This is no longer sustainable for our planet!”.

An Arresting Experience: Doing direct action at BNSF Delta Yard

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, September 8, 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.

Following is the story of why I and four others engaged in an act of civil resistance at BNSF Delta Yard in Everett, Washington September 2.  The act was intended to draw attention to a Petition for Redress of Grievances Inflicted by Fossil Fuels.  Please sign our petition here

I am a veteran climate activist.  I have written about the climate crisis for over 25 years and for most of the last 15 worked full-time to advance climate solutions.  I have spent a lot of time trying to stop global warming sitting in front of a computer.  On September 2, 2014 it was time to sit in front of a train. 

Five of us attached ourselves to a tripod made of three 18-foot steel poles erected across a train track at Delta Junction, the north end of BNSF’s Everett Delta staging yard.  I locked myself at the foot of one of the poles.  School teachers Liz Spoerri and Jackie Minshew and coffee shop owner Mike Lapointe fastened themselves to the others. Abby Brockway, a house painter and artist, ascended to perch at the top.

Our banner, “Cut Oil Trains, Not Conductors,” expressed solidarity with railroad workers fighting against dangerous, single-person train crews.  During the day the action drew numerous supporting honks from truckers driving across the bridge above.

Around 150 yards to the south an orange BNSF engine was linked at the head of a black mile-long snake of tanker cars filled with North Dakota Bakken shale oil.  This is the same extraordinarily unstable crude that on July 6, 2013 leveled several city blocks and incinerated 47 people at Lac-Megantic on the Quebec-Maine border.  That exploded in fireballs after derailments October 19, 2013 in Edmonton, Alberta and November 8, 2013 in Aliceville, Alabama. A derailment and fire December 30, 2013 in Casselton, North Dakota erupted in a toxic plume that forced evacuations in a five-mile radius.  Another Bakken train derailed and was engulfed in flames January 7, 2014 in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick.

Every week oil trains each carrying up to three million gallons of volatile Bakken crude trundle through Seattle 8 to 13 times and Washington up to 19 times, according to BNSF’s own figures. Sightline's Eric de Place reports that oil unit train traffic through Washington has risen from essentially zero in August 2012 to an average of 2.6 trains a day. They run past stadiums and heavily populated neighborhoods, and through tunnels underneath Seattle and Everett.  Just this July 24 a nearly 100-tanker train derailed beneath the Magnolia Bridge in Seattle.  Fortunately no toxic fireball . . . this time.

Seattle Activists Mount Tripod: Stop Exploding Oil Trains

By Rising Tide Cascadia - Rising Tide North America, September 2, 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.

UPDATE 3:32pm PDT: Abby has been extracted after an epic 8 hour blockade. Donate to get all five awesome climate defenders out of jail!

Five residents of Seattle and Everett, WA, working with Rising Tide Seattle, have stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett by erecting a tripod-structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of a mile-long oil train. Follow Rising Tide Seattle for live updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Seattle resident Abby Brockway – a small business owner, and mother – is suspended from the structure 18 feet above the tracks while four other residents are locked to the legs the tripod. The group is demanding an immediate halt to all shipments of fossil fuels through the Northwest and calling on Governor Inslee to reject permits for all new fossil fuel projects in Washington, including proposed coal and oil terminals.

Donate to support Abby and the other involved in the action!

“People in the Pacific Northwest are forming a thin green line that will keep oil, coal and gas in the ground,” said Brockway, “Just one of these proposed terminals would process enough carbon to push us past the global warming tipping point – we won’t let that happen.”

Today’s protest has shut down work at BNSF’s Delta Rail Yard in Everett. With the increase of fossil fuel transport in recent years the yard has become a crucial staging ground for coal trains headed to Canadian export terminals and oil trains bound for Washington refineries. An oil-train carrying explosive bakken crude oil sat stalled while the protest continued.

“Exploding oil-trains running through my town are just a reminder of how out of control the fossil fuel industry really is,” said Jackie Minchew an Everett resident and retired educator locked to one of the tripod’s poles.

In a controversial move, Burlington Northern Santa-Fe recently announced a tentative deal with Union leaders to reduce train crews from an engineer and conductor to a single engineer. The oil train that de-railed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec was crewed by a single engineer. BNSF claims that oil-trains will continue to have two person crews, but critics point out that nothing in the proposed contract binds the company to that statement. Under the proposed deal Coal Trains would be operated by a single crew-member.

“BNSF is endangering workers, communities and our environment. They should keep the conductors and lose the oil trains,” said Brockway.

The surge in oil-train traffic is already impacting other commodities like passenger rail and agricultural shipments. Farmers from the Midwest to Washington State have faced what they call “unprecedented” delays in moving Wheat and other products to West Coast ports. Amtrak service through fossil-fuel train corridors has also suffered significant disruption and officials have expressed concern that the problem will only get worse as more terminals come online.

Uprooting The Liberal Climate Agenda

By Scott Parkin - Counterpunch, August 20, 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.

“You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree.”

― Malcolm X

Somewhere between the Bay Area’s environmental non-profit bubble and multi-million climate march planning in New York City, 21 people in the Utah desert took action to shut down the first tar sands mine in the United States.

They’d been part of a larger encampment on the eastern plateau, where local organizers educated over 80 student climate activists about the Utah tar sands as well as trainings on organizing, direct action and anti-oppression. Utah tar sands fighters have spent the summer living in the area as a constant protest against Canadian-based company U.S. Oil Sands’ extraction efforts on the plateau. Every night, black bears raided the camp looking for food and every day local and state police agencies harassed the camp with veiled threats and innuendo derived through Facebook stalking. Despite the harassment and surveillance by the state, actions happen. This particular arrest action gained lots of national media attention and a number of larger environmental organizations put out statements of support of the activists. It also included a number of escalated felony charges on some of the activists.

Utah tar sands fighters living on the ground on the plateau, in Moab and in Salt Lake City live and breathe the campaign against the Utah Tar Sands. They strategize and organize it the same way that Appalachian mountain defenders organize the struggle against mountaintop removal coal mining. They live it the same way that the Tar Sands Blockade lived the campaign against the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in east Texas and Oklahoma. In all of these campaigns, it’s been an alliance of unpaid radical organizers working with local landowners and community members fighting to save homes, forests, water supplies and more. Furthermore, these campaigns have defined risk and sacrifice.

In Appalachia, after numerous actions on strip mine sites, coal companies filed lawsuits against those participating in civil disobedience actions. West Virginia law enforcement imposed huge bails to further deter actions on mine sites. In Texas, TransCanada sued numerous individuals and three grassroots organizations for over $20 million after the same sort of action. The Canadian oil giant also compiled dossiers on noted organizers and briefed local and federal law enforcement agencies with possible crimes and charges for stopping work on its work sites. Texas law enforcement obliged TransCanada’s hard work with felony charges and violent brutalization of peaceful protestors.

In each of these campaigns, bold and effective organizing against oil, gas and coal companies has created moments to stop egregious practices and projects at the points of destruction only to be abandoned or ignored by the larger environmental establishment. In the wake of that abandonment, hundreds of Appalachian Mountains have been leveled while oil flows through the Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, OK to the Gulf Coast, and ground is now broken on the first tar sands mine in the United States.

The liberal reform agenda of the environmental establishment continues to dominate the climate movement. Organizations sitting on millions of dollars in resources and thousands of staff are now engaged in a massive “Get Out The Vote” style operation to turn out tens of thousands to marches before the September 23rd United Nations’ Climate Summit in New York. Their hope is to impact the summit framed as U.N. Secretary General Bai-Ki Moon’s dialogue with global politicians on climate change in the lead up to the 2015 climate talks. Civil society’s demands include passing meaningful climate legislation and signing binding agreements on carbon regulation.

History continues to repeat itself as the environmental establishment had similar demands in Copenhagen at the 2009 climate talks. After spending millions of their donors’ dollars and thousands of hours of staff time, successes included an email campaign that got President Obama to travel to Denmark and personally witness the failure of those climate talks. Almost simultaneously, legislation to regulate carbon emissions failed in the U.S. Congress as well. After outspending the climate liberals 10 to 1, the political will of Big Oil and Big Coal remained unbreakable. Meanwhile, these same companies continue to drill, mine, frack, pollute, poison, build pipelines and burn coal in neighborhoods and communities from coast to coast.

Northwest Communities Oppose Coal Exports

Press Release - Wild Idaho Rising Tide, August 16, 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.

On Saturday, August 16, and during the previous week, grassroots groups are holding a coordinated day of peaceful actions, to protest the passage of coal trains through interior Northwest communities [1, 2].  From Montana and Wyoming to Oregon and Washington, proposals to bring more polluting coal trains through the region impact dozens of communities along rail lines, who are organizing to protect their towns from coal exports.  This summer, 350-Missoula, Blue Skies Campaign, Indian People’s Action, Wild Idaho Rising Tide, and other organizations are together catalyzing this movement against dirty energy in new and bolder ways, evident in this regional day of action.

As inland Northwest citizens largely dismissed by the federal and state regulatory processes that determine the fate of three proposed coal export facilities at Cherry Point and Longview, Washington, and Boardman, Oregon, we stand in solidarity with Northwest tribes and climate activists resisting these West Coast ports and Powder River Basin coal mines that despoil native lands and watersheds and ultimately global climate [3].  While Oregon agencies deliberate their possible issuance of key permits allowing financially risky, Australia-based Ambre Energy to begin construction on the controversial Morrow Pacific coal train terminal dock and warehouses at Boardman, we support friends among the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, who rejected  the companies’ bribes of up to $800,000 per year to partner in and benefit from building this Coyote Island Terminal and shipping 8.8 million tons of coal per year down the Columbia River [4, 5].

Residents of four states will continue to work to stop coal exports by every means, including arrestable, nonviolent civil disobedience, as we pressure coal and railroad companies and political officials who support them.  With our protests, we honor the 71 brave Northwest activists who have endured arrest and citation during occupations of coal train tracks and public buildings in Bellingham, Washington (December 2011), White Rock, British Columbia (May 2012), Helena, Montana (August 2012 and September 2013), Spokane, Washington (June 2013), and Missoula, Montana (April 2014), as interior Northwest groups further coordinate regional demonstrations resisting coal export that started in January 2013 [6, 7].

Seattle Activists Blocking Oil Trains Include City Council Member

By Jay Burney - Climate Connections, August 6, 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.

Rising Tide Portland blogger Mike M posted that five protestors including  Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, and a candidate for the State House of Representatives Jess Spear, occupied railroad tracks in order to call attention to the proliferation of oil trains also known as “bomb trains” running through the streets of Seattle and throughout the Northwest. The protest took place at tracks along the Seattle waterfront near the Olympic Sculpture Park. Four were arrested, but not Sawant.

The protest was launched in part as a reaction to a July 24 derailment of a 100 car train carrying Bakken Oil.

Spear is quoted in the Rising Tide blog as saying:

“These oil trains running right through the downtown area pose a huge risk to life and to the environment. Luckily, last week’s derailment did not spill any oil; but we cannot rely on luck. We cannot stand idly by while these bombs on wheels roll through Seattle”.

Ms Sawant was quoted in another Seattle publication, The Stranger,  as saying that she is

“in solidarity with the three activists who have the courage of their convictions. It’s an enormous sacrifice to be arrested to raise awareness… I’m also here as someone who is on the city council and who takes the task of governance seriously. This is a matter of emergency that needs to be addressed”.

In a prepared statement read before the protest Ms. Sawant told those assembled:

One year ago, a similar train derailed and destroyed half the downtown area in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and led to 42 deaths. The fact that these train tracks run right by the stadiums, and through Belltown, where tens of thousands of people regularly gather, mean that there is potential for major catastrophe.

Earth Minute: July 2, 2014

By Anne Petermann - Global Justice Ecology Project, July 7, 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.

On the weekly “Earth Minute” Anne Peterman, Executive Director of the Global Justice Ecology Project, discusses Portland Rising Tide’s recent direct action.

The Earth Minute is written and recorded by GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann in partnership with KPFK FM. 

Click here to listen: 

https://soundcloud.com/sojournertruthradio/sojournertruthradio-7-2-14-2

Open Letter: Union Needs to Back Climate Change Protesters, Not Persecute Them

The Vancouver Ecosocialist Group, including the trade unionists listed below, have issued this open letter to the International Longshore Warehouse Union. It responds to the union’s offer of a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of climate change protesters at the Port Metro Vancouver’s office. The open letter was originally published by the Vancouver Observer. Rankandfile.ca republishes this letter in the interests of open, democratic debate within the labour movement, particularly on issues as important as the environment and government attacks on the right to protest and free speech. – the Rankandfile.ca editors

ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko announced December 20 on the waterfront union’s website and in the mainstream media the offer of a “$2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of masked intruders who violently occupied Port Metro Vancouver’s office on Monday December 16 and intimidated office staff.”

This action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has tarnished its own proud history of peaceful civil disobedience by refusing to load ships in support of progressive struggles. Only four years ago a sizable march of ILWU members, supporters, and international guests erected a plaque in Vancouver to the outcome of one such refusal. That one led to a massive lockout and to the 1935 Battle of Ballantyne Pier, where hundreds of dock workers fought police for hours in an attempt to stop scabbing.

Rising Tide and Allies Shut Down Port of Vancouver

Portland Rising Tide North American - Monday, November 4th, 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.

Vancouver and Portland Rising Tide are joining with other friends, allies, and activists in the Pacific Northwest to shut down the Port of Vancouver, Washington, right now in solidarity with the ILWU.

This from Portland Rising Tide’s Facebook page: “Good morning Port of Vancouver, if you can’t keep your grain terminal safe for workers, how can you make an oil terminal safe? You can’t so this morning Rising Tide is shutting you down!”

The ILWU has been locked out of a grain shipment terminal by United Grain. “United Grain and its Japanese owners at Mitsui have failed to negotiate in good faith with the men and women of the ILWU for months and instead chose to aggressively prepare for a lockout, spending enormous resources on an out-of-state security firm,” according to a statement made by ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent earlier this year.

On July 15, 2011, hundreds of ILWU protestors blockaded a mile-long train coming into the terminal in protest. The struggle has continued through numerous actions of resistance, including this June, when ILWU members blocked a transport van from leaving the port.

Today, the ILWU’s struggle in the area is spilling over into a new terminal as Rising Tide activists are calling out the unaccountable and irresponsible behavior of the Port of Vancouver in both the ILWU lockout and the approval of a new oil terminal. The terminal would process 380,000 barrels of oil coming in by rail from the Bakken shale and probably the tar sands.

Many activists have pointed to recent oil disasters, such as the explosion of an oil train in Lac-Megantic, Canada, that incinerated the entire town square.

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