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Last Ditch Logging

By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, July 10, 1991, Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

One thing about working in the woods in Mendocino County is that there just isn't much wood left. The once mighty old growth is gone, and even decent second growth is getting hard to find. You can see how a logger in Humboldt or Del Norte could be fooled into believing there is enough forest left to sustain this logging assault. But here in Mendo(cino) County, the land of the baby redwood, it's getting harder and harder for the loggers to ignore what they're seeing with their own eyes.

"I can't live here anymore. I've seen too much of the woods destroyed," a twenty-year veteran Mendo(cino)logger told me. "It's a paradox. You love the wood, you're with it all day, and you're killing it." A younger woods worker, born and raised in Mendo(cino) County, says he's "fed up with doing the damage. It's not right. That's why so many loggers are drunk. It's not natural to whack up that much shit in one day."

It's not easy for a logger to admit that his job is destroying the forest, and the fact that a few are beginning to come forward and do so is an indication of how bad things really are out there. Unlike mill workers, and unlike most industrial workers, loggers have a legendary pride in their occupation. "The whole idea of being a logger," says one of my sources, "is that it's not something you do, it's Something you are. While you're out there, your cursing it. It's 100°, there's flies, there's mosquitoes, there's dust and dirt all over the place, and those chokers are heavy. But it's a good job for someone who likes to work."

 A choker setter is the perfect example of that, After the trees are felled, his job is to scramble up and down the hillsides carrying up to 100 pounds of metal cables, which he wraps around the cut trees so they can be hauled in to the landing. He has to dodge moving equipment, trees and cables to do it. For this he gets paid $9 or $10 an hour, and most local gyppo companies work a ten-hour day. Equipment operators get up to $13 an hour, and fallers get paid piece work, usually amounting to $150 or $200 a day, out of which they must buy and maintain their own equipment.

L-P has never had union loggers in this county, but G-P loggers used to be covered by the IWA union contract. "Back then we did pretty good," said an ex-union faller. "We got an hourly wage plus a production bonus." But in 1985 IWA union rep Don Nelson agreed to a contract that cut out the woods workers from union protection, and now all the loggers in Mendo(cino) County work for gyppo firms. L-P and G-P contract out to the gyppos, and the job goes to the low bidder who is willing to cut the most corners. Competition among the gyppos is intense, and the corners they cut include quality of logging, equipment maintenance, wages, and worker safety.

Logging is the most dangerous job in the U.S., according to the U.S. Labor Dept. The death rate among loggers is 129 per 100.000 employees, compared with 37.5 for miners. Charlie Hiatt's father, Kay Hiatt, was killed in a logging accident when a stump rolled down a hill and crushed him. His son-in-law had his back run over by a loader. "I've been hit over the head by trees four or five times, twice without a hard-hat," one choker setter told me. "once I got hit in the face by a cable," says a logger, "I woke up two days later."

Jobs vs Ecology, a Dilemma Manufactured by the Profit System: Part 2

By Andrea Bauer - Originally published at Freedom Socialist, May 1991

Part One of "Jobs vs. Ecology" discussed the debate over the spotted owl, the state of the forests, and the corporate timber barons. This concluding installment looks at conditions for timber workers, the environmental movement, and what action can be taken to preserve both jobs and nature.

‘Owl vs. Man' was the headline for Time magazine's multi-page spread on the bird's listing as a threatened species last year.

'Owl vs. Man.' Them vs. us. Polluters and exploiters like to see environmental issues framed this way, as if a sound ecology were inimical to human interests. If we accept this view, they profit. Meanwhile, we suffer.

Why? Because the "environment" doesn't just include plant and animal subspecies few people have even heard of until their survival is in question. "Environment" also means everything from where toxic waste is dumped to the fact that our immune systems are weakened by the degradation of the planet’s ozone layer.

The environment's quality means life or death for working people. Ecology is our issue, and we need to claim it in order to turn things around.

Cutting forests, squeezing workers. It is big business, not ecology, that is hostile to most human interests. Nowhere is this truth more stark than in the timber industry.

Harry Merlo, CEO for timber giant Louisiana-Pacific (L-P), summed up the corporations' attitude to natural resources in these words: "We log to infinity. Because we need it all. It's ours. It's out there, and we need it all. Now."

The companies consider workers in the same way-as a resource to be purchased as cheaply and exploited as thoroughly as possible. L-P is the outfit which closed a California mill in order to reopen it in Mexico, where they pay the employees 87 cents an hour. They are also willing to murder their workers to keep profits high.

In September 1989, at the L-P sawmill in Ukiah, California, a worker named Fortunado Reyes was mangled to death when he climbed onto a conveyor belt to clear it of jammed lumber. The machines were supposed to be turned off before a jam was cleared, but workers were bullied into disregarding safety rules in order not to slow production down.

The way L-P operates is the norm. In February 1989, at a Georgia-Pacific (G-P) lumber mill in Fort Bragg, California, a pipe burst in Frank Murray's face, causing him to swallow oil full of carcinogenic PCBs.

At the hospital, the company tried to prevent his stomach being pumped, claiming the substance was just mineral oil. The spill area was not closed off, and sixteen people were contaminated and three shifts of workers endangered before the G-P stopped stonewalling.

The union, International Woodworkers Association (IWA), refused to represent the contaminated workers. IWA later tried to cut a deal with G-P that would have reduced an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fine for "willful poisoning."

Jobs vs Ecology, a Dilemma Manufactured by the Profit System: Part 1

By Andrea Bauer - Originally published at Freedom Socialist, February 1991

Two endangered species of the Pacific Northwest are front-page news these days — the northern spotted owl and the logger. Portrayed as irreconcilable antagonists, they are in fact ecological kin, dependent on the same environment. Their existence is threatened by the same voracious predator — the timber industry.

The ancient forests which once covered the greater part of the U.S. have sustained both the logger and the owl. Now these forests are nearly gone, with most of the remaining old-growth stands concentrated in an ever-thinner and spottier strip running along the western Cascades through Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

The fates of owl and logger are indissolubly bound up with their habitat — which is disappearing at the rate of nearly 70,000 acres every year.

This isn’t the case for the corporations whose chainsaws are leveling the forests. The whole planet is their “habitat,” and the redwood or the Douglas fir just another commodity.

When corporate raider Harold Simmons is through clearcutting the old growth he acquired in 1984 near Butte Falls, Oregon, for example, he will still have another means of survival: a two-billion-dollar empire in sugar, petroleum, chemicals, and fast-food restaurants.

The immediate fact is that protecting the owl will mean the loss of between 25,000 and 50,000 timber jobs in the next decade. But the bigger truth is that the timber companies’ feeding frenzy has already brought about a sharp, continuing decline in the number of industry jobs — as well as the near-annihilation of an irreplaceable resource, the ancient forest, which is a vital part of the planet’s overall life-support system.

Owl, forest, earth. The spotted owl is an unlikely candidate to have gained such notoriety, attracted so many champions, and earned so many enemies. Mostly nocturnal, the owls stand two feet tall or less and weigh little more than a pound. They claim territory in pairs, staying in the same home areas for as long as they can.

After years of foot-dragging and resistance, the Fish and Wildlife Service in June 1990 listed the spotted owl as a threatened species. This means that the government is required by the Endangered Species Act to guard the owl’s survival — and for its survival it needs extensive quantities of very old forest. It thrives in the unmanaged forest, with its variety of tree species and types of wildlife, many standing dead trees, and, on the forest floor, messy natural litter.

The owl is an “indicator species” for the ancient forest ecosystem. It’s the canary in the mine. The health or precariousness of the forest and its other inhabitants mirrors the owl’s status.

The old-growth forest provides a home for thousands of species, many of whom cannot survive in any other type of environment. For humans, it provides a home away from home, a refuge and renewal. For scientists, it is an incomparable data bank and laboratory.

Even more fundamentally, the kinds of life that exist on earth today can not exist without the forests. Almost all of the water we use flows ultimately from forests, and forests help prevent flooding and erosion.

In The Middle of Run Away History: Judi Bari, Earth First! Organizer – Mississippi Summer in the California Redwoods

Interviewed by Beth Bosk – New Settler Interview, Issue #49, May 1990

Judi Bari: Tomorrow I’m going to Oregon. There’s an Environmental Law conference up there. I was invited to speak on a panel about labor and the environment.

Last week, I received a call at my home, at night, from a nasty­sounding man who identified himself by name and said he was from the Western Council of Industrial Workers, which is the AF of L union which represents mill workers up there.

He warned me that I better not set foot in Oregon. And he said that if any of his union members talked to me they’d be out of a job—and various other vague threats.

He also called the conferences organizers and the university, telling them I shouldn’t be allowed to speak there. This panel, on labor and the environment, is made up of me—I somehow got on it—a university professor of physics, and the owner of a company who makes fancy yuppie houses out of old growth wood and doesn’t want the old growth eliminated. This is their idea of a “Labor” panel.

I gave the organizers the name of a rank-and-file mill worker one hour from them, but they never contacted him. He called them, and they wouldn’t let him be on the panel. And this is a union man who has spoken out in public for the spotted owl and against the yellow ribbon campaign in Oregon.

I’m going to Oregon to cede my spot on this panel to this courageous man. The panel is called “Labor and the Environment: Bridging the Gap.” Yet they can’t even bridge the gap enough to let a single rank and file worker speak on the panel, so I’m going to cede my spot to him.

IWW Defends Millworkers

By Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney - Industrial Worker, March 1990

“You better not think that you can come to Oregon because you won’t find a welcome,” warned Paul Moorehead of the Western Council of Industrial Workers (WCIC). Moorehead made his threat against IWW Local #1 organizer Judi Bari upon learning that she had been invited to participate in a Labor and the Environment workshop at a Public Interest Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon. In recent months rank and file mill workers (at Georgia Pacific’s mill in Fort Bragg) have expressed an increasing reluctance to listen to their union bosses when they tell them that wage cuts are OK, or that clearcutting the forests and destroying the earth is in workers’ best interests. No doubt Moorhead and his buddies intend to spread the word about “outside agitators” who are disturbing the profitable arrangement that the WCIC, In-ternational Woodcutters of America (IWA) and other business unions have worked out with the timber companies. “If any member of my union talks to you they’ll be out of a job,” Moorhead told Bari.

Yet Moorhead’s union, the WCIC, no longer represents workers in Mendocino County, California. The union was busted there in 1986, and now only 560 of the counties’ 3,000 workers have any union “representation” at all. Most of the 560 are “represented” by IWA Local #3-469. Despite Moorhead’s general disdain for his workers, he (and others, including the IWA, and many environmentalists) have been effective stooges in the lumber companies’ manufactured conflict between the workers and environmentalists. As a result most of the timber companies’ public support comes from the union itself.

However, not all of the workers have been fooled. With the help of the IWW, mill workers are starting to talk to each other and are coming to realize that they don’t need union bureaucrats to speak for them, and that only they can defend their jobs. “People came to the IWW because their union wasn’t representing them,” said Bari.

IWW Local 1 Letters to OSHA on behalf of the IWA Rank and File Millworkers

First Letter to Judge Sidney Goldstein - January 27, 1990

Re: OSRC Docket No. 89-2713.

Dear Judge Goldstein: We the undersigned, affected employees in the PCB spill at the Georgia Pacific mill in Fort Bragg, CA, (OSHRC Docket No. 89-2719) strongly urge you not to approve the settlement made by G-P and OSHA regarding this case. We believe this agreement was made without considering pertinent information, and we believe it will jeopardize the safety of workers at the G-P mill.

The settlement that was reached involved dropping the “willful” citation to “serious” and re-ducing the fine from $14,000 to $3,000. We were told by OSHA attorney Leslie Campbell that this was necessary because the toxicity of PCBs has not been established. Yet the record shows that mill-wrights Ron Atkinison and Leroy Pearl were ordered to weld in the spill area without protective clothing during two 10-hour shifts. They stood in PCB oil and welded machinery that was wet with PCBs. The welding vaporized the PCBs at high temperatures, creating dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known to man, and the fumes were inhaled by the millwrights as they worked.

We also feel that the case for toxicity of PCBs has recently been enhanced by a November 24, 1989 decision of the Ninth U.S, Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. This case involved workers at a Crown-Zellerbach lumber mill in Oregon, whose exposure to PCBs was significantly less than ours. Yet the court ruled that “A jury could conclude that coming into contact with PCBs at a strength sufficient to produce a body level of PCBs six to ten times higher than normal, and to trigger serious health concerns constituted an injury.” G-P lead millwright Frank Murray swallowed PCBs when they were dumped on his head, and four months later had a bodily PCB level well over 100 times the EPA standard, We are concerned that the leniency of the settlement reached by G-P and OSHA in this case will not restrain G-P from continuing to subject the workers to unsafe conditions in the mill. As recently as last month, G-P ordered Ron Atkinson and other millwrights and electricians to do maintenance work on moving, high-speed machinery. The computerized green-chain had malfunctioned and could not be locked out without causing a long downtime while the computer was reset. Only by calling CAL-OSHA were the employees able to force the company to provide instructions for lock-out procedures to maintenance employees working on the green-chain. Even after OSHA’s intervention and inspection, another employee had three fingers severed in an accident on the same machine.

IWA Rank-and-File Union Millworkers Reply: Victims of G-P’s Fort Bragg Mill PCP Spill Speak Out

Written by Ron Atkinson, Cheryl Jones, Joe Valdao, Julie Wiles, and Treva VandenBosch
Edited by Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 13, 1989, Mendocino Commentary, December 14, 1989 and the Industrial Worker, January 1990.

Web Editor's Note: all of these workers authorized Judi Bari and the IWW to represent them before OSHA hearings that soon followed.

Judi Bari’s Introduction: Unionism was hard won in the Pacific Northwest. In the early 1900’s, the IWW stepped in where the AFL feared to tread, and broke the stranglehold of the timber barons on the loggers and mill workers. The companies and the government fought back with terror and bru-tality eventually crushing the IWW and settling instead for the more cooperative “Business Unions”.

Today these unions have stood by and watched the erosion of the gains the people fought so hard to win. The following statement from five workers at the Georgia-Pacific mill in our area shows the situation timber workers are in today, both from the companies and the “Business Unions”.

Minutes of the founding meeting of IWW Local #1

Recorded by Judi Bari, x332349, November 19, 1989

The Mendocino-Humboldt General Membership Branch of the IWW held our first meeting on Sunday November 19, 1989. Fourteen (out of 24) members came.

Structure

We set up our basic structure as follows: Judi Bari was elected Corresponding Secretary and Anna Marie Stenberg was elected Financial Secretary. They were instructed to open a bank account and keep track of dues and other paperwork. Other than these utilitarian positions, we will have no officers. Decisions will be made by the members at the meetings. If events occur between meetings that require action, temporary decisions (subject to ratification at the next meeting) will be made by the Entertainment Committee. Membership on the Entertainment Committee is voluntary, and the people who volunteered were Mike Koepf, Treva VandenBosch, Judi Bari, Anna Marie Stenberg, Pete Kayes, and Bob Cooper.

Work So Far

The work of Our Branch was described: We are a General Membership Branch (GMB) and will take on whatever issues the members want, especially issues related to our workplaces. But so far our activities have been centered around providing support for timber workers who are fighting their employers’ destruction of forests, jobs, and working conditions. We hope to be a bridge between environmentalists and timber workers and help bring about community understanding of the workers’ problems.

Pete Kayes, employee of Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO), in Scotia , talked about the failed attempt by workers to form an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and buy the company back from corporate raider Charles Hurwitz. Pete also gave out copies of the rank-and-file newsletter Timberlyin’ that he and others produce and distribute at the Scotia mill.

Treva VandenBosch, recently retired employee of Georgia Pacific (G-P) Corporation in Fort Bragg, told about being doused with PCBs in the G-P mill and receiving no help from the company or union (IWA Local #3-469, AFL-CIO). She walked off the job and single-handedly picketed the plant, eventually hooking up with Anna Marie and Mike (now also IWW members), who helped get the story out. The plant was finally closed for three days for clean-up, and OSHA fined G-P $14,000 for willful exposure of workers to PCB’s. G-P is appealing that decision, and the hearing will be on February 1, 1990 in San Fran-cisco. You must sign up in advance to be allowed to attend the hearing. We are asking all Wobs to sign up, even if you don’t expect to come, to demonstrate public interest. See enclosed forms.

Anna Marie told about Fort Bragg millworker Julie Wiles being arrested and led away in handcuffs for distributing a leaflet calling for fellow IWA Local #3-469 members to vote “no” on a proposed union dues increase. IWA shop stewards distributing pro-dues increase leaflets were not interfered with by the company. The IWA has not provided Julie with any support on her arrest and charges. We are asking all Wobs to come to Julie’s trial, and we have been helping her with her defense. Ten people showed up to support Julie at her arraignment.

Timber Wars: Footloose Wobs Urgently Needed

By Judi Bari, Industrial Worker, October 1989; Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

"You fucking commie hippies, I'll kill you all!" A shotgun blast goes off and the Earth First!ers scatter. What started as a peaceful logging road blockade had turned violent when a logger sped his truck through our picket line and swerved it towards the demonstrators. The loggers also grabbed and smashed an Earth First!er's camera and, for no apparent reason, punched a 50-year old protester in the face, breaking her nose.

The environmental battle in the Pacific Northwest has reached such a level of intensity that the press now refers to it as the Timber Wars. At stake is the survival of one of the nation's last great forest ecosystems. Our adversaries are giant corporations--Louisiana Pacific, Georgia Pacific, and MAXXAM in northern California, where I live, joined by Boise Cascade and Weyerhauser in Oregon and Washington.

These companies are dropping trees at a furious pace, clogging our roads no less than 18 hours a day, with a virtual swarm of logging trucks. Even old timers are shocked at the pace and scope of today's strip-logging, ranging from 1000-year old redwoods, one tree trunk filling an entire logging truck, to six-inch diameter baby trees that are chipped up for the pulp-mills and particleboard plants.

One-hundred-forty years ago the county I live in was primeval redwood forest. At the current rate of logging, there will be no marketable trees left here in 22 years. Louisiana Pacific chairman Harry Merlo put it this way in a recent newspaper interview: "It always annoys me to leave anything lying on the ground. We don't log to a 10-inch top, we don't log to an 8-inch top or a 6-inch top. We log to infinity. It's out there, it's ours, and we want it all. Now."

So the battle lines are drawn. On one side are the environmentalists, ranging from the big-money groups like Wilderness Society and Sierra Club to the radical Earth First!ers and local mountain people fighting the front line battles in the woods. Tactics being used include tree-sitting, logging road blockading, and bulldozer dismantling, as well as the more traditional lawsuits and lobbying.

On the other side are the big corporations and the local kulaks who do their bidding. Tactics used by them have included falling trees into demonstrators, suing protesters for punitive damages (and winning), buying politicians, and even attempting to ban the teaching at a local elementary school of a Dr. Suess book, The Lorax, which the timber companies say portrays logging in a bad light.

Greens, Loggers, and Woodworkers Blast Louisiana-Pacific’s “Good Neighbor Policy”

By Don Morris – Earth First! Journal, Samhain (Nov. 1), 1985

A loose coalition of environmentalists, woodworkers, loggers, and angry citizens has joined to protest the gangster tactics of the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation in Mendocino County, California.

Louisiana-Pacific has earned a national reputation as the premier union busting timber beast, and its callous disregard for neighbors and workers has caused a firestorm of protest in this rural Northern California county. In a 1979 referendum, county residents voted by a 2 to 1 margin to ban the aerial spraying of phenoxy herbicides after local children, while waiting for a school bus, were exposed to 2,4,5-T by a timber company spray helicopter. The ban was appealed by the state, but eventually upheld by the California Supreme Court in mid 1984. Under massive pressure from the Agro-Chemical Empire, the state legislature frantically passed a new law which transferred the control of herbicides and other “economic poisons” back to the state. Spray regulations are now back in the hands of the Department of Food and Agriculture (the California Pentagon) which is aggressively engaged in chemical warfare against all living threats to monoculture. Soon after the reversal, in early 1985, Louisiana-Pacific held a festive press briefing and, with total contempt for the democratic vote of the people, announced plans to resume spraying 2,4-D in the fall. The company mouth piece stressed that herbicide use was the only cost effective way of preventing hardwood species such as tanoak, madrone, and ceanothus (a nitrogen fixer) from competing with their conifer monocrops, He also expressed the desire to destroy the habitat of rabbits, gophers, and other forest creatures which pose a threat to conifer seedlings. The company resource manager, suppressing a grin, assured the press that Louisiana-Pacific would continue its “Good Neighbor” policy.

Environmentalists and other concerned citizens, enraged at the loss of local control, quickly began organizing to prevent the fall spraying, and while local resistance was still in disarray, “Good Neighbor” Louisiana-Pacific mounted a sneak chemical attack on its holdings near the communities of Rockport and Comptche. The weapon used was Dow Chemical’s new herbicide Garlon, which is sometimes referred to as 2,4,5-T in drag. Garlon is an unrestricted, relatively unknown, and inadequately tested chemical which is only one atom different from the banned 2,4,5-T. Adding injury to insult, Louisiana-Pacific cleverly managed to drift spray on a logging crew working near the Rockport site. Within 48 hours, the workers all developed remarkably similar flu like symptoms and were examined by a local physician who was unable to conclusively determine the cause of illness. Louisiana-Pacific, while asserting that the loggers were never sprayed, assured them that the chemical was harmless. Citizens near the Comptche spray site also complained of nausea and other flu-like symptoms, and later discovered that the spray had drifted into local streams. Several loggers and their families, despite fears of unemployment are planning legal action against the neighborly company.

After protesting in vain to timid local officials, environmentalists and irate citizens decided to confront the intransigent timber beast. The Comptche Citizens for a Safe Environment, with support from two other local groups—(SOHO) Support Our Herbicide Opposition, and the fledgling Mendocino Greens—planned a protest demonstration at the Louisiana-Pacific mill and offices in Ukiah. Local affiliates of two labor unions, the International Woodworkers of America, and the International Brotherhood of Carpenters, announced support for the picket in exchange for the Greens support of a leafleting campaign at area lumber yards calling for a boycott of all Louisiana-Pacific products.

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