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Interview With An Earth Strike Organiser

Interview with IWW Member, Sab Cat - Organise, September 12, 2019

Sab is the organiser for Earth Strike UK in the South West. He’s an active and well known voice in Bristol’s syndicalist and Environmental movements. He kindly took the time to meet us down the pub for a chat about Earth Strike and the upcoming Global Climate Strike.

Organise: Could you start by giving us an introduction to Earth Strike?

So, Earth Strike is a grass roots organisation, that is creating a worker led movement to tackle climate change. We believe that the most effective way of doing that is to organise both in unions and in autonomous groups, and build towards a global general strike to shut down capitalism. Thus removing peoples participation in the system that is fundamentally the cause of ecological crisis.

Why should people get involved?

I actually really like this question. I’ve come up with a way of putting it. I think anyone, no matter what their background, whether they are a workplace activist, or environmental activist, or totally new to organising, should take a moment to ask themselves three questions.

Firstly, do you think we’re in an ecological crisis? It doesn’t take very long if you look around to realise we are. Our air is polluted, it’s estimated air pollution kills 300 people a year just in Bristol. The Amazon is on fire, Siberia is on fire. A heck of a lot of shit is on fire. A worrying amount of shit is on fire. Species are disappearing at a rate not seen since the last mass extinction, sea levels are rising. Even the United Nations is freaking out a bit at this point. The science around it has been clear for a long time now. So I think most people would say yes to this, if not well… they need to take a long hard look around them.

Earth Strike – 20 September

By EUC Dan - Bristol IWW, August 14, 2019

A lot has been going on as the Environmental Union Caucus works towards a strike on 20 September. This summer we’ve been picketing and passing out flyers, writing a Green Charter for a just transition for workers, and holding meetings with local union and activist leaders to discuss the mechanics of striking this September.

You can get up to date information for the strike event on the Bristol event page. And download and share our leaflet to help get the word out. For questions about striking in your workplace ask at an upcoming branch meeting, stop by the EUC’s Monday organizing meeting, or email sw@earth-strike.co.uk to contact our local organizer.

Right now, business as usual is not solving climate change. As workers, we have the power to disrupt and change business so that it does. Join us in building that movement. It’s time to strike back!

A Look At the Miners’ Blockade Stopping Coal in its Tracks

By Earth First! Journal - It's Going Down, August 14, 2019

When I heard news of the coal miners’ railroad blockade in Harlan County, I knew it presented a real chance for growth, especially for movements like Earth First! who are at the intersection of various struggles, including eco-defense, anti-capitalism, climate justice, and prison abolition.

Though I spent most of my life in flat swampy Florida, stories of Harlan County, Kentucky, were burned into my head as a teenage anarchist in circles of Earth First!ers and IWW-types singing labor songs by fireside.

One of the most famous of union ballads, “Which Side Are You On?,” about miners’ resistance in the Kentucky coalfields, includes the line, “They say in Harlan County there are no neutrals there…” Even before the development of climate-focused mass movement, it has always been Big Coal vs. the rest of us.

Over the years, I must have heard dozens of knock-offs of that song for campaigns all across the country. We’d replace Harlan with whatever county we found ourselves in at the time, facing off with corporate raiders of all types.

And now the barricades have come full circle: back to Harlan, a locale of near-mythical significance for it’s legacy of resistance to corporate greed. The miners there have stopped a coal train operated by the company Blackjewel LLC, which filed for bankruptcy and secretly stopped paying the miners while they were still working.

IWW WISERA Statement of Support for 20th September Earth Strike

By Administration - IWW WISERA, August 2019

Note: this resolution was passed specifically by the IWW WISERA (UK).

The IWW supports the call for Earth Strike on September 20th 2019 and the international dimensions of the action. The IWW will mobilise its members to take action on the day and will support its members in taking strike action.

The IWW sees Earth Strike as an important contribution to the engagement of unions in the climate crisis and in particular it highlights the need for workers action to confront and destroy capitalism to avoid extinction.

To further these aims the IWW has voted to establish an Environmental Committee to develop the union's policy and educate, agitate and organise for a mass worker-led ecological movement.

A long standing aim of the IWW has been to abolish wage slavery and create a new world where we can live in harmony with the earth. With the climate crisis revolution is now more necessary than ever before. System Change not Climate Change!

In Solidarity
Russ Spring, IWW Secretary (WISE-RA)

#ShutItDown: Organizing to Strike for Climate Justice

By Patrick Young - Rising Tide, July 14, 2019

Throughout the 2018–2019 school year, young people around organized massive school climate strikes to demand that the world’s leaders take immediate action to address climate change. The strikes started first in Sweden, then spread throughout the European Union and around the world. By March, 15 tens of thousands of students in more than 100 countries around the world walked out of school as part of the first Global Climate Strike for Our Future issuing a strong challenge to the world’s leaders. Greta Thunberg, one of the strike’s leaders wrote in an open letter in the Guardian,

“We, the young, are deeply concerned about our future… We will no longer accept this injustice… We demand the world’s decision-makers take responsibility and solve this crisis. You have failed us in the past. If you continue failing in the future, we, the young people, will make change happen by ourselves. The youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.”

Inspired by these bold youth-led actions and motivated by the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, others in the climate movement have issued calls for climate strikes starting as soon as September of 2019. Starting on September 20, the students who have been organizing the weekly climate strikes are launching a major strike and week of actions. Then starting on September 27th, Earth Strike is calling for a general strike demanding immediate climate action from governments and corporations worldwide. WeRise2020, a widespread network of climate action groups across Europe is planning on mobilizing alongside EarthStrike starting on September 27th for four to six weeks of escalated actions before pausing to regroup for another wave of action.

These calls for climate strikes offer an inspiring vision for action at the scale and scope needed to disrupt the entrenched power structures that have created the climate crisis and continually blocked the serious measures needed to combat it. But beyond calls to walk out of school and work, truly effective climate strikes will require a strategy for mass participation and disruption to seriously threaten the entrenched power structures. It won’t be easy but by drawing on the lessons from previous mass strikes and tested organizing principles we believe that it is possible to build mass climate strikes that can offer a credible threat to the governments and corporations that have failed to address the climate crisis.

Unions and Climate Strikes: How climate strikers can involve unions/union workers

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 2019

The following is text from a leaflet you can download intended for Climate and Earth Strike organizers who wish to engage unions, union workers, or workers in general in an effort to invite them to participate in the Climate and Earth Strikes from September 20-27, 2019. There is a generic version and an IWW specific version (below and right; click on the image to view and download a PDF of either or both).

Unions have engaged in strikes for the environment since the 1970s, known as green bans. However:

  • Generic LeafletWhile it is tempting to believe we can create enough buzz to convince enough workers to actually engage in work stoppages (actual workplace strikes) on September 20, 27, or any other date, we cannot guarantee it, even though some unions and union officials have suggested that a “strike” for the climate (e.g. Bruce Hamilton, Vice President of ATU) or at least for the Green New Deal (e.g. the Massachusetts Teacher’s Union) are exactly what are needed.
  • Things can change between now and September 2019 and we cannot predict how that will unfold.
  • We can recall the immigrant workers’ “general strike” on May 1, 2006, in which some unions, notably the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), participated as a possible forerunner, but again, we cannot guarantee it.
  • Anyone can call for a general strike, but actually organizing one is much more difficult, as Jane McAlevey points out here.
  • Some unions may participate, but won’t publicly announce their intent, because doing so could bring swift retribution from the bosses.
  • IWW Specific LeafletWhat we can do is urge workers to participate in the day(s) of action by attending events in the morning (before work), at lunch, or in the evening (after work); we can suggest they use a vacation day (but not a sick day). They can also sign a statement, draft a resolution for their union “in support”, or (if possible) hold a “stop work meeting” to discuss the issue. They can also conduct a social media campaign, such as taking a selfie with a sign saying they support the strike, and include a hashtag (this video from England has similar suggestions).
  • Meanwhile, those organizing day(s) of action can support unions in their day-to-day struggles and they can be prepared to pledge to defend any workers who actually get disciplined for participating in the strike (but this should not be dangled as an offer to pressure workers into joining).

There are a number of “green” unionists who are working on this, including (but not limited to):

The IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus will try and keep a record of who in the labor movement is (or who may be) participating in the strikes. Visit our website and enter these tags in the “search” engine (or enter the same hashtags on our social media pages) for news: #GreenBans; #EarthStrike; #ClimateStrike. Email euc@iww.org for more information.

Video: How to strike for climate in your workplace

By Ian Allinson - RS21, June 19, 2019

On Friday 21 June, youth strikers (took) action for the climate in the UK around the world again. Now they have put out a call for adults to join them in a global general strike for the climate on 27 September, and rank and file trade unionists are taking up the call. In this video, Ian Allinson gives some suggestions about how you can take part, whether you work in a unionised workplace or not.

Maximising solidarity for the youth strikers this Friday will also help build up momentum towards September. What can you do? Can you attend the protests, share solidarity photos or videos, hold lunchtime meetings or rallies outside work?

The Climate Strikes & the Social Strike: Working-Class Environmentalism and Social Reproduction

By Lorenzo Feltrin - We Are Plan C, June 18, 2019

Are the climate strikes “real” strikes? The answer to this question depends on our definition of what a strike is, which is in turn based on our political objectives. It is proposed here that the climate strikes, just like the women’s strikes, are part of the process that we call the “social strike”.

This argument rests on two theoretical assumptions:

  • An expanded conception of work and of the working-class composition;
  • A conception of working-class interests as encompassing both production (the making of commodities) and reproduction (the making of life).[1]

A strike occurs when workers withdraw their labour to pressure private employers or the state to make concessions. If we understand work as exclusively waged employment, then a strike only happens when waged employees perform a workplace-based suspension of production. However, if we adopt a broader definition of work, encompassing all activities – waged and unwaged, productive and reproductive – that are subordinated in both obvious and hidden ways to the accumulation of capital via profit-making, then work is not contained only in formal workplaces but is also diffused throughout society. It is done within households and communities (for a moment, just think of all the cooking, cleaning and caring that we call reproductive labour); through the means of communication (the production of data, emotions, entertainment, ideas that are captured and sold for profit by the internet giants); in schools (the formation of a labour-power adequate to the needs of the economy); etc. The social strike then, refers to a withdrawal of all kinds of labour, including labour in its most socially diffused forms.

A common mischaracterisation of the social strike idea is the accusation that, by giving to unwaged and reproductive labour the same “dignity” traditionally assigned to waged productive labour, it abandons all aspirations to fight the class struggle in workplaces. To the contrary! There is no reason why we should not strive for a social strike that touches upon the whole spectrum of work. The disputes about the primacy of this or that form of work appear as pointless to many of us, with the only concrete outcome of dividing us further. After all, work in capitalism is not a question of dignity but of coerced profit-making and social control, and as such it is a disgrace. Dignity is asserted by workers as resistance, overt or covert, against the toll work takes on life.

Workers and the fight for climate justice

By David Camfield - New Socialist, June 10, 2019

The push for a Green New Deal (GND) that’s become a big topic of political discussion in the US has come north. At the beginning of May 2019, the Pact for a GND was launched publicly in Canada. It was endorsed by a range of organizations and prominent individuals. Behind the scenes, staff from a number of major NGOs including Greenpeace and Leadnow are playing key roles in the initiative.

The Pact calls the GND “a vision of rapid, inclusive and far-reaching transition, to slash emissions, protect critical biodiversity, meet the demands of the multiple crises we face, and create over a million jobs in the process. It would involve the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), dozens of other pieces of legislation, new programs and institutions, and a huge mobilization calling on the creativity and participation of all of us.”

The Pact sets out “two fundamental principles” for a GND: “1. It must meet the demands of Indigenous Knowledge and science and cut Canada’s emissions in half in 11 years while protecting cultural and biological diversity”, and “2. It must leave no one behind and build a better present and future for all of us.”

Over 100 town hall meetings have been held in cities, towns and smaller communities to discuss what should be in a GND, and more are planned. The results of the discussions are supposed to be reported back and used to develop a package of GND policies. It seems that the contents of the package will eventually be decided by some of the people, mostly NGO staff, doing the work of the Pact for a GND Coalition. The Coalition, however, will not be campaigning publicly between June 30th and the federal election due to election advertising regulations. The GND policy package will be launched after the federal election, with the Coalition talking internally about doing some kind of mass mobilization around it.

The Strategic Importance of a Green New Deal Campaign

It does matter what the specific GND policies will be – but not only or mainly for the reason that some anti-capitalists think. Some radicals in the US have dismissively criticized the GND championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic politicians for not targeting the capitalist system itself. In a much more constructive reflection, British socialist Richard Seymour has asked if the GND depends “on magical thinking about technology and capitalism? Are the legislative tools it looks to adequate? Is it internationalist, or can it be? Does it risk further commodifying the natural world?” Seymour suggests “we need the GND plus something else.”

We definitely need accurate assessments of the enormous scale of change needed to carry out a just transition away from a way of organizing society that spews out vast quantities of greenhouse gases. As Samuel Miller McDonald argues, “we first have to be clear-eyed about the challenges involved.”

New Calls For A General Strike In The Face Of Coming Climate Catastrophe!

By Joe Maniscalco - Labor Press, May 13, 2019

New York,, NY – Shut. It. Down. Amalgamated Transit Union VP Bruce Hamilton, this weekend, urged U.S. trade unionists to “learn from our past” and start building towards a general strike in a last ditch effort to avert climate disaster. 

“What we need to understand is that climate struggle is class struggle,” Hamilton told the NY Labor History Association’s Annual Spring Conference at NYU on Saturday. “Workers really do want to engage in radical action with a clear chance of making their lives better.”

Convinced that the market-driven energy sector will never voluntarily make the changes climate scientists insist are necessary to save the planet from overheating — panelists participating in a pair of labor and climate change discussions held over the last few days, instead, called for public ownership and democratic control of the energy sector.

Hamilton called the Military Industrial Complex [MIC] the biggest polluter out there, and said that dates should actually be set when “production is going to stop” and then proceed with “a series of escalating strikes” from there. 

“A tool that working people have used in the past that has been, at least temporarily successful, is a general strike,” Hamilton told LaborPress. “It’s something we should never take off the table.”

A general strike, however, requires a level of unity around the question of climate change and the Green New Deal that presently does not exist inside organized labor.

U.S. trade unionists and their leadership remain split on Green New Deal legislation from Congress Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  [D-14th District] and Senator Ed Markey [D-MA]  — despite language in the proposed resolution that clearly calls for “high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages” and “protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment.” 

As Todd Vachon, a sociologist with the Labor Network for Sustainability told the Metro NY Labor Communications Council’s Annual Convention on Friday, when talk of a “just transition” to 100-percent renewable energy arises — many union workers “just want to punch you in the face.”

Chris Erikson, head of IBEW Local 3, meanwhile, joked that he’s been branded the “communist” of the Building Trades for advocating a “balanced transition from carbon-based fuels.”

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