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Rail Workers and Environmentalists to Teach Each Other

By Ron Kaminkow - Labor Notes, January 21, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. Several IWW branches have, however, endorsed this effort.

With public attention focused on the railroads in a way it hasn’t been for decades, the cross-craft solidarity group Railroad Workers United is seizing the opportunity to teach the general public “railroading 101”—and teach rail workers “environmental politics 101.”

Both those workshops, among others, will be offered at one-day conferences on “The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community, and Environment,” March 14 in Richmond, California, and March 21 in Olympia, Washington. (See below for details.)

“My excitement about the conference is having railroaders, who on a daily basis are moving these really dangerous, volatile, flammable materials, having a dialogue with communities who want it to be made safe,” says activist Gifford Hartman.

“To my knowledge it’s never been done,” says Seattle switchman-conductor Jen Wallis. “Rail labor hasn’t worked with environmentalists to the degree that steelworkers and longshoremen and Teamsters have. It’s all very new.”

RWU is partnering with the Backbone Campaign and other groups to organize both events. The idea is to bring together rank-and-filers, environmentalists, and the general public.

Just as important as learning each other’s issues, Wallis says, is that “we get to know each other… So we have people we can call on when we have an issue on the table, and they can do the same with us.”

Bay Area IWW Endorses "The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment" Conference

Passed unanimously at the Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch meeting, Thursday, January 8, 2015

Whereas, there has been growing opposition to the transportation of volatile heavy and dirty crude by rail transport in recent months, and

Whereas, in 2013 there were more derailments of crude-by-rail trains than in the previous four decades combines, the most dramatic but not the last of which occurred in Lac Magantic, Quebec, and

Whereas, these derailments have resulted in destruction and death to residents of these communities, loss of life and limb to the railroad workers involved in the transport of these volatile cargoes, but little or no penalty to the profiteering employers responsible for the transport of such cargoes, and

Whereas, the opposition to such transport stems from the inherent danger to the affected communities as well as the environment--due to the destructive extraction process of the source material, the enabling of further extreme carbon fuel production and consumption, the destruction of wilderness environments, the pollution of the air and water, and the destruction of mostly indigenous lands from which the crude is extracted--and

Whereas, railroad workers are often blamed for these accidents through employer created "blame the worker" so-called "safety" cultures, and

Whereas, the actual safety hazards are the result of capitalist corner cutting, including--but not limited to--the reduction in railroad crew sizes, the deployment of overly long and heavy trains, the lack of safety monitoring equipment, and the use of unsafe tank cars, and

Whereas, railroads also carry a variety of other, equally volatile cargoes under no less unsafe conditions, but such cargoes are not scrutinized to the same extent as crude-by-rail by many environmental organizations, and

Whereas, the railroad workers and environmental organizers share a common adversary in the capitalist class who've created these conditions, and

Whereas, Railroad Workers United and the Backbone Campaign have committed to jointly sponsor a series of conferences, beginning on the Weekend of March 14-15 in Richmond, California and March 21-22 in Seattle, Washington to be entitled, “The Future of Rail: Safety, Workers, Community and the Environment”, and

Whereas, leaders in these efforts from Railroad Workers United include dues paying members of the IWW, including a member of the Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch who is also one of the cofounders of the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, and

Whereas, a post capitalist, ecologically sustainable society would involve increased use of transport by rail for both passengers and cargo (though not for climate destroying fossil fuels), therefore

Be it Resolved that, the Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW endorses "the Future of Rail: Safety, Workers, Community and the Environment" conferences organized by Railroad Workers United, the Backbone Campaign, et. al, and

Be it Finally Resolved that, the Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW further encourages all other IWW branches and the IWW General Executive Branch to likewise endorse the aforementioned efforts.

EcoUnionist News #18

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 6, 2015

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

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

Lead Story:

Railroad Workers, Safety, and the Environment:

Black Lives Matter:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Climate Justice in Collision with Revenue-Neutral Carbon Policies?

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, November 25, 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.

Plotting options for carbon policy in Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce just issued its recommendations.  The report sets up a political collision between advocates for neutral carbon pricing systems and climate justice proponents.

The CERT sagely concluded that carbon reduction goals are not going be met by market-based solutions alone.It is not enough to put a price on carbon, or set a legal cap.It will take a “harmonized, comprehensive policy approach. ”By increasing the price of fossil fuel energy, market mechanisms provide an “economic infrastructure” that sends “a common price signal across all emissions sources and emissions reductions opportunities.” This signal must be accompanied by “a well harmonized set of complementary policies” and “targeted use” of carbon revenues.

“Particular attention needs to be given to the transportation sector as the largest source of carbon emissions in the state,” CERT noted. Complementary policies are needed to promote transit and transit-oriented development, and alternative fuels such as electricity.

This emphasis on transportation alternatives is spot on.  It is partly aimed at reducing the impact of increased fuel costs on economically stressed populations.  That’s smart because it is exactly among those populations where fossil fuel interests will seek to drive a political wedge into the unified progressive coalition needed to pass carbon policy. 

What the Cowboy-Indian Alliance Means for America and the Climate Movement

By Devon Douglas-Bowers - Occupy.Com, October 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.

The Cowboy-Indian Alliance made waves in April when participants led a five-day "Reject and Protect" campaign in Washington, D.C., against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The action was prominent and gained notice in the media, although the origins of the alliance haven’t fully been bought to light – nor the historical importance of such an alliance.

Art Tanderup, a Nebraska farmer who has vocally protested against Keystone XL, stated in an April interview that the alliance formed several years ago due to the “common interests between farmers, ranchers and Native Americans in northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota."

"We’ve come together as brothers and sisters to fight this Keystone XL pipeline, because of the risk to the Ogallala Aquifer, to the land, to the health of the people,” he said. The pipeline is a threat to both communities, he added, as the Ogallala Aquifer – the country's largest underground water source, located beneath the Great Plains – not only provides water for 2.3 million people but also “threatens the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for probably a couple 'nother million,” bringing the total number whose water supply is threatened by construction of the pipeline to about 5 million people.

In addition, the aquifer provides water for animals, livestock and irrigation. All of this means that, contrary to oil industry claims, the pipeline in fact imperils the health and economic stability of the Midwest.

For the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Great Sioux Nation, there is also a historical significance to this battle. As Tanderup stated in the interview, part of the pipeline’s route, as well as his own farm, “is on the Ponca Trail of Tears from back in the 1870s, when Chief Standing Bear and his people were driven from the Niobrara area to Oklahoma.”

The extraction processes, such as tar sands mining and the refining and dilution processes used to obtain the oil, are extremely dangerous. Nez Perce activist Gary Dorr noted in the same interview that before the oil extraction started, Fort Chip in Canada had “a negligible cancer rate,” but now they “[have] a cancer rate 400 times the national Canadian per capita average. Every single family [in Fort Chip] has cancer in their families.”

"HANDS UP, DON'T SHIP": MINNEAPOLIS UPS WORKERS STAND WITH FERGUSON

Anonymous Press Release, August 23, 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.

After discovering ties between Missouri law enforcement and a company whose shipments they handle each day, a small group of part-time UPS workers in Minneapolis spoke out against their labor supporting the ongoing police violence against the population of Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man. Workers undertook a range of actions against handling packages from Law Enforcement Targets, Inc, in order to show our objections to our work benefiting the militarized police violence directed at Ferguson residents.

Law Enforcement Targets, Inc is a company based in Blaine, Minnesota, which produces shooting range targets and holds hundreds of contracts with police departments, federal agencies, and military branches across the country. The company has held at least 10 contracts with federal agencies in Missouri, and far more with county and local police departments and other agencies. They have received criticism before, being forced to withdraw a line of targets called “No More Hesitation,” which featured young children and pregnant women with guns, and still offer a predictably messed up “Urban Street Violence” line. All of it is shipped through the UPS sorting facility in Minneapolis.

On Friday, August 22nd, a group of workers decided they would not be silent about the connection between their work and murders such as Mike Brown’s. Some of us intentionally removed targets from trailers that would deliver them to law enforcement agencies, while others stood in solidarity and refused to ferry these packages to their intended trailers. Those who were uncomfortable or unable to directly engage in these actions posed with a sign reading “‪#‎handsupdontship” in order to speak out. Actions like this took place in various work areas across the building, and were taken by people with a variety of job positions.

One worker involved in organizing the action on his section put it this way: “UPS knows the rule of this game just like any other company: make your money however you can get away with it. It’s like their number 1 rule, you always gotta keep the wheels turning. If you got the cash, UPS will ship it, even if its part of this f***ed up system that winds up with a kid getting executed by cops and then this military invasion of the town where it happened, give them the check and they couldn’t care less. Well, we care.” While this action was symbolic, with no packages winding up being halted, we believe it’s important to build the idea that workers can and should find ways to refuse to do work that contributes to racism and other forms of injustice.

We hope that this action is the first step in dealing with this issue and others like it. We shouldn’t have to go into work and have our job support the murder of any more black youth, just because UPS makes a buck off of it. In the weeks ahead, we expect to see more actions that demonstrate our outrage at being pawns in this deadly game. We encourage workers elsewhere, especially at UPS, to think about how their labor contributes to the current situation in Ferguson and elsewhere, and what we can do together to stand against it. And we want to help you make it happen. If you want to get involved or have an idea of how to take a stand but need help making it happen, please contact us at screwups@riseup.net.

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TransCanada Faces United Front in South Dakota: Tribes and Landowners Say NO KXL

Staff Report - Native News Online, August 21, 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.

IHANKTONWAN, SOUTH DAKOTA – ­ TransCanada faces yet another hurdle in its effort to build the Keystone XL pipeline. A coalition of long­existing pipeline fighters in South Dakota have come together to extend their share division of protecting the land, the water and the peoples of the area. An alliance of Protect the Sacred Movement of the Ihanktonwan/Yankton; the Bridger Spiritual Camp, Pte Ospaye; the Lower Brule Spiritual Camp, Wiconi Un Tipi; the Rosebud Spiritual Camp, Oyate Wahacanka Woecun; Dakota Rural Action; and the Indigenous Environmental Network are launching No KXL Dakota, a united effort to fight the Keystone XL pipeline.

Before TransCanada can build within state borders, the company must certify its permit, proving it still meets the original permit conditions. The coalition is preparing to fight the permit certification at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, and expects the company to file for certification this year.

“Oceti Rising,” says Faith Spotted Eagle, with Protect the Sacred, “is reaffirming our sovereignty as nations and strengthening our protection of Mother Earth. Water is life, Mni Wiconi. Oceti means fire and could also represent unity between non Native and Natives in protecting their homefires.”

What does environmental justice have to do with tenant organizing?

By John Tieu - Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, August 21, 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 Our Power National Convening kicked off on August 6th, 2014 in Richmond CA, a diverse city that houses the Chevron Richmond refinery. This refinery is also one of the larger greenhouse gas emitting factories in the nation. The city itself is an example of what happens when capitalism’s method of exploiting the working class, extracting their profit, and commodifying our environment reaches a peak. An alarming number of people in Richmond have suffered, and are currently suffering from breathing issues such as asthma due to the city’s harmful air. Crime has been consistently high, and disinvestment in the city is affecting urban space. The refinery itself, which provides jobs to a sizeable amount of the population in Richmond, is also a highly unstable and dangerous work environment.

At a community vigil on August 6th, participants of the convening learned about and paid tribute to the victims of an explosion that happened at the refinery two years ago in 2012, sending 15,000 to seek treatment.

The city’s population itself is constantly being reminded of their struggles with bombardments of smoke plumes and advertisements from Chevron citing modernization and expansion as positive changes. I’ve never seen or experienced any neighborhood like it on the east coast. A resident in the city of Richmond seems to have almost every aspect of their life permeated by the Chevron corporation, as it seems to always and constantly be in the collective conscience of the neighborhood. As an intern who did not have any background in environmental studies, did not focus on issues in my own neighborhood that dealt with clean air and energy issues, and did not ever have to live in the shadow of a massive refinery, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I became involved with CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities this past summer, and had dealt with multiple issues ranging from organizing tenants in Chinatown, to doorknocking in NYCHA owned complexes, to putting on a screening of Delano Manongs, a film about the Filipino Farm Workers movement. While all somewhat varied in its subject, the projects had no readily apparent connections to the themes of the convening, which were mostly based on environmental and climate justice. Throughout the event I struggled to understand my place, as well as CAAAV’s place in the fight for a just transition into a new economic system, when there hasn’t been a direct connection of organization’s work focused on these issues. It had taken the majority of the conference to understand why Grassroots Global Justice would want to send Jeff (a fellow member) and I here to Richmond…

New Environmentalists Are Taking Bold Action - It's Working

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers - Alternet and Popular Resistence, May 23, 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. 

No longer dominated by the traditional “Big Green” groups that were taking big donations from corporate polluters, the new environmental movement is broader, more assertive and more creative. With extreme energy extraction and climate change bearing down on the world, environmental justice advocates are taking bold actions to stop extreme energy extraction and create new solutions to save the planet.  These ‘fresh greens’ often work locally, but also connect through national and international actions.

The recent national climate assessment explains why the movement is deepening, broadening and getting more militant. The nation’s experts concluded that climate change is impacting us in serious ways right now.  It is no longer a question of whether climate change is real – the evidence is apparent in chaotic seasonal weather; floods caused by heavier downpours of rain and deeper droughts; more severe wildfires in the West; the economic impacts of rising insurance rates, as well as challenges for farming, maple syrup production, and finding seafood in the oceans, among many others.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently issued its third report. The world’s scientists found that taking action now to mitigate climate change is less expensive than doing nothing. German economist Ottmar Edenhofer, a co-chair of the IPCC committee wrote: “We cannot afford to lose another decade. If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.” Previous reports have warned of the dangers of human-induced climate change, e.g. faster sea level rise, more extreme weather, and collapse of the permafrost sink, which would further accelerate warming; as well as a breakdown of food systems, more violent conflicts, and making some currently habited and arable land virtually unlivable.

The IPCC and national assessment create a sense of urgency even though the reality is these documents understate the risks and the need to end the use of fossil fuels.  This week it was reported that the IPCC’s language was toned down during the political review in which countries that produce carbon fuels, like Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China and the United States, edited language to protect fossil fuel interests.

The effects of the race to extract every ounce of fuel from the Earth can’t be hidden. A report this week found US oil spills increased by 17% in 2013, with more than 20 per day leaking 26 million gallons of oil, fracking wastewater and more. In February significant five fossil fuel accidents were reported in four days. This week Los Angeles was the latest to experience the impact of an oil spill when 50,000 gallons of crude oil flowed down their streets and required evacuation.  The adverse environmental and health effects of all forms of energy extraction are coming to light from mountain top removal for coal in Appalachia to uranium mining in the West. Even four years after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there is no restoration in sight.

When Cowboys and Indians Unite - Inside the Unlikely Alliance that is Remaking the Climate Movement

By Kristin Moe - Waging Nonviolence, May 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.

It began with a dream and a memory.

Faith Spotted Eagle slept. In her sleep, she saw her grandmother lying on a table, wrapped in a blanket with her white braids on her chest.

Her sister appeared. “What’s going on?” Spotted Eagle asked.

“I don’t know. They told us to come.”

A door opened; a room full of people, ancestors, stared silently. She felt in their stares a sadness, but also a strength. Another door opened to another room with the same scene. She knew that if she were to keep opening doors, all the rooms in the house would be filled with those watchful, silent ancestors.

Spotted Eagle closed her eyes, unsure of what do to, but knowing that it was impolite to stare back. Then her grandmother’s voice came to her.

The nightmare that’s fostering kinship

The day after Nebraska rancher Bob Allpress rode through the nation’s capitol on horseback in a cavalry contingent of ranchers and tribal members, he was a little stiff. He doesn’t ride much anymore. But Allpress, with his bandana, boots and well-groomed mustache, still looks every inch the cowboy.

When the pipeline route through Nebraska was changed in 2012, ostensibly to avoid the ecologically-sensitive Sandhills, the newly proposed path now cut straight through the Allpress’ alfalfa field. If built, the pipeline would lie just 200 yards from their house.

This is no ordinary pipeline, just as tar sands is no ordinary oil. According to a Natural Resources Defense Council report, tar sands oil is 3.6 times more likely to spill than regular oil. It is also highly corrosive and nearly impossible to clean up. Residents who live near the path of Keystone 1 — a smaller, already existing tar sands pipeline operated by TransCanada — know this story already. They saw 14 spills — along its route from Canada to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois — during the pipeline’s first year of operation.

The southern portion of the Keystone XL has already been built through Texas, in spite of grassroots resistance; now, the last northern section remains. Allpress fears that a tar sands spill would contaminate his land and water, rendering it unusable for years to come.

TransCanada used what Allpress calls “the old slap and tickle” when it notified him that the pipeline would go through his land: a nice offer of some compensation up front, but a warning that under the law of eminent domain, the pipeline would go through no matter what.

“TransCanada’s been nothing but deceitful and a bully the entire time,” he said. And in the words of his wife, Nancy, “We felt like we were the sacrifice.”

But cowboys don’t like to be pushed around. So they told TransCanada to shove it, and joined Bold Nebraska, a four-year-old organization led by Jane Kleeb that has emerged as one of TransCanada’s most formidable obstacles. When Bold Nebraska began partnering with tribes in South Dakota, the Allpresses were on board. They’ve since attended their first tribal council meetings, gone to rallies and public hearings, and written op-eds to Nebraska papers, refuting what Allpress calls TransCanada’s massive public relations campaign.

Environmental activism isn’t exactly what the Allpresses had in mind when they returned to Nebraska to retire from careers in government and the military, and investing what they had in their land.

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