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SOCIAL SELF-DEFENSE: Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 14, 2017

Introduction: These are times to try our souls

Donald Trump and a powerful collection of anti-social forces have taken control of the U.S. government. They seek permanent domination in service of their individual and class wealth and power. Trump’s presidency threatens immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, workers, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and many others. Indeed, it threatens all that holds us together as a society. We the people – society — need to defend ourselves against this threat and bring it to an end. We need what resisters to repressive regimes elsewhere have called “Social Self-Defense.”

The term “Social Self-Defense” is borrowed from the struggle against the authoritarian regime in Poland forty years ago.  In the midst of harsh repression, Polish activists formed a loose network to provide financial, legal, medical, and other help to people who had been persecuted by the police or unjustly dismissed from their work. Calling themselves the Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR), they aimed to “fight political, religious and ideological persecution”; to “oppose breaches of the law”; to “provide help for the persecuted”; to “safeguard civil liberties”; and to defend “human and civil rights.” KOR organized free trade unions to defend the rights of workers and citizens. Its members, who insisted on operating openly in public, were soon blacklisted, beaten, and imprisoned. They nonetheless persisted, and nurtured many of the networks, strategies, and ideas that came to fruition in Solidarity – and ultimately in the dissolution of repressive regimes in Poland and many other countries.[1]

From the day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, thousands of people began to resist his agenda. Demonstrations against Trump broke out in American cities; police chiefs, mayors, and governors declared they would not implement his attack on immigrants; thousands of people signed up to accompany threatened immigrants, religious minorities, and women; technical workers pledged they would not build data bases to facilitate discrimination and deportation. Discussion of how to resist the Trump regime broke out at dining room tables, emails among friends, social media, and community gatherings.

It is impossible to know whether the Trump regime will rapidly self-destruct; successfully impose a reign of terror that dominates the U.S. for years or decades to come; or deadlock indefinitely with anti-Trump forces. We do know that the future of the planet and its people depends on resisting and overcoming Trump’s agenda. The struggle against Trump and Trumpism is nothing less than the defense of society – Social Self-Defense.

Standing with Standing Rock

By Marty Goodman - Socialist Action, January 13, 2017

More than bitter winter weather lies ahead for hundreds of Native American nations and their supporters battling hazardous fossil-fuel pipelines on sacred Sioux land at the Standing Rock camp near Cannonball, North Dakota. A far more bitter struggle looms for Native American rights and climate justice with the incoming Trump administration. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for the Department of Energy, is a climate-change denier and sits on boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco, two companies involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Oil company execs are vowing to complete the pipeline despite a Dec. 4 decision by the Obama administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not give the go-ahead to Dakota Access Pipelines (DAPL) to dig pipelines under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a source of drinking water for the Sioux nation and millions downstream. The decision instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental study with community input, a process that could take one or two years.

On Dec. 13, the New York Daily News posted a recording it had received in which Mathew Ramsey, a top exec at Energy Transfer Partners, DAPL’s parent company, was said to be telling ETP staff, “I’ve got to tell you, election night changed everything.” Ramsey said on the recording, “We fully expect as soon as he is inaugurated this team is going to move to the final approvals, and DAPL will cross the lake.”

Vulture capitalist and President-elect Donald Trump has declared his support for the pipeline and is personally invested in DAPL for up to $1 million. Also invested are many of the corporations of Trump’s billionaire pals, such as Chase Morgan bank, the Bank of America, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo—which alone has invested $467 million. The pipeline will extend 1170 miles from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through sacred Sioux land to Illinois and ultimately to the Gulf Coast. The cost is $3.7 billion.

A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe contends that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other federal laws in allowing the pipeline to be dug under Lake Oahe. If the Army Corp’s permission to dig is restored, or if the federal court in North Dakota accepts DAPL’s arguments, pipeline construction could resume.

North Dakota’s laws are the strictest when it comes to allowing out of state public defenders to represent “water protectors” facing charges in court, now totaling at least 550. The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) of the National Lawyers Guild provides legal support but is overwhelmed and urges the state to relax its guidelines. Seventy-five North Dakota lawyers have been assigned 165 cases, but an additional 264 water protectors remain without lawyers.

The WPLC has also called for the dismissal of State Attorney Ladd Erickson for his inflammatory comments in court, referring to water protectors as staging “fake news” and “simply props for videos of stage events.” The hearings have been postponed, and the Trump administration’s actions will ultimately determine the continued relevance of the lawsuit. Whatever happens, the first rule of capitalism will still apply: ‘laws are meant to be broken’ … if they stand in the way of profits!

Originally, DAPL was to traverse an area close to the mostly white Bismarck, some 50 miles distant, but when the plan encountered opposition, the pipeline was rerouted to Standing Rock. DAPL is in violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the treaty of 1868. In the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of acres of Sioux land was seized to make way for a dam, with little or no compensation. In the treaties, the Sioux agreed to keep the area undeveloped and for hunting, but it is now ravaged by fossil-fuel polluters.

Demonstrating corporate contempt for the environment, a recent examination of oil spills in the last 30 years revealed over 8700 pipeline spills. On Dec. 13, two hours from Standing Rock, a pipeline spilled an estimated 176,000 gallons of crude into the Ash Coulee Creek. Sunoco Logistics, DAPL’s future operator, has the worst safety record of all. According to government statistics, it has had over 200 leaks since 2010. Last October, a Sunoco gas pipeline ruptured in Pennsylvania, spilling 55,000 gallons into the Susquehanna River.

The outrage at Standing Rock is a continuation of 500 years of the rape of Native American rights through massacres, racism, land theft, and forced displacement. DAPL is a textbook case of environmental racism and is in violation of international laws and agreements on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Union co-operatives: what they are and why we need them

By Simon Taylor - New Internationalist, January 12, 2017

Trade unionist Jimmy Reid described alienation as ‘the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making’. This frustration is endemic in contemporary neoliberalised economies, and according to commentators, including George Monbiot, it contributes to the rise of populist backlashes and disempowerment.

Unions play a vital role in counter-balancing alienation and frustration, responding to organizations imposing alienating practices on their workers. However, neoliberal policies have contributed to a long-term decline of union membership and influence in the Anglosphere and elsewhere.

But workers and unions can counter alienation and other negative effects of neoliberal policies – such as outsourcing, precarity and union decline – in new and imaginative ways.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union in the US is one of many good examples, responding to decades of deindustrialisation and declining union membership. They are developing worker co-operatives that place unions at the heart of enterprises, a model known as union co-ops. They have modified the resilient Mondragon worker co-op model by replacing its social council in co-operatives with more than 50 workers with a Union Bargaining Committee. The committee represents the worker co-operators interests as workers, while other structures represent their interests as owners. Worker representation structures are important according to Mondragon and the USW because there is an inherent risk in worker co-ops that when enterprises achieve scale, workforce engagement in decision making is diluted.

The benefits of worker co-ops have been discussed widely elsewhere. They include empowering workers by involving them in the crucial decision-making processes affecting their working lives, overcoming the alienating factor of lack of control. Indeed, the USW believes that worker co-operators are unlikely to offshore or outsource their own jobs, to design precarity into their employment, or to make themselves redundant in response to business downturns – all tools that neoliberalism makes attractive options regardless of the consequences to workers and communities.

The USW also believes that the active involvement of unions in worker-coops will result in higher union membership within the enterprise, thereby contributing to trade union renewal efforts in some measure. After all, placing unions at the heart of the enterprise allows them to find potential members in a way that is impossible in other contexts.

In a recent study, I examined union co-ops in the US, and Britain’s experience of union involvement with worker co-ops. It sought to determine whether UK unions should be noting the example of their US counterparts, and considered whether lessons can be drawn that should be applied to Britain’s context (and elsewhere).

In the study, I found that the USW’s and other organizations’ efforts to establish union co-ops in the US are ongoing. They have considered the role unions can play in establishing and supporting enterprises to become sustainable, while forging an effective bargaining and representational role.

In Britain, I found that unions often struggle to carve out a role for themselves in worker co-ops, choosing not to engage with them and favouring their traditional role in conventional employment models. Despite sharing common historical roots addressing the iniquities of industrialisation, union and co-operative movements have often nonetheless been wary bedfellows.

The closest parallel to the union co-op model found in Britain was the relationship between Suma Wholefoods (a worker co-op wholefood wholesaler) and the Bakers Union (BFAWU). Suma is a long-established business, and operates a flat pay structure – meaning all its worker/owners are paid the same. They sought to recognise a union, and came to an agreement with the BWAFU, working collaboratively wherever they can, only moving to opposite sides of the table when a dispute or issue arises. I found that the arrangement is working well, suggesting that both the BFAWU and the USW have successfully defined a beneficial role for themselves in worker co-ops. The BFAWU cite Suma as a good employment model to others, and would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other worker co-ops.

A sector that may be ripe for the union co-op model in Britain is adult social care, although it is noteworthy that the USW and others are developing union co-ops in the industrial sectors they organise in. Skills for Care, an organization working with employers to increase skill levels in the social care industry, report that the number of adult social care jobs in Britain in 2014 was estimated at 1.55 million, and since 2009 local authority jobs in the sector had shrunk by 50,000, while the private sector had grown by 225,000.

However, in my study I found that some unions seemed to be failing to target this growth area of employment in public services. Instead, they were choosing to adopt an ideological mantra that public services should be delivered by the public sector, or were oblivious to the opportunities presented by alternative models of work organisation.

Arguably their ideology or lack of interest flies in the face of the trajectory of the neoliberal assault on public services, and it abandons workers to largely non-unionised employers operating alienating work practises, and denying unions the oxygen of membership growth and innovative thought and action.

There are already examples in Italy, the US, Britain and elsewhere of how social care coops are successfully meeting rising social care demand in the private sector, often encouraging union membership and participation in the process.

Perhaps, it is time that the union movement in Britain and elsewhere took note of what the USW and others in the US are doing in respect of unionised worker co-ops. It’s worth considering how the union co-op model could be applied to their own context, how it may counter alienation amongst their members, and how it may contribute towards their renewal efforts.

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel

By Hilary Wainwright - Red Pepper, January 12, 2017

Back in the 1970s, with unemployment rising and British industry contracting, workers at the arms company Lucas Aerospace came up with a pioneering plan to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially-useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. The ‘Lucas Plan’ remains one of the most radical and forward thinking attempts ever made by workers to take the steering wheel and directly drive the direction of change.

Forty years later, we are facing a convergence of crises: militarism and nuclear weapons, climate chaos and the destruction of jobs by new technologies and automation. These crises mean we have to start thinking about technology as political, as the Lucas Aerospace workers did, and reopen the debate about industrial conversion and economic democracy.

‘What so inspires me about the Lucas Plan is the democratic egalitarianism which runs through its every part – the work processes, the products and even the very technology they propose.’

This egalitarian ethic inspired Laurence Hill to make the Lucas Plan the focus of this year’s annual gathering of Young Quakers in Lancaster, up the line from the Trident nuclear submarine yards in Barrow. Eurig Scandrett from the Scottish Green Party made it the theme for Green Party trade unionists because ‘it is the most inspiring example of workers on the shop floor who get self-organised and demand to make what humanity needs.’

The fact that the plan was defeated has not diluted its capacity to inspire. For Eurig Scandrett, its defeat demonstrated that ‘it is the vested interests of the military-industrial machine which is the problem, and that workers liberating their collective brain is where the solution lies.’

ILWU pledges solidarity with Standing Rock

By Staff - ILWU Dispatcher, January 12, 2017

On December 6, the ILWU International Executive Board voted unanimously to adopt a statement of policy opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The controversial project is opposed by Native Americans across the continent because it threatens Native lands and water.

The pipeline’s original route would have crossed the Missouri River upstream from Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted because of concerns that an oil leak would contaminate the City’s water supply.Pipeline proponents want the oil to cross just a half-mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, buried underneath the tribe’s water supply.

The ongoing protest by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on their North Dakota reservation began in April, 2016. The effort has drawn world-wide attention and attracted thousands of Native American supporters and allies. It has become the largest protest gathering of Native Tribes in recent history.

International Executive Board Statement of Policy

“The Tribal Nations of the Great Plains rely on the waters of the life-giving Missouri River for present and future existence, and the Dakota Access Pipeline construction poses a very serious risk to that continued existence. The Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the safety of the areas of fish and wildlife, sacred sites and historical archeological resources that lie within and around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and associated lands,” declares the ILWU Statement of Policy.

The International Executive Board also approved a $10,000 donation to the Standing Rock Sioux from the solidarity fund. The Coast Longshore Committee added an additional $5,000 donation.

“The ILWU has never been afraid to take a stand on important political issues,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath

Support for the Standing Rock Sioux was first expressed by the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association that adopted a resolution in September of 2016.

Local 10’s Executive Board then passed a resolution on November 8 against the pipeline project and in support of increased funding for workers affected by any jobs lost on the pipeline. The resolution called on the labor movement to support a “just transition” for workers into renewable energy jobs, to help working families, combat climate change and promote investment in renewable energy.

Vermont Labor Council Initiates Social Self-Defense

By Traven Leyshon, president of the Green Mountain Labor Council, AFL-CIO and Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 10, 2017

Following on what was for many of us the surprise election of Trump, and the consolidation of a far-right Republican Congress, our small Vermont Green Mountain Central Labor Council called an Emergency Community Meeting. We knew that things were rapidly going to get really ugly for the labor movement. So we contacted our affiliates and community based allies with the message that, “There is a great need for all of us to come together to understand the attacks that will be coming down on our unions, workers rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ human rights, on black Americans, on climate justice,  on seniors, on the lgbtq community – in other words on the 99%. Going beyond fear and rage, we need to strategize how we’re going to work together to turn things around.”

Given the Holidays, our assumption was that this would not be the mass meeting that we would need to build later – but that we should start while the initial shock of the election was being registered to begin to shape an effective, strategic response to the developing situation. So we reserved a room that would hold up to 45 people, and sent out an email asking our labor, social movement, and community based allies to join in building the meeting. We also asked them to think through strategic responses that we might be able to unite on. We said that, “We don’t need a crystal ball to figure out what a Trump presidency has in store, especially with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate. The extreme right wing, pro-corporate agenda that we will be facing will methodically seek to divide us (as they successfully did in the 2016 election).

As people were just beginning to process the reality that this was not just another conservative Administration, that the Republicans would not be gradualist, we warned that, “priorities listed in the Trump/Ryan hundred day plan include: rolling back all of the recent pro-workers rights National Labor Relations Board decisions, initiating the process to deport over 2 million migrants and imposing a hiring freeze on all federal employees, removing roadblocks to dirty energy projects like Keystone KXL, DAPL and other oil and gas pipelines, and canceling payments to UN climate change programs. The impact of their policies would intensify racial oppression, roll back women’s rights, slash Medicare disability, victimize the lgbtq community, cut Medicaid funding (making the Vermont state budget scream), eliminate the subsidies that make Vermont Health Connect (Obamacare) more affordable, eventually abolish Medicare by replacing it with vouchers, privatize social security, pass national right to work (for less) legislation and defund unions (expect Friedrichs type court made law which would make the public sector open shop), outsource and privatize more public services, ban prevailing-wage laws…”.

Our press release emphasized the we were coming together “to affirm values of tolerance and social, economic and climate justice, while discussing actions we can take to protect our communities, defend democracy, and build a Vermont and country that works for everyone. ..(that) Representatives of labor, Black, immigrant, women’s, senior, gay and lesbian, climate, and racial justice organizations will speak… (that) It is not enough to define ourselves as the resistance. Defense needs to be married to offense.”

Despite the Holidays, our message went viral as our social movement allies answered that this was just what we needed. So we booked a larger venue which  turned out to be necessary as 140 people participated on December 12th (this in a town of 7,855 people!).

Only months before the Vermont Workers Center had organizing a conference around the theme of building one movement for people and the planet. While there was a decent turnout, it had not led to greater collaboration, and the discussion felt forced and artificial to many of the participants. Today that is no longer the case as people are seeking to build a powerful unity.  Thousands have turned out for emergency meetings across the country, concerned about hate crimes, the climate crisis, threats to civil liberties, and rollbacks to progressive gains under a Trump administration. Millions of people are looking for a way to fight back. But mass participation won’t lead to real power without organization and vision.

Our labor council opened the meeting arguing that we needed to develop a coalition of the willing, an alliance of unions and allies willing to fight the whole Trump agenda. That we need to unite our struggles for justice and become a unified front for environmental justice, to make Black Lives Matter, for workers rights, to make Native Lives Matter, for reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, immigrants rights, and peace. We said we need to build an army of resistance and create a vision of the future based on unity not hatred. We need to practice and nurture a culture of solidarity, of taking action not just because we feel empathy with the victims of bad policies, but because we understand that our liberation is bound up with theirs. Especially today, the labor battle cry “An injury to one is an injury to all” takes on new urgency.

Our panel featured speakers from racial justice, migrant, climate justice, senior, lgbtq, women’s, and faith organizations as well as unions.

There seemed to be broad agreement with the view that Trumpism is a symptom of the disease. Many people voted their cynicism about a system that left us behind, that wrought forty years of devastation on working-class communities, that privileges the rich and well connected while treating most of us as patsies. But whatever motivations may have led people to vote for Trump, there can be no doubt that their votes gave racism and sexism a pass. Still we have to find a way to appeal to alienated Trump voters that not only gives lip service to their interests, but actually wins them over.

The current economic/political system is failing for increasing numbers of people around the world – and the Far Right has been successful at seizing on the growing discontent as evidenced by Brexit, the rise of the Marine Le Pen in France, the radical right throughout Europe, and the coup in Brazil.

But it is also a consequence of the failure of the labor and social movements to formulate a credible transformative strategy, and to organize a concrete alternative to the failed policies that paved the way to Clinton’s defeat. We must know what we want, not just what we’re against.  We need to act morally, courageously, and strategically in pursuit of a clear progressive vision.

The agenda we are facing is methodically seeking to divide us. Established residents against immigrants. Tax payers against public sector workers.  The building trades against environmentalists, and so on. Trump will seek to inflict severe and demoralizing defeats by picking off one target at a time. We know that Nazi-era bromide about “First they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew…” In this case, there’s no mystery: First they’re coming for the undocumented. It will be a real fight for the soul of our nation.  We have to live by the imperative that If they come for one of us they come for all of us!

Challenging a Giant

By Mark Dudzic - Jacobin, January 5, 2017

One of the few bright spots in this year’s election was the victory of the Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates and RPA-endorsed rent control initiative in Richmond, California, a predominantly black and Latino, gritty (though rapidly gentrifying) industrial city of 110,000 in the East Bay.

The alliance, a coalition of community groups, unions, liberal democrats, Greens, environmentalists, and leftists of various stripes, had participated in the governance of Richmond for the previous twelve years despite formidable opposition from the Chevron Corporation, the city’s largest private employer, and the political establishment beholden to it. That the RPA triumphed once again in 2016 was a tribute to its staying power and capacity to mobilize a broad constituency around a working-class agenda.

Company Town

Richmond is a company town. The company in question, Chevron, is not only the city’s largest but also its dirtiest employer. Chevron practically founded the town in 1905 when it opened what was, at the time, the world’s third-largest oil refinery. Other industrial development followed, peaking in World War II with a giant Kaiser shipyard, Ford plant, and dozens of other industrial companies employing tens of thousands of workers. (Richmond is home to the Rosie the Riveter national historic park commemorating the role of women industrial workers during World War II.)

Those workers included many black migrants from the American South squeezed into substandard and segregated housing. The city rapidly deindustrialized after the war, leaving large swathes of abandoned factories and toxic residue. Chevron stayed.

There are few corporate entities more reprehensible than large oil corporations. The prototype, Standard Oil, was created by John D. Rockefeller in 1870 and by the 1880s controlled close to 90 percent of US oil refining and distribution. Broken up by trustbusters in 1911, it spawned dozens of new companies. Three of them (including Standard Oil of California, later Chevron) were part of the “seven sisters” which dominated the world political economy throughout the twentieth century. They have an unmatched record of environmental degradation, political subversion and corruption, and contempt for workers’ rights and government regulation.

Half of the members of my old union, the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers (now part of the Steelworkers), worked for these behemoths. The in-house history of the union was called Challenging the Giants because our union’s identity was forged in struggle with them. Their arrogant unilateralism was the secret behind OCAW’s surprising militancy and internal democracy. Big oil never accepted the post–World War II consensus that unions ought to be integrated as junior partners into a tripartite class-conflict management team.

Company unions persisted at Standard Oil properties into the 1990s, and all the big oil refineries were run as open shops, forcing the union to engage in continuous “close the ranks” internal organizing that, perversely, built rank-and-file power and kept union density above 90 percent at most refineries.

The industry extracted a huge toll on its workers. One refinery worker described his twelve-hour shift as “eleven-and-a-half hours of extreme boredom, thirty minutes of swimming in a pool of toxic shit, and thirty seconds of sheer terror.” Their daily exposure to “thirty minutes of toxic shit” condemns refinery workers to high rates of occupational cancers and other illnesses. The “thirty seconds of terror” has subjected them to over 500 fires and explosions in the nation’s 141 oil refineries since 1994.

Agroecology in Puerto Rico

By Corbin Laedlein - Why Hunger, January 4, 2017

On November 11th to 13th, La Via Campesina member organization Organización Boricuá held the Campamento Agroecológico de Formación Política [Agroecological Encampment for Political Formation] at the Siembra Tres Vidas farm in the mountainous municipality of Aibonito, located one hour south of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The encampment’s 25-plus participants brought together members of Organización Boricuá, other activists involved in agroecology projects throughout the island, and activists and organizers involved in other social struggles. I participated in the three-day encampment as a representative of WhyHunger, to develop our understanding of the current context in Puerto Rico and to learn more about the organizing work happening on the island around agroecology.

The goal of the encampment was to bring people together to work and learn with one another and study agroecology as a tool of struggle within the current political context. The methodology of the encampment consisted of farm work in the mornings, followed by facilitated discussions on topics including the agrarian history of Puerto Rico, agroecology as a tool for social struggle and gender dynamics within social movements. Those facilitated discussions were followed by more informal conversations around a campfire, during which the participants further discussed ideas generated throughout the day. Tasks such as cooking and cleaning were shared among teams of participants during the encampment, and one team also assumed the task of note-taking during discussions. Towards the end of the process, they synthesized the ideas generated into a draft declaration that was then edited and approved by the encampment’s participants.

I had the great privilege to listen and participate in the rich dialogue and debates that took place that weekend. In thinking about how the conversations in the encampment compared to similar conversations I’ve participated in the U.S., I noticed that, similar to the way many conversations and work around food justice, food sovereignty and agroecology are grounded in an analysis of how U.S. historic and structural settler colonialism and racism have shaped and continue to manifest in the food system today, the conversations during the encampment about the need for agroecology were grounded in Puerto Rico’s history and current status as a colony and their own struggles for self-determination and decolonization.

That history begins with the Taíno indigenous people, who cultivated root crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, squash and corn in mounds called conucos. With the brutal colonization of the island of Borinken by the Spanish in the late 15th century, many Taínos fled to the interior of the island as the Spaniards introduced plantation-style agriculture in the lowlands. This form of agriculture was dependent on the labor of enslaved Taínos and Africans to produce crops to export to the Spanish Empire’s metropole. With the acquisition of Puerto Rico by the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American war, the focus on the production of cash crops (sugar, coffee, tobacco) for export continued, with little support for jibaros/as, the islands peasant farmers who mostly farmed the mountainsides. Following World War II, small-scale agriculture in Puerto Rico declined further. Largely unable to access land and credit, neglected rural populations migrated to the newly industrialized cities in Puerto Rico and the United States in hopes of better opportunities and higher salaries. The introduction of the food stamp program in the 1970s transformed the diets and consumption patterns of Puerto Rican consumers, who began purchasing more imported and processed food at supermarkets rather than from local markets. Today, more than 80% of food consumed on the island is imported.

These processes resulted in the mass exodus from the mountains and the disconnection of many in the subsequent generations from the land and agriculture, and well as the widespread loss of jibaro/a growing techniques and peasant seeds. Luckily, a back-to-the-land movement similar to that of the United States grew in the 70s and young people returned to the mountains to start organic farms. Many of these folks built relationships with the few remaining peasant farmers and learned how to farm Puerto Rico’s tropical mountainsides. Some of these individuals now make up Organización Boricuá’s most senior members.

“Agroecology is a Way of Life”, an in-depth interview with students of agroecologic school EDUCAR

By Umut Kocagöz - The Dawn News, January 2, 2017

From the solidarity group of Çiftçi-SEN / Turkey (Confederation of Small-Farmers’ Unions). A Turkish version of this article is published on karasaban.net / to contact: ukocagoz@gmail.com

I was in Brazil to participate in the “International Encounter of Struggling Youth” as a Turkish delegate, which was held in Marica, Rio de Janeiro in June 2016. After the youth encounter, I had the chance to stay a couple of weeks in Brazil to visit some camps and settlements of the Agrarian Reform, some cooperatives and agroecology schools of MST.

This was a moment great importance to discover, because MST was putting very much importance both on the theoretical and practical sides of agroecology. MST consider agroecology as a way of life, a way connecting to the society, as well as a struggle against agribusiness and the ongoing coup process put in forward by the neoliberal Temer government (1). This means that agroecology is not only a method of farming, but also a life vision, which is build up day by day in the camps and settlements, in the formal or informal agroecology schools, in political formation of the militants. In other words, each space of MST is based on the formation of agroecology, as a political paradigm against the transnational agribusiness hegemony over agriculture and food systems.

In order to achieve a powerful political vision, formation is very important for MST in all its spaces. In terms of agroecology, MST uses its formation and training processes beginning from camps and settlements, practically and theoretically, in schools, in fields, and in the political discourse proposed by its collective leadership.

MST proposes different kinds of formation programmes, some of which are recognised officially by the state and run by a collaborative process with some universities or the national educational system. These formation processes include some courses directly for militants, and some are considered the parts of joint university programs. Instituto Edcuar is one of these schools where militants of MST have the opportunity to deepen their studies on agroecology.

Educar is a school that aims to train farmers; young people settled and camped in the areas of Agrarian Reform(2). This education is based on agroecology, which aims to develop a form of agriculture that preserves and defends the environment. In other words, formation in Educar is a way of systematizing the “peasant agroecology” which is developed over years, which has some new technological inputs, and which is not only a technique of agriculture but as well a life paradigm. Thus, in Educar, and in other formation schools of MST, it is aimed to promote grassroots based projects and models that guarantees food sovereignty and a better life for the people living in rural areas.

Moreover, the formation process is not only limited with “technical” terms. Educar has a pedagogical strategy to work on the construction and training of young farmers with the capacity to analyze the political, cultural and economic realities of the society, discerning the alternative and appropriate technological frameworks for the development of the rural without a dependence on agribusiness.

I had the chance to meet and discuss with five young landless people on how they experience this educational process in order to listen the experience from firsthand. I am very thankful to them for giving me this chance, and MST as well, providing this opportunity to meet and experience agroecology as a way of life.

Bay Area IWW Resolution Defending the West Berkeley Shellmound

Passed by the Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch - January 5, 2016

Whereas, California Public Resources Code Section 5097.98 (a) states: Whenever the commission receives notification of a discovery of Native American human remains from a county coroner pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 7050.5 of the Health and Safety Code, it shall immediately notify those persons it believes to be most likely descended from the deceased Native American. The descendants may, with the permission of the owner of the land, or his or her authorized representative, inspect the site of the discovery of the Native American human remains and may recommend to the owner or the person responsible for the excavation work means for treatment or disposition, with appropriate dignity, of the human remains and any associated grave goods. The descendants shall complete their inspection and make recommendations or preferences for treatment within 48 hours of being granted access to the site; and

Whereas, California Public Resources Code Section 5097.98 (b) states: Upon the discovery of Native American remains, the landowner shall ensure that the immediate vicinity, according to generally accepted cultural or archaeological standards or practices, where the Native American human remains are located, is not damaged or disturbed by further development activity until the landowner has discussed and conferred, as prescribed in this section, with the most likely descendants regarding their recommendations, if applicable, taking into account the possibility of multiple human remains. The landowner shall discuss and confer with the descendants all reasonable options regarding the descendants' preferences for treatment; and

Whereas, Section 7050.5 of the California Health and Safety Code states: In the event of discovery or recognition of any human remains in any location other than a dedicated cemetery, there shall be no further excavation or disturbance of the site or any nearby area reasonably suspected to overlie adjacent remains until the coroner of the county in which the human remains are discovered has determined whether or not the remains are to be subject to the coroner's authority, and if the coroner determines that the remains are not subject to his or her authority and if the coroner recognizes the human remains to be those of a Native American, or has reason to believe that they are those of a Native American, he or she shall contact, by telephone within 24 hours, the Native American Heritage Commission, and

Whereas, On March 29, 2016 construction workers uncovered what appear to be “pre-contact” Indian remains while digging a trench on Fourth Street near Hearst Avenue in West Berkeley as part of the redevelopment of Spenger’s Fish Grotto and adjoining parcels, and

Whereas, the uncovered remains are almost certainly part of the West Berkeley Shellmound (Berkeley City Landmark #227, believed to be centered at, but not limited to Second Street and Hearst Avenue), and

Whereas, On January 16, 2016 the Berkeley City Council adopted three resolutions strengthening recognition of the Ohlone people as the original inhabitants of Berkeley and recognizing the shellmound as an indigenous sacred site. One of the resolutions promised that the “informed consent of the Ohlone and other indigenous peoples of the region be integral to any alteration planning for the Berkeley Shellmound sacred site.”, and

Whereas, throughout the history of the United States, the livelihoods, cultural traditions, and wellbeing of indigenous peoples have been routinely abused, destroyed, discounted, and/or ignored, and

Whereas, continued construction of the project would effectively remove a portion of Berkeley City Landmark #227, and the partial or total destruction of previously unidentified intact archeological deposits by the Project would impair the ability of such resources to convey important scientific and cultural information, and

Whereas, the IWW Bay Area General Membership Branch has recognized the importance of protecting sacred indigenous cultural sites by passing resolutions in support of Standing Rock and against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and

Whereas, the universal union credo, "an injury to one is an injury to all" must apply to frontline communities in a broader sense,

Be it Resolved That, the IWW Bay Area General Membership Branch calls upon the City of Berkeley to deny any and all permits for this development, and

Be it Further Resolved That, the IWW Bay Area General Membership Branch demands that this site be given a larger protected status due to its cultural and historical significance."

The Inland Boatmen's Union has also passed a Reolution to Protect the West Berkeley Shelmound opposing the 1900 4th st. devolpment and we would like additional locals and the labor councils or the Bay Area to pass similar resolutions to stop the proposed desecration of this Sacred Site!"

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