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Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

Chapter 22 : I am the Lorax; I speak for the Trees

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

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And then I got mad,
I got terribly mad,
I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!”
All you do is yap and say, “Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!”
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you,
I intend to go on doing just what I do!”

--by Dr. Seuss, 1971

In an attempt to put a damper on the escalating conflicts over timber on the North Coast, Doug Bosco finally engineered a “compromise” between the timber industry and some environmentalists over the spotted owl. Under the congressman’s plan, the set asides for spotted owl pairs would be increased from 1,600 to 2,000 acres. However, to many of the more forward thinking environmentalists, this was inadequate, because studies showed that 2,600 acres was the minimum required size of a viable spotted owl habitat. Patricia Schifferle, director for the California and Nevada region of the Wilderness Society declared, “For now, I don’t really see that as a compromise…it’s like business as usual.” Judi Bari chimed in, “This kind of deal is why Earth First! doesn’t make deals…There is no solution there. The only solution would be sustained yield.” [1] [1] Indeed, if Bosco had hoped to quell tensions, he failed miserably.

Meanwhile, back in Laytonville, Bill Bailey found a way to solve his problem, or at least he thought so. Convinced that the Laytonville school teachers were under the influence of “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs”, and needed stronger guidance from superintendant Brian Buckley, and convinced that Buckley needed tighter control from the Laytonville School Board, Bailey poured his financial resources into securing a majority of seats on that governing body. He started by getting himself elected, running ostensibly to oppose a development of a new high school on a questionable piece of land owned by real estate speculators, a project that was favored by the incumbent board members, but was unpopular among most of the community, including most progressives. He then managed to get his hired yes man, Mike Wilwand, as well as Art Harwood elected as well. Since Laytonville (the town) was unincorporated, but Laytonville Unified (the school district) was not, this was as close to a governing power that the community actually had. Bailey had his majority. [2]

Then, in mid September, Bill Bailey’s wife, Judith Bailey filed an official Request for Reconsideration of Materials form with the Laytonville School District requesting that The Lorax, which had been written eighteen years previously and had been on the required reading list for second graders for two years without comment, be removed. Mrs. Bailey cited California Education Code 60040 which prohibits references that “tend to demean, stereotype or be patronizing toward an occupation, vocation, or livelihood,” as grounds for removal, stating, “I feel when a second grader reads a line that says, ‘Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack,’ as a moral of the story, then he or she will feel that anyone who cuts down trees is bad.” Superintendant Buckley was duty bound to strike a special review committee, which was done composed of seven individuals including himself, two teachers, one librarian, the school library technician, and two district residents. One these two residents turned out to be Becky Harwood, Judith Bailey’s sister, Art Harwood’s wife. [3]

On Wednesday, September 13, 1989, a crowd filled the Laytonville Elementary School library to watch the review committee deliberate the issue. Naturally, Mrs. Harwood argued for the book’s removal, arguing that since it was written before the passage of current forestry legislation, it presented a misleading view of logging and that “Kids don’t have to feel bad about what their parents do.” Willits High School Librarian, Sue Jones, countered by saying, “You could use this book as a place of departure and talk about what you can do right in the forest. Someone from the lumber industry could come in and say how we used to do this, but we don’t do that anymore, and this is what we do now,” but this didn’t satisfy Bailey’s representative on the committee, insisting that people perceived the book as demeaning to the timber industry. [4]

Stop Cop Planet, Save the Surreal World

By Dan Fischer - New Politics, August 1, 2023

March 5, 2023: Approaching a construction site for Cop City, officially known as the “Atlanta Public Safety Training Center,” roughly 300 masked forest defenders cut through the fencing and chanted with conviction, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.” Throwing rocks and fireworks, they caused cops to retreat. The crowd burned down several construction vehicles and a trailer, undoing about a month’s worth of work and causing at least $150,000 in damages.1

March 8: Reversing their ancestors’ route on the Trail of Tears, an official Muscogee delegation returned to Atlanta’s Weelaunee Forest. They announced to the city’s authorities, “You must immediately vacate Muscogee homelands and cease violence and policing of Indigenous and Black people.”

It can feel surreal watching such inversions of the common-sense social reality where police chase protesters and settler elites evict natives.2 Building on the communal and sometimes jubilant militancy of the Standing Rock and George Floyd uprisings, the Stop Cop City movement effectively declares: to hell with your thin blue line, your economy, your authorities. Such authorities include Atlanta’s Black mayor Andre Dickens and his Democratic administration, as well as the leaderships of the city’s historically Black colleges. Referencing his school’s funding of Cop City, a student denounced Morehouse’s complicity in “a system that does not serve Black people.”3

Among the crowds occupying city streets and among the Weelaunee Forest’s tents and treehouses, signs declare commitments to police abolition, decolonization, anti-fascism, radical ecology, and total liberation. “Stop the metaverse. Save the real world,” declares a banner hanging between two pines. The message went viral, ironically, and why not? What could be more worth defending than an urban forest? What could be more worth stopping than the metaverse, that comprehensive virtual reality concocted by profit-hungry, surveillance-friendly social media executives?

However, for those caught in the rhythms of capitalist time, centered around working or surviving among the unemployed “industrial reserve army,”4 we often experience the “real world” as precisely the social reality responsible for threatening Atlanta’s forest. Hollywood Dystopia is Shadowbox Studios’ murky plan to destroy more of the forest, apparently for a massive soundstage complex. Cop City, a $90 million police compound, would be the country’s largest academy of militarized repression. It’s being built despite 70 percent of public comments in 2021 expressing opposition, despite the immediately adjacent neighborhoods across city borders not being given a say. Cop Planet is the world of transnational capital’s “mass social control, repression and warfare,”5 where—for example—Georgia’s cops receive training from hypermilitarized Israeli police.6 It’s the brutal reality where U.S. police kill people every single day, where Atlanta cops murdered Rayshard Brooks in 2020, and where Georgia troopers murdered Tortuguita, a Venezuelan gender-nonbinary anarchist, in the forest this January.

Chapter 21 : You Fucking Commie Hippies!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

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“Fort Bragg has bred a race of people who live in two-week stints, called ‘halves’ which end every other Thursday with a trip to the bowling alley for highballs and to cash the paycheck. The most altruistic among these are church-going, family-and-roses, four-holidays-a-year American workers. At the other end of the line (sometimes in the same body) are people who would kill hippies with a certain fundamental zest; who are still angry about events of twenty years ago and have been patiently tearing up the woods ever since…People want to work the last few years [while the forest lasts], go back into the hard-to-reach places and cut those last trees, the way a tobacco addict wants to smoke all the butts in the house when stranded.”

—Crawdad Nelson, June 28, 1989

“It’s time for loggers—and employees of nuclear power plants, for that matter—to consider the idea that their jobs are no longer honorable occupations. They have no God-given right to devastate the earth to support themselves and their families.”

—Rob Anderson, June 21, 1989

With the arrival of summer, Corporate Timber organized its biggest backlash yet against the efforts by populist resistance to their practices, particularly the possible listing of the Northern Spotted Owl as an endangered species. Masterfully they whipped up gullible loggers and timber dependent communities into a mob frenzy, framing the very complex issue as simply an opportunistic effort by unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs to use the bird to shut down all logging everywhere forever. At the very least, they predicted (lacking any actual scientific studies to prove it) that listing the spotted owl as “endangered” would result in as much as a 33 percent reduction in timber harvesting activity throughout the region. Nothing could be further from the truth in the timber wars, of course, but that didn’t stop the logging industry from bludgeoning the press and public with this myth to the point of overkill.

A sign of the effectiveness of Corporate Timber’s propagandizing was the rapid adoption by timber workers, gyppo operators, and residents in timber dependent communities of yellow ribbons essentially symbolizing solidarity with the employers. [1] This symbol was far simpler than Bailey’s “Coat of Arms”, and such activity was encouraged, albeit subtly, by the corporations themselves, but the timber workers who had already been subjected to a constant barrage of anti-environmentalist propaganda were swayed easily. [2] One industry flyer even went so far as to say, “They do not know you, they have never met you, and the probably never will meet you; but they are your enemies nonetheless.” Yellow ribbons had been used for this purpose for several years already, but never on such a widespread scale. [3] Many of those sporting yellow ribbons, particularly on their car or truck antennae adopted other symbols as well. [4] These included t-shirts, bumper stickers, and signs with slogans such as “save a logger, eat an owl”, “spotted owl: tastes like chicken”, or “I like spotted owls: fried.” [5] Gyppo operators even began organizing “spotted owl barbecues” (with Cornish game hens standing in for the owls). [6]

All of this was anger directed at the environmentalists in a frenzy, which even the biggest enablers of Corporate Timber privately conceded was “knee jerk”. Pacific Lumber president John Campbell did what he could do sow more divisions by denouncing those that sought to preserve the spotted owl as “Citizens Against Virtually Everything” (CAVE). [7] Louisiana Pacific spokesman Shep Tucker declared, “We want to send a message across the country that this is not acceptable, and we can do it by pulling out all of the stops and descending on Redding in force.” [8] As if this weren’t enough, local governments of timber dependent communities, including Redding, Eureka, and Fortuna, got into the act and passed resolutions opposing the listing of the owl as endangered. [9] The climate of fear generated by this effort was so intense that Oregon Earth First!er, Karen Wood, who—with a handful of other local Earth First!ers—had walked picket lines in solidarity with striking Roseburg Forest Products workers, commented that one could not venture into a single business without seeing pro-Corporate Timber propaganda in her timber dependent community. [10]

340,000 UPS drivers poised to strike over extreme heat, safe working conditions

By Tushar Khurana - Grist, July 17, 2023

During a summer that has already shattered temperature records, the 340,000 drivers, dispatchers, and warehouse workers currently in contract negotiations with UPS — the United States’ largest unionized employer — have made climate change and extreme heat a headline labor issue. And if they don’t secure a contract by July 31, they are poised to initiate the largest single-employer strike in U.S. history.

On summer days, the back of a delivery truck can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When Viviana Gonzalez, a package delivery driver for United Postal Service in Los Angeles, pulls open the back of her truck, she often thinks: “Am I going to pass out back here? Will anybody find out that I’m here in the back of the truck?”

Gonzalez is all too aware of how dangerous her job can be. Since 2015, UPS has reported at least 143 heat-related injuries to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Last year, one of her co-workers, Esteban Chavez, died of heat stroke in his delivery truck after delivering his last parcel. “I’m a single mom,” said Gonzalez, “and being able to provide for my son means I have to suck it up.”

Chapter 20 : Timberlyin’

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

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For the past 3 years we’ve been talked at, talked about, talked down to, and talked up. Isn’t it time that we start talking? Time that we started talking to each other about what’s happening at Palcotraz. Talking about overtime. Talking about who we are really working for anyway? Talking about Uncle Charle selling our logs across the ocean and selling us down the river.

Of course, working for 50 or so hours a week there’s not much time to talk to anyone. Nobody remembers the last time they talked to their wife or kids. So we need a real employee newsletter, don’t we? We can’t count on Uncle Charlie or Soupman John to tell us the truth. Let’s stop listening to their timber lyin’!

—Anonymous Pacific Lumber Workers, July 1989.

As bad as things might have seemed for the marginally organized Georgia Pacific millworkers of IWA Local 3-469, the nonunion Pacific Lumber experiences could easily be described as several degrees worse. For example, on Friday, May 19, 1989, 63 year-old Pacific Lumber maintenance millworker Clifford L. Teague, a ten-year company veteran, died when he fell or was sucked into the machinery and was dismembered while tending the hog conveyer belt in Scotia mill B. P-L vice president and controller Howard Titterington claimed that nobody witnessed the event, but some employees were convinced he had fallen into the chipper which ground up unused wood scraps into hog fuel. Fellow P-L employee Bob Younger, Teague’s friend and a harsh critic of the Maxxam regime, was convinced that the accident happened due to fatigue as a result of the 60-hour workweeks now common since the takeover. “They’re working us too hard…There have been too many accidents in the last three months…when you get tired and don’t stay alert all the time, you do things you probably wouldn’t do again…people don’t pay as much attention as they should,” declared Younger, and noted an accident in which another employee had been hit by a forklift and another in which a separate employee had lost a toe. [1]

Fellow P-L dissident Pete Kayes agreed that accidents had risen since the institution of the longer workweeks, but wasn’t sure that Teague’s death was directly attributable to them, since it had happened early in the shift, though perhaps Kayes had not considered the possibility of cumulative exhaustion. Titterington, on the other hand, flat-out denied that accidents had increased, and neither TEAM nor WECARE had anything to say about the matter. [2] Nobody knew for sure why this happened, and Maxxam was not particularly forthcoming about it. None of the pro-(Corporate)-timber publications issued so much as a blurb about the incident, although the matter was serious enough to warrant a mention in the Earth First! Journal. Although the latter neglected to mention Teague by name and though they got some of the details (such as his age and the date of his death) wrong, they at least covered the story. [3]

Cop City and the Escalating War on Environmental Defenders

By Basav Sen and Gabrielle Colchete - In These Times, July 13, 2023

The fight in Atlanta over Cop City, a massive police training facility, has turned into ground zero for overlapping crises facing our country: the climate emergency, vast political and economic inequality, ever-militarizing police forces and systemic racism. 

If we want a democracy healthy enough to solve these crises, it’s worth paying attention to what is happening in the South River Forest.

On May 31, in a disturbing move shortly before Atlanta’s City Council approved more funding for the facility, Georgia law enforcement arrested three members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which provides activists with legal support and bail money. 

Organized bail support for activists is a longstanding tradition, exemplified by the historical precedent of churches and community groups raising funds to bail Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders out of jail. Now, however, the authorities are deeming such acts ​“money laundering” and ​“charity fraud.” 

In reality, the fund was targeted for supporting the Stop Cop City movement, which opposes the police training facility. 

Many in the community fear the Cop City facility will be used to train police in counterinsurgency, further militarizing an already armed and equipped force. In a city with wide wealth and income disparities, more militarized policing fits into what community activist Micah Herskind describes as ​“the state’s retreat from the provision of social welfare and the interrelated build-up of policing and imprisonment to manage inequality’s outcomes.” 

The facility is largely funded by the corporate-backed Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), whose donors include Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, Home Depot and Wells Fargo. Militarized policing is a growing concern in the United States, and corporate-funded militarized policing raises further unease about law enforcement becoming directly beholden to corporate interests. 

As local resident Brad Beadles put it, ​“When private corporate donors are able to fund militarized training facilities for the police, they are essentially buying off the police. They are making it clear who the police work for.”

Chapter 19 : Aristocracy Forever

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

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What do workers hold in common with a labor bureaucrat,
Who’s a class collaborationist and a boss’s diplomat,
With the money from our paychecks he is sitting getting fat,
While the union keeps us down. …

—Lyrics excerpted from Aristocracy Forever, by Judi Bari.

Meanwhile, back in Fort Bragg, there was “trouble in union city”—or what was left of it at any rate. Over the course of the previous four years, IWA Local #3-469 Business Representative Don Nelson had folded under pressure to the collaborationist leadership in the IWA, offered no resistance whatsoever to Georgia-Pacific’s outsourcing of its logging operation to gyppos, refused to offer solidarity to the UFCW in its boycott of Harvest Market, and had essentially bought G-P’s story on the PCB spill hook, line, and sinker. Now those chickens were coming home to roost. It was the middle of June 1989, and the union’s contract with G-P for the workers in the mill had expired, and the prospects for a peaceful round of negotiations or a new and improved contract did not look good to the workers.

The results of the just-expired contract, including its wage rollbacks in exchange for “productivity bonuses,” had been disastrous. G-P had not honored their promise to restore the wages they had cut the previous round of negotiations in 1985. The bonuses had only been paid the previous year and amounted to less than a third of the wage cuts for that year alone. [1]

Stop Cop City Week of Action Showed Movement’s Strength Amid Rampant Repression

By Cody Bloomfield - Truthout, July 1, 2023

Much of the South River Forest, or as activists call it, Weelaunee People’s Park, has been clear cut. In a token gesture to the community, the city talked about opening a handful of trails in slivers of remaining public land. But driving past the original site of the occupation, there isn’t a tree in sight to hang a hammock on. At nearly 5:30 pm on a Saturday, three bulldozers rumble across the land, rearranging splintery piles of red dirt. Shadowbox Studios, also licensed to use the site, has completed construction. Ringing the perimeter of both, cop cars lurk, waiting for signs of trouble. I started counting in my head, then had to switch over to tally marks. Even taking photos is de facto forbidden; I was followed and then pulled over while trying to take photos from the street. By my count, 26 police vehicles were surrounding the site. The only sign of the previous occupation was a downed yellow tower, charred at the base, with “Defend the Atlanta Forest” written in green paint. In a tragic echo of the activists’ thriving mutual aid camps, the cops set up a couple tents of their own, where they could eat snacks out of a few metal trays and retreat to shade no longer provided by the Atlanta forest.

Coming into the week of action that took place June 24-July 1 — a week of protests, targeted boycotts and joyful celebration in nature designed to call national attention to Cop City — the threat of police repression weighed heavily on activists’ minds.

At Saturday’s opening carnival, one Atlantan, who wished to remain anonymous, was hard at work spray painting more t-shirts. Wearing handmade pinecone earrings and blue paint flecked combat boots, he painstakingly laid out foam letters as stencils. His own shirt said, “I can’t protest Cop City.” But upon request, he’d also make “I can protest Cop City” shirts.

“It’s about [addressing] the fear,” he explained. “Having solidarity with the people who are too afraid to protest. There’s the uncertainty and financial risk. It’s hard to evaluate risk — police stormed a protest downtown advertised as a vigil. I’m really rolling the dice about whether people will be holding hands or burning cars, or whether people holding hands will be attacked by police.”

Northeast Ohio Protestors Demand Justice for East Palestine

By x409232 - Industrial Worker, June 20, 2023

At about one o’clock on Saturday, March 11, at least 40 local residents and activists gathered in Lisbon, Ohio to demand justice for East Palestine. They focused their protest on rail giant Norfolk Southern and its role in the derailing of the train on Feb. 3, 2023.

The seat of Columbiana County, Lisbon is less than 20 miles from the now infamous East Palestine. The afternoon air was cold but not biting – typical March weather here in the Mahoning Valley. But the atmosphere was tense. 

People had joined together to show their anger at Norfolk Southern and determination to make them pay for damages. They held signs and distributed info about community actions to get more people involved. They also gave testimony for the news cameras.

I made my way from my home in Salem, just a 10 minute drive down State Route 45. The derailed train had first passed through our town, already on fire, on its way to its eventual wreckage site. It easily could have been my own family evacuating in February–a thought that has kept me up many nights since.

I parked and shuffled from my spot near Fox’s Pizza Den into the town square. There, protesters had already gathered, holding signs for passing traffic. “Make Norfolk Pay,” read one. “You break it, you buy it,” read another.

Railroad Workers United didn’t attend for fear of company retaliation, but sent a solidarity statement read by a DSA member. “Put power back in the hands of the workers!” cried one speaker. “Workers make the world run.”

Now often called Ohio’s Chernobyl, East Palestine previously led a quiet existence. But the town of 4,800 was thrown into disarray, and then despair, by February 3’s 150-railcar “mega-train” derailment. This industrial catastrophe doused the surrounding area with extremely hazardous chemicals. 20 railcars contained deadly compounds, including one million pounds of vinyl chloride.

Residents around the town testified (and still do) of headaches, nose bleeds, dizzy spells, nausea, rashes, difficulty breathing, sore throats, and more. Norfolk Southern and the government specified a one mile hazard zone, but people 30 to 50 miles out–or more–are being affected. According to testimonies at the solidarity action in Lisbon, Norfolk Southern’s “clinic” staff and state officials have told sick residents that these symptoms are “all in their heads.” (Yet CDC inspectors have also fallen sick with the same symptoms. So much for that!)

Chapter 18 : The Arizona Power Lines

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

So now I’m a-sitting in prison,
A jump-suit and flip-flops I wear,
I’ll be out with good time by two-thousand and nine,
Hope there’ll still be some old growth back there,
And the man who looked just like Jesus,
He sure ain’t a sharing my cell,
‘Cause he was a spy for the FB of I,
And they busted Dave Foreman as well.

—Lyrics excerpted from, He Looked a Whole Lot Like Jesus by Darryl Cherney and Mike Roselle, 1990.

“I’m proud to be here fac­ing harassment by the FBI. I think I’m here because I’ve been effective in bringing attention to the crisis on this planet…my involvement will be curbed when I’m (lying) in the desert like Ed Abbey.” [1]

—Dave Foreman, June 1989.

Truth be told, by this time Earth First!ers had already been the victims of state repression. COINTELPRO, the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program, a creation of J. Edger Hoover, had been used since the 1950s to infiltrate and disrupt leftist organizations, often through the use of agent provocateurs, ostensibly to prevent a violent overthrow of the US Government. Most of the charges against such groups for any real crimes have either been found to be groundless, or, as in the case of the Black Panthers for example, many of the crimes were orchestrated by the undercover agents themselves in an attempt to discredit the organization. These efforts usually succeeded, and most of these dissident groups were undermined, rendered ineffective, or destroyed utterly. [2] The judgment of history has generally shown these organizations to be innocent of most of the charges against them, and even if they were considered a menace to society at the time, much of what they believed has eventually become mainstream thought, at least to some degree. [3] Yet, COINTELPRO continued after Hoover’s death well into the 1980s. [4]

Many Earth First!ers naïvely assumed they were immune, or at least highly resistant, to infiltration by provocateurs. This was due, they thought, to their lack of formal structure. Earth First! cofounder Mike Roselle likened them to the Yippies, which he’d been part of in his younger days, stating “You couldn’t infiltrate the Yip­pies. It was like infiltrating a marshmallow.” Judi Bari seemed to agree with this pronouncement, declaring, “There was nothing defined. It was a movement with a way of being and a feeling, and our extreme decentrali­zation makes it difficult for the FBI to even under­stand us, much less infiltrate us,” and, it wasn’t as if Earth First! didn’t take steps to minimize the danger. [5] As Greg King stated,

“We do have to get to­gether and plan our actions, and we do have to be clandestine. Often times we have to worry about the phones we use, and sometimes we have to worry about whether we have an infiltra­tor in the group. We don’t worry about it very much, but some­times you can, especially when you’re dealing with such powerful and insidious people as Charles Hurwitz of the Maxxam Group. [6]

Earth First! was soon about to find out that they had much to learn and plenty to worry about.

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