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Chapter 1 : An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

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

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

The mill men all insist on one thing: that the Government will grant the manufacturers protection from the lawless element of the I.W.W.’s”

—J. P. Weyerhaeuser, 1917

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might,
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
The union makes us strong…

—Lyrics excerpted from Solidarity Forever, by Ralph Chaplin, ca. 1915

The timber industry has, throughout nearly its entire history, been in the control of an elite minority of the very rich and powerful, and they have been especially avaricious, violent, and repressive towards all who would challenge their power. They have also—in spite of a barrage of slick propaganda trumpeting their careful management of the resource—depleted most of the virgin forests of the Pacific Northwest. Many environmental organizations can trace their origins to opposition to such practices, and in the struggles by environmentalists to preserve forestlands, timber workers have had a reputation for being their fiercest adversaries, and in many cases, this is true. Timber workers have a well deserved reputation for being outspoken about the pride of purpose in their job, as well as a deeply ingrained cultural machismo. Yet lumber harvesting and production is historically one of the ten most dangerous jobs in the industrialized world, and timber workers are among those most exploited by their employers. One would logically expect the timber workers to be highly resistant to such treatment, but in recent years they haven’t been. This wasn’t always so. To understand why, one must examine the industry’s origins.

Before the arrival of European-American settlers to the Pacific Northwest, the entire region stretching from northern California to Canada and Alaska from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains was dominated by coniferous old growth forests. At least 20 million acres of this land was forested, dominated by various species of trees, some of them hundreds of feet in height, over a dozen feet in diameter, and centuries or even millennia old.[1] In the southwestern part of this region, stretching from Big Sur to roughly what is now the Oregon state line, in a belt that was at least twenty miles wide for most of its expanse a very unique species of tree dominated, Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the California redwoods, some of them standing over 350 feet tall. Their close (and similarly large) cousins, Sequoiadendron giganteum, better known as the Giant Sequoia, only grew in a few isolated spots in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada foothills. These vast forests were far more then the trees, however. Hundreds, if not thousands of plant and animal species lived and flourished within these wooded habitats, and as far as is known, the indigenous population of the Americas had no significant lasting impact on California’s ancient redwood forests, nor did they have any lasting effect on the timberlands of the Pacific Northwest in general.[2] Like the Native Americans, the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest had remained left more or less untouched for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.

The coming of the white man changed all of that. The Russians first began exploiting the redwoods for the construction of Fort Ross in 1812, during their very brief settlement there.[3] As more Europeans arrived, the forests south of San Francisco were the first to be logged, usually through clearcutting, until these ancient stands were completely liquidated by 1860. In those days, loggers used hand saws, and felling an ancient redwood could take anywhere from two-to-five days to complete. The redwoods to the north of the Golden Gate in what is now Marin County were logged next, especially along rivers that allowed easy transportation by the available modes of the day. By this time, around 1881, the steam engine had replaced pack animals. Though this first wave of automation did not have a significant impact on the number of workers involved in the logging process, it greatly increased the impact logging had on the redwoods. Entire forests were liquidated, no matter how small the tree, because even the baby trees were used to build the skid roads used for hauling the larger ones. These forests were never replanted, and very few of them grew back, and in some cases, farmlands replaced them. By the beginning of the 20th Century, all but a few of these ancient trees were gone and logging operations migrated north to Sonoma County. One quarter century later, most of these old growth forests were likewise gone.[4]

Redwood Uprising: Introduction

By Steve Ongerth

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

I know, I know. I need to write a book about all this. Fighting to save the redwoods, building alliances with the loggers, getting car bombed and finding out what we’re up against not just the timber industry but also the FBI. Then coming back home and ending up back on the front lines again. I fully intend to write about it eventually, but it’s hard to write about something when you’re still in the middle of it.”

—Judi Bari, introduction to Timber Wars, 1994

“All this,” is a very complex and intriguing story (not to mention a call to action), and while most people have never heard it, a great many are at least partially aware of its defining moment.

On the morning of May 24, 1990, two activists, Judi Bari and her friend and comrade Darryl Cherney, set out from Oakland, California, while on a tour to organize support for a campaign they had organized called Redwood Summer. They were part of the radical environmental movement known as Earth First!, which had a reputation for militant tactics, including the sabotaging of logging and earth moving machinery as well as spiking trees—the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter logging operations. The previous year in Arizona, five environmentalists, including Peg Millett and Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman, had been arrested and charged by the FBI for a conspiracy to sabotage power lines in protest against nuclear power. Some welcomed Earth First!’s uncompromising reputation. Others denounced them as reckless, or even as terrorists.

According to the mainstream media, Earth First!’s radical agenda earned them the animosity of the timber workers whose jobs the environmentalists supposedly threatened. They were described as “outside agitators” (among many other things) who had “polarized” the timber dependent communities of northwestern California’s redwood region—historically known as the “Redwood Empire”, but more recently as the “North Coast”—with their militant and uncompromising “environmental extremism.” Their alleged hard-line anti-logging stances were seen as too extreme even by most environmentalists, and they supposedly stood upon the radical fringes of the ecology movement. Redwood Summer was reportedly planned as a summer-long campaign of direct actions by these “fringe” environmentalists to thwart the harvesting of old growth redwood timber in northwestern California, specifically Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma Counties.

On May 24, however, Bari’s and Cherney’s planned destination was Santa Cruz County, where—just one month previously—power lines had supposedly been sabotaged by unknown perpetrators calling themselves the “Earth Night Action Group”. Just before 11:55 AM a bomb in Bari’s car exploded, nearly killing her and injuring Cherney. Within minutes the FBI and Oakland Police arrived on the scene and arrested both of them as they were being transported to Highland Hospital. The authorities called them dangerous terrorists and accused the pair of knowingly transporting the bomb for use in some undetermined act of environmental sabotage when it had accidentally detonated. The media spun the event as the arrest of two potentially violent environmental extremists.

Safe and Sustainable Rail

A Just Transition Primer from Global Climate Justice Leaders

By Molly Rosbach - Sunflower Alliance, October 1, 2022

A new report from leaders of the global climate justice movement argues that “a broad vision of Just Transition with social justice at its core is critical, especially as fossil fuel companies and defenders of ‘business as usual’ are adopting the language of climate action and just transition to thwart real solutions.”

The report, From Crisis to Transformation: A Just Transition Primer, released by Grassroots Global Justice and the Transnational Institute, “explores the root causes of the climate crisis . . . and argues that we need transformative and anti-capitalist visions to bring us “from crisis to transformation.” The report lays out the big picture of those causes, starting from colonialism, capitalism, and the industrial revolution, and traces the development of the current crisis. It outlines key elements of a true just transition:

  • Decolonization and restoration of indigenous sovereignty
  • Reparations and restitution
  • Ancestral and science-based solutions
  • Agroecology, food sovereignty, and agrarian reform
  • Recognition of rights to land, food, ecosystems, and territories
  • Cooperatives, social, and public production
  • Just distribution of reproductive labor
  • Going beyond endless economic growth

And provides case studies of communities putting visions of Just Transition into practice today:
* The Green New Deal
* Cooperation Jackson and the Jackson Just Transition Plan
* Just Transition in North Africa
* Movement of People Affected by Dams

Authors of the report include Jaron Brown of Grassroots Global Justice, Katie Sandwell and Lyda Fernanda Forero of the Transnational Institute, and Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.

The report was released in Arabic, Spanish, and English, with plans to add translations in Bahasa, French, and Portuguese.

Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) “is an alliance of over 60 US-based grassroots organizing (GRO) groups of working and poor people and communities of color,” including the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Jobs with Justice, Cooperation Jackson and many more.

The Transnational Institute “is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic, and sustainable planet.”

They “offer this primer as a contribution to the broader ecosystem of Just Transition frameworks and articulations. In particular, we honor the work of the Just Transition Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Climate Justice Alliance, Movement Generation, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, among many others.”

OSU study finds higher rates of traumatic injuries for outdoor workers during hotter weather

By Molly Rosbach - Oregon State University, September 29, 2022

Rates of traumatic injury among workers in the Oregon agricultural and construction sectors are significantly higher during periods of high heat compared with periods of more moderate weather, a recent Oregon State University study found.

The results underscore the importance of providing robust safety protections for outdoor workers, especially as extreme heat events become more common with climate change, researchers said.

“The big take-home message I want people to get from this is that, if the temperature is high and you have workers out there, they’re more likely to be injured, whether it’s due to dehydration, reduction in mental capacity or exhaustion,” said Richie Evoy, lead author on the paper and a recent doctoral graduate from OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The study, published earlier this month, examined Oregon workers’ compensation data from 2009-2018. Researchers looked at nearly 92,000 injury claims in which workers suffered temporary disability, permanent disability or death. They focused on injuries that occurred in the months of April through October because the average heat index was above 55 degrees for that period.

In addition to heat, researchers also investigated the impact of wildfire smoke on worker injury rates.

They matched injury records with meteorological data to estimate heat exposure based on the heat index, which combines the effects of temperature and humidity in the air, along with environmental satellite data to estimate exposure to wildfire smoke.

They found that workers in agricultural and construction jobs were significantly more likely to suffer a traumatic injury on days when the heat index was above 75 degrees, compared with a baseline of 65 degrees or less.

The effect worsened when the heat index climbed to over 90 degrees, with an increased risk of 19-29% over baseline as the index ranged from 90-119 degrees.

“These results support the need for occupational safety practitioners to include protections for workers during extreme heat,” said Laurel Kincl, co-author on the study and an associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “While our study in based in Oregon, this is true in other states and regions since these conditions will likely become more frequent with climate change."

The impact of wildfire smoke was less clear. When researchers looked at smoke by itself, it was strongly associated with an increased risk of injury, but when they also incorporated heat index data into the analysis, the effect of wildfire smoke was no longer significant.

There are several potential reasons for this, researchers said. It could be that because wildfires happen more frequently in hot conditions, the smoke is coincidental to the heat; but smoke can sometimes also block the sun and reduce overall temperature.

Future studies should obtain more precise smoke exposure data to better understand the potential impact, researchers said. In using satellite imagery and data recorded from each day’s peak smoke exposure by zip code, Evoy said they couldn’t parse out exactly how much wildfire smoke individual workers were exposed to, or what was in that smoke, because of shifting winds and changes in what was burning at any given time.

“The way things stand now, wildfires are only going to increase in frequency and duration in Oregon and in the West, so the more we can do to understand the risks to our outdoor workers who are going to be experiencing these climate effects first, the better off those workers are going to be in protecting their health and staying productive,” Evoy said.

Just this summer, Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health division adopted new standards regarding wildfire and excessive heat stress. Employers are now required by law to provide workers with shade areas when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees, along with access to drinking water, a specific work-rest schedule and several other safety measures. A coalition of Oregon business groups are suing the state over these new rules, which were praised by worker advocacy groups.

Other co-authors on the OSU study included Perry Hystad and Harold Bae, both in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The Socialist Green New Deal

By Green Left - London Green Left Blog , September 26, 2022

In this document, we trace the development of a Green Socialist New Deal (GSND) from its origins in the ‘New Deal’ of the 1930s, to the more recent Green New Deal.

We believe that the latter can only be effective in tackling the multiple crises of finance, climate change, environmental degradation, social and global justice and peace through an eco-socialist alliance of workers and trade unions that challenges the current capitalist order.

We outline a set of interim policies in our GSND, concluding that these medium-term changes would reduce climate change and also enhance our democracy and human welfare.

Fake My Catch: The Unreliable Traceability in our Tuna Cans

By staff - Greenpeace East Asia, September 2022

US seafood company Bumble Bee, one of the leading companies in the canned tuna market with nearly 90% consumer awareness levels,1 and its Taiwanese parent company Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company (hereinafter referred to as FCF), one of the top three global tuna traders, play an important role in the global tuna industry, and thus hold responsibility over the health of our ocean, the treatment of those working in the tuna supply chain and consumer choices. Both companies have policies on sustainability and corporate social responsibility that are supposed to extend through their supply chain, but according to the analysis in this report, neither are meeting their responsibilities.

This report finds that the information on Bumble Bee’s “Trace My Catch” website, which enables consumers to track the source of their tuna product from catch to can, is insufficient and in some cases incorrect. In a number of cases Greenpeace East Asia's analysis found that the company was sourcing fish from vessels that had engaged in or were suspected of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, forced labor, and/or human rights abuses. Therefore, Bumble Bee may not be fulfilling its responsibility and commitment to environmental sustainability and human rights, and without consumers’ knowledge seafood tainted with IUU and forced labor may have already entered the US market.

Based on 732 valid Bumble Bee tuna product codes, this report finds that Bumble Bee tuna was sourced from 290 different vessels, almost half of which are Taiwanese-flagged (119) or owned (22) distant water fishing vessels according to the information on Trace My Catch. In addition, some information on their Trace My Catch website contradicts official information from the Taiwan Fisheries Agency about where the supply vessel was authorized to fish. Verifying the vessel's location against a third data source- Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from Global Fishing Watch, revealed that 28 fishing vessels’ fishing area information provided by Bumble Bee’s traceability tool was incorrect. In addition, 13 fishing vessels that supplied tuna to Bumble Bee were listed on TFA’s website for IUU fishing.

Based on interviews with nine fishers on six Taiwanese vessels that supplied Bumble Bee, it was found that all nine fishers had experienced or observed at least one of the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicators of forced labor,3 and six out of those nine fishers had experienced or observed four or more of the 11 indicators. All of the fishers interviewed said they have experienced excessive overtime and retention of identity documents, and over two-thirds of them had their wages withheld.

Greenpeace East Asia research found that Bumble Bee canned tuna collected from Harris Teeter (a wholly owned subsidiary of Kroger Co.) in Arlington, Virginia on April 12, 2022 was sourced from DA WANG, a Taiwanese-owned vessel confirmed to use forced labor by US Customs and Border Protection.4 In April 2022, Taiwanese authorities indicted the vessel captain, first mate, and seven others for their involvement for forced labor and human trafficking. Bumble Bee's Trace My Catch website lists the source of this tuna as DA WANG on a trip in 2019, during which a fisher was reportedly beaten and died at sea. This leads to strong inference that seafood tainted with forced labor has already been sold in the US market.

On another Taiwanese fishing vessel, DE CHAN NO.116 evidence was revealed from Greenpeace East Asia interviews with fishers as well as Global Fishing Watch AIS data of suspected IUU fishing, including alleged shark finning and illegal transshipment at sea. The alleged illegal activities took place during a period when the ship was supplying tuna to Bumble Bee according to Trace My Catch.

Greenpeace East Asia urges immediate action from Bumble Bee and FCF, including issuing an apology to the exploited fishers, retailers and consumers, removing products suspected of IUU and forced labor-tainted tuna from the market, disclosure of their supplying vessels list, and establishment of an independent investigation committee for the flaw of Trace My Catch, to address issues of sustainability, legality and forced labor in their supply chain.

Read the text (Link).

Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en fight against CGL pipeline in so-called British-Columbia

By staff - Liberté Ouvrière, July 21, 2022

If you’ve followed the news in the past years, you’ll remember the massive wave of train blockade in 2020. This movement was initiated in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people’s fight against Costal Gas link pipeline in so-called British-Columbia.

See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Canadian_pipeline_and_railway_protests

The fight hasn’t stopped since. Wet’suwet’en people need our help as soon as possible to stop the project!

As revolutionary anarcho-syndicalists, we won’t let the capitalists destroy Earth and threaten First Nation’s rights to their own territory. The corporate and statist climate crimes have world-wide consequences and such shall be scale of our solidarity! Let’s act as a world-wide class in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en opposing the pipeline!

First step is to spread knowledge of this fight across the world.

 »Further ressources » will help you to stay connected with the last updates. For example Wet’suwet’en people are right now collecting funds in order to organize a tour across so-called Canada in the mean to  »build on [their] existing relationships and build new relationships« .

Trade Union Papers and Positions

By staff - European Trade Union Institute, June 14, 2022

IndustriAll policy brief on the energy crisis

In a policy brief, IndustriAll union analyses the causes and effects of the recent energy price increases with a thorough criticism of the response measures being taken at the EU level. The policy brief notes that the observed rise in energy prices in the EU in 2021 was mainly driven by price developments in EU and international commodity markets, while the gas price on wholesale markets has reached unprecedented levels. It also adds that the impact of the commodity price increase on electricity goes beyond the share of the related commodities in the power generation due to the applied price-setting mechanism. This means that an electricity mix made of a majority of decarbonised sources, but requiring fossil-based sources to ensure part of its supply, is also exposed to the price increase of fossil-based electricity. Europe`s structural dependence on energy imports has even increased in the last decades, as in 2019, 61% of its gross energy consumption relied on imported energy products. IndustriAll also points to the investment challenge the EU is facing: beyond the electricity grid investment needs, reaching the EU 2030 emission reduction target would require €438 bn of additional annual investment, equivalent to 2.7-3% of GDP, while current investment commitments are massively falling short of this. The paper also claims that, not least due to market liberalisation, the EU has a fragmented energy supply chain where final consumers bear risk. An overview is provided about the response measures member states have undertaken to alleviate the effect of the price increases on consumers, from the temporary reduction of energy-related taxes and levies to handouts and `energy cheques`. The EU has recently published a toolbox to tackle energy prices. This document lists the initiatives that Member States can implement within the framework of the EU Energy and Single Market rules. Compensation measures and direct support for poor end-users, safeguards against disconnections, tax reductions, reform of the renewable support schemes, and the provision of state aid to companies and industries are among the most important recommendations to Member States.

IndustriAll argues that while reaching climate neutrality must remain the EU’s main objective, the current geopolitical situation and its impact on energy supplies and costs demand the mobilisation of all available means to secure affordable energy for all in the coming months.

IndustriAll Just Transition Manifesto

IndustriAll Europe launched a Just Transition Manifesto as the measures of the Fit for 55 package that implement European Green Deal objectives are taking their final shape. The union stresses that 25 million industrial workers in Europe potentially face restructuring and job losses due to the green transformation - exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, digitalisation, trade and market developments and a volatile geopolitical situation.

The manifesto is calling to policymakers Europe to ensure a transition to a green economy that is fair and just to ALL workers, and that does not destroy but preserves and creates good quality jobs. It speaks out for a transition that is anticipated, managed and negotiated with workers for every aspect that concerns them. For achieving this, the union demands a comprehensive Just Transition framework that provides guarantees for adequate resources, is based on effective policy planning, promotes and strengthen workers’ rights, and involves trade unions through intense social dialogue. 

The main demands of the manifesto are:

  • An industrial policy fit for ambitious climate goals and good quality jobs.
  • Adequate resources to fund the transition.
  • Stronger collective bargaining and social dialogue to negotiate the transitions.
  • A toolbox of workers’ rights and companies’ duties to anticipate and shape the change.
  • Tackling new skills needs and a right to quality training and life-long learning for every worker to support the Just Transition.

Union-Made Offshore Wind: AFL-CIO 2022 Convention

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