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International Woodworkers of America (IWA)

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”.

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.

Log Export History: Mill Jobs Exported

By Edie Butler - Hard Times, Vol. 3, #1, February 1983

Observing the frequent loading of logs on ships, during daily drives past Fields Landing several years ago, aroused in me a strong curiosity about the exporting of logs. At the same time as I was so frequently driving past this docking facility, the expansion of Redwood National Park, and its potential impact on the local lumber mills, was a very big news item and the controversy was evident everywhere in the community. Why, I asked, are these logs being exported, in their raw resource form, from an area where steady employment is already a problem and, if the dire forecasts about the (Redwood) Park expansion are to be believed, there will be a much greater problem in the future? As I raised this question with a wide variety of people over the ensuing months and years, I concluded that the average citizens of Humboldt County has very little understanding of the log exporting matter.

Local Self-Sufficiency

This matter takes on added historical significance when viewed against the backdrop of the economy of this area from the last 1800’s on to the present day. At one time Humboldt County was largely self sufficient and the resources available here were, to a large extent used and manufactured here. Some examples of the diversity of Humboldt County industry are the following businesses which are listed in a 1895-96 Business Directory: Arcata Tannery, Eureka Brewery (with the slogan of “Patronize Home Industry and Call for Eureka Beer”), Eureka Bicycle Factory, Humboldt Mineral Water, Bendixin Shipbuilders, twenty-two creameries, three dairies, twelve milliners and fancy goods, and fifteen shoemakers. [1] A 1902 map of Eureka has a border of pictures of prominent buildings, among which are Jackson’s shirt Factory, Eureka Foundry, and Humboldt Bay Woolen Mills.

Bit by bit these industries have withered and a pattern of exporting of resources and importing of products can be seen. There is no longer a woolen mill to process the wool produced locally. While most fish is processed locally, shrimp is sent to an automated picking plant in Santa Rosa and foreign processing ships buy hake directly from fishing boats.

Hides from local cattle are sent out of the area for tanning. These are but a few examples of this trend. (At this point mention should be made of the many industrious and sincere people who are currently working to reverse this trend and reestablish a broad economic base of small industries. They have had some impact and show promise for the future.)

IWA Demands Safe Jobs and Clean Water

By Tim Skaggs, Business Agent, IWA Local 3-98 - reprinted in Hard Times, February 1983

This speech was given at a hearing of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in December of 1982.

My name is Tim Skaggs. I am Past President and now Business Agent of the International Woodworkers of America, Local 3-98.

In March of this year, the governing body of International Woodworkers of America resolved that the continued use of Phenoxy herbicides in place of manual conifer release has an adverse effect upon employment opportunities in the Pacific Northwest.

If we look at the historical record, we find that the practices of timber companies have been extremely poor and irresponsible. Outrageous forest practices led to the adoption of regulations to protect the water, wildlife, and the multiple uses of public and private lands.

Massive clear cutting caused substantial erosion and stream siltation, resulting in a loss of water quality. Indeed the use of herbicides is directly related to the reliance upon clear cutting as the primary method for timber harvesting.

Most importantly, and least understood, is the acquisition of additional lands from timber interests to expand Redwood National Park. This move has cost us all dearly, with the exception of timber interests. The workers have suffered, but in a good cause. These lands were purchased to insure the continued existence of old growth redwood and to do the restoration work needed to prevent the eventual death of Redwood Creek from siltation. The park, a public project, was created to do what timber corporations refused to do: treat the land and water responsibly.

It is important to note that the industry refused to change their methods until they were forced to do so by public pressure and regulation. It appears that the major motivation for the timber industry is profit regardless of the expense to the community, workers, and the environment.

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