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green unionism

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

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

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

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

Unifor Calls for National Moratorium on Fracking

Statement from Unifor - Originally posted November 14, 2013

Disclaimer - Unifor is not affiliated with the IWW. This statement is posted here for information purposes only.

Unifor, Canada's largest energy union, is calling for a Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking. Already the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have introduced moratoriums on fracking. Nova Scotia has banned fracking while undertaking a review. Unifor is now pushing for a national moratorium.

Unifor is raising concerns about the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking as well as the lack of informed consent by First Nations about fracking activities on traditional lands.

In the statement unanimously passed by the 25-person Unifor National Executive Board, the union expressed support for the non-violent protest efforts by First Nations to resist fracking activity on their lands. The Unifor National Executive Board is made up of elected representatives  from across the country and a variety of economic sectors, including energy.  

“Unconventional gas fracking has the potential to have catastrophic effects on our environment and economy. The safety risks are also a major concern for our union,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.  “Just because we can carry out this activity does not mean we should. We must enact a national moratorium on fracking activity.”  

Dias also noted that it would be folly for Canada to reorient our entire energy infrastructure around a short-term surge in an unsustainable energy supply.

From the statement:

“Any resource extraction industry in Canada must confront the problem of unresolved aboriginal land claims, and the inadequate economic benefits (including employment opportunities) which have been offered to First Nations communities from resource developments.  This problem is especially acute with fracking because of the widespread land which would be affected by the activity, and the heated, profit-hungry rush which the industry is set to quickly unleash.  Many Canadians share these concerns with the potential economic, social, and environmental damage of an unregulated fracking industry. 

Instead of being guided by short-term swings in prices and profits for private energy producers, Canada’s federal and provincial governments must develop and implement (in cooperation with other stakeholders) a national plan for a stable, sustainable energy industry that respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here.”

To read the full statement, please visit:  http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/attachments/neb_resolution_on_fracking_nov2013_e.pdf

International Transport Workers Federation : Trade Unions Must Act Now on Climate Change

By the International Transport Workers Federation - November 11, 2013

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

Twenty activists from 14 countries came together in Johannesburg last week to determine the next steps in the fight against climate change. Participants at the meeting, which ran from 31 October to 1 November, agreed that the labour movement must move quickly to lead the way in the transition to a lower-carbon economy.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this year confirmed that global warming is man-made and has worsened considerably since 2007. Energy consumption plays a big part in this decline - and the transport sector is one of the biggest consumers of energy globally.

However, activists agreed that environmentally friendly policies should be good news for the transport sector. For instance, public transport is preferable to private in limiting carbon emissions, which could dramatically boost job creation in the public transport sector.

Activists also agreed that we must take a whole economy approach to tackle climate change. The current global economic model focuses on economic growth regardless of environmental, societal or labour impacts. Climate change is a systemic issue, and unions must work with broader social and environmental movements to be effective.

The Anti-Democratic Nature Of Big Unions

By Burkely Herrman - Industrial Worker, November 2013

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

Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and fallen and bruised itself, and risen again; been seized by the throat and choked and clubbed into insensibility; enjoined by courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, shot down by regulars, traduced by the press,  frowned upon by public opinion, deceived by politicians, threatened by priests, repudiated by renegades, preyed upon by grafters, infested by spies, deserted by cowards, betrayed by traitors, bled by leeches, and sold out by leaders, but notwithstanding all this, and all these, it is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known.”  – American union leader and socialist Eugene Debs, 1904

In the age of Obama, unions have had an even more diminished role than before. Despite this, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has shown that a slim majority, or 51 percent, approves of “organized labor…up a full 10 percentage points from two  years ago” and also “labor unions had the highest approval ratings among women, people of color, and young people between the ages of 18 and 29 [but not] whites and retirees.” The right-wing has launched a massive attack on unions as can be seen in the “right-to-work” bills in recent  years and other measures. As a result, the  big unions, part of the labor aristocracy, like the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation have backed the Democratic Party, the second-most capitalistic party in American politics. In electoral battles  with the Republicans, the unions fund ads to help out their favored candidates: big business Democrats. Along with the agents of oligarchy, these unions applauded when the Wall Street marketing creation named Barack Obama was elected as U.S. President in 2008, and continued to support him throughout his presidency. Some of the only sticking points have been the protectionist multinational-empowering investor-rights agreements that promote “trade” like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States-Dominican Republic-Central  America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the United States–Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), the Panama–United States Trade Promotion Agreement (TLC), the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), among many others. At the same time, these unions have not tried very hard to reverse trends that have caused unionization in the American economy to be on the decline. From here, it is important to discuss what the subservience of the labor aristocracy means to working-class and middle-class Americans.

Recall the Wisconsin uprising of 2011.  According to his website, Governor Scott  Walker wanted to “create an atmosphere  where business can thrive and success  will follow” and the unions were in his  way. One of the state’s biggest unions decided to back some of the cuts sought  by anti-union stalwart Governor Walker, in the infamous 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, at first, only opposing a provision limiting collective bargaining of public employees. Later, they changed their position after Walker rejected their compromise, as reported in the Milwalkee Journal Sentinel. Numerous protesters demonstrated a different view by calling for the defeat of the whole bill, not just one provision. Once Act 10 had passed, the unions pushed the next step: recalling Governor Walker. Almost a million signed a petition to recall him. However in the primaries, big labor’s favorite candidate Kathleen Falk was defeated by Tom Barrett. Barrett was a Democratic machine politician who Walker had defeated in 2010, but the unions backed him anyway along with corporatists like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The website watchdog.org reported that Barrett was “sticking  by a plan that could mean up to $14,000 in compensation cuts for state workers…[and] ‘rightsize’…state government and put public-worker pay and benefits more in line with private-sector compensation.” This follows what Barrett planned to do in 2010, as outlined in his report, “Tom Barrett’s Plan to Create Wisconsin Jobs”: “simplify[ing] regulations and streamline the regulatory process to lighten the burden on business.” Additionally, the report “Tom Barrett’s Plan to Put Madison on a Diet” was slated to “introduc[e]…technologies and revising processes to lessen the need for replacement employees…[and] keep…compensation and sick/leave accrual for state employees in line  with the private sector, including wages, health care, pension, retirement age, job security, and overtime pay.” Due to this, he only gave lip service to the unions, making protesters disenchanted along  with conducting a horrible campaign that didn’t mention Act 10. As a result, the propaganda machine, in part funded by the Koch Brothers, propelled Scott Walker to victory. The concentration of capital had sadly won against people power.

Rising Tide and Allies Shut Down Port of Vancouver

Portland Rising Tide North American - Monday, November 4th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Workers’ ‘Green Ban’ on Fracking?

Ira Berkovic of Workers' Climate Action reports from a workshop at this summer's anti-fracking protest camp - Originally Published at Red Pepper Blog, 9 September 2013

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

A workshop on 'work and transition' at the Reclaim The Power protest camp in Balcombe, Sussex, was part of an ongoing conversation between the labour and climate movements. It is a conversation which, in Britain, has involved the historic links between the Reclaim the Streets movement and striking dock workers in the 1990s.  Lucas Aerospace workers’ transition plan in the 1970s, which proposed to repurpose their socially and ecologically unsustainable factories to produce socially necessary goods.

With the climate movement reviving in the context of the government’s newfound mania for expanding fossil fuel energy generation and 'extreme energy' solutions like fracking, it is a conversation which must be had again with a new generation of activists.

The workshop aimed to give activists who might not have engaged with the labour movement before to learn about trade unions and workers’ organisations, and to discuss questions around workers’ agency in fighting climate change and the potential for worker-led models of transition.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of transport union TSSA, spoke about the links between the fight for a top-quality, publicly-owned transport system and the fight against climate change. Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) assistant general secretary Chris Baugh introduced the Campaign Against Climate Change’s 'One Million Climate Jobs' pamphlet, a campaigning publication which argues for investment in and expansion of 'green collar' jobs in sustainable, socially-necessary industries like transport, social housing construction, and renewable energy.

PCS officer Clara Paillard recounted her experiences as a workplace environmental rep fighting for sustainability in the workplace, making links with local environmental campaigners to fight the construction of a privately-operated, for-profit waste incinerator in their local area. Green Party activist Derek Wall discussed models from economic theory, including Karl Marx and Elinor Ostrom, which could help develop a vision for democratic collectivism and a sustainable future.

I spoke to tell the story of Workers’ Climate Action (WCA), a direct-action solidarity network active between 2006 and 2010 which aimed to bring a working-class political approach to the climate movement and radical ecological politics to the labour movement. WCA sought to make links with workers in high-emissions industries like energy and aviation, because we knew that a conversation about transition was only possible from within a framework of basic solidarity with workers’ day-to-day struggles.

Small-group discussion in the workshop covered a range of topics. It would be disingenuous to deny the difficulty of discussing the potential power of aviation, construction, and energy workers in a workshop made up of participants who had little or no experience of working in such industries. However, with participants working as teachers, journalists, and in local government – all sectors and industries with high levels of trade union organisation – there was plenty of opportunity to discuss applying workplace and union-focused models of environmental activism to participants’ own workplaces and experiences, rather than seeing them solely as something we can engage some alien worker 'other' with.

EagleRidge Ignores Fracking Worker Safety

By Sharon Wilson - Originally published on Earthblog, October 16, 2013

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

We already know that EagleRidge is a terrible neighbor!

  • An EagleRidge Operating worker was indicted in June 2012 on a felony charge of illegally dumping. City employees visiting the company’s well site in the 3100 block of Airport Road found a pump forcing contaminated water into a tributary of Hickory Creek. LINK
  • EagleRidge was operating wells in Denton without a permit. LINK
  • EagleRidge had a blowout in Denton that got "sanitized." LINK But it didn't stay "sanitized." LINK
  • EagleRidge is drilling in a Denton neighborhood less than 200 feet from homes.
  • EagleRidge is drilling in Mansfield and polluting air, violating sound ordinances and dividing neighbors. LINK

So it's no surprise to learn that EagleRidge is an awful employer that lacks regard for worker safety. Yesterday I stopped to take photos and video when I passed the EagleRidge drill site directly across from the University of North Texas athletic facility. (Yes, I know: polluting the air our young people are gulping in while practicing sports is reckless.) The video shows workers walking amidst swirling clouds of silica sand aka frack sand. In May 2012, OSHA and NIOSH issued a HAZARD ALERT regarding exposure to silica during hydraulic fracturing. The OSHA info sheet details steps industry needs to take to limit the amount of silica exposure. While they recommend breathing protection, they caution that respirators alone are not sufficient at the levels of exposure seen during fracking. Media reported that workers in Texas were exposed to over 10 times the safe limit.

Jerry Brown: The Wrong Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the past few months, Brown has:

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

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

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

All out on October 17!

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

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Endorsed By:

Bay Area IWW

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

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The sh*t raiser speaks! Interview with Judi Bari

There are two, slightly different versions of this interview, neither of which are complete, so we are treating them as separate documents. The other version, The Foundations of Future Forestry is also featured in this library.

Chris Carlsson and Med-o interview workplace and environmental activist Judy Bari on April 20, 1992 - featured in Processed World, Winter 1992-93

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