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The 1970s Struggle to Save the Vic Market

By staff - Earthworker Cooperative, June 2017; artwork by Sofia Sabbagh

Remembering the struggle to save the Vic Market from the threat of redevelopment in the 1970s. Earthworker recognises itself as part of this tradition of defending public and community space. 

The Vic Market is a vital public space in the heart of Melbourne. Many of us who live in and around Melbourne appreciate the Market as a place to work, eat, meet and enjoy company with friends and family.

Not many know that in the 1970s, pressure began to mount for the “redevelopment” of the Queen Victoria Market into a combined trade and hotel precinct. Even fewer know the truth about the role that a militant trade union, namely the Builders Labourers’ Federation (BLF), played in protecting the Vic Market from this threat.

This is an excerpt from Vic Market’s own website: “The separation of the Wholesale Market from the Retail Market lead to a plan to redevelop the Queen Victoria Market site into a trade centre, office and hotel complex in the 1970s. However, public outcry prevented this and resulted in the Market being classified by the National Trust. Later, the Market site and its buildings were listed on the Historic Buildings Register.”

Not a word about a union. Yet if you talk to the older stall holders today they all know people who came before them who were involved in that period, and who are proud of the union-declared ban on development work at the Vic market. This action was only one in a series of bans that the BLF put on development sites that were deemed socially or environmentally harmful. This strategy was collectively termed “Green Bans”.

Here’s some words from Dave Kerin, co-founder of Earthworker and one of those involved in the victory to protect the Vic Market in the 1970s:

“Our community is there; our kids grew up with the Market as a formative community influence; and importantly thanks to John Cummins (previous Victorian secretary of the BLF), the Green Ban remains on the Vic Market. In the early 1990’s the stall holders approached Cummo to discuss yet another proposal to build inappropriately on Market land. Cummo reassured everybody that as far as he was concerned “The Green Ban was never lifted!” The Green Ban still holds and yet goes unacknowledged by the Market’s Administration. This ahistorical presentation of events must change.”

History is repeating, and we now see that the Vic Market is under threat again. But, if we know our history, we can assert with confidence “We’ve saved it before, we’ll save it again!”.

A new concept of unionism: the New South Wales Builders Labourers' Federation 1970-1974 (Meredith Burgmann)

Originally posted by Aunty Jack - Libcom.Org, March 10, 2017

Meredith Burgmann's pioneering work on the history of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Builders Labourers' Federation. During the 1960s and 1970s the NSWBLF introduced limited tenure of office for union officials, tied officials' pay to the minimum industry wage, introduced highly democratic forms of decision-making, and pursued militant industrial tactics. The union was also notable for its aggressive support of other social groups, most notably through the placing of "Green Bans" where members prevented work from taking place on environmentally or socially destructive projects.

Chapters 1-12 deal primarily with the period 1970-1974 when the NSWBLF was at the height of its industrial power and radicalism. The appendixes cover the period from 1950-1970 when rank and file workers struggled to democratise the union and wrest control from the corrupt right-wing forces that then held power.

The Lucas Plan: how Greens and trade unionists can unite in common cause

By David King - Breaking the Frame, November 2, 2016

Forty years ago workers at Lucas Aerospace created a detailed plan to transition out of the arms industry and into green, sustainable products and technologies, writes David King. it never happened, yet the Lucas Plan provides a blueprint for similar initiatives today to build a deep-rooted, broad-based movement for social, economic and ecological progress.

One problem that environmental campaigns against harmful industries such as nuclear power and weapons, fracking, arms, etc. often face is opposition from trade unions and local people concerned about the impact on jobs.

But as an inspiring initiative by workers themselves in the 1970s showed, it doesn't have to be that way. 2016 is the 40th anniversary of the Lucas Plan.

No, there's no connection to the eponymous Green MP! It was a plan by workers at the Lucas Aerospace arms company to convert the company's production to socially useful products. Amongst their ahead-of-their-time ideas were wind turbines, heat pumps, and hybrid car engines, which are now in widespread use.

At a conference in November trade unionists, environmentalists and peace activists are coming together to celebrate the anniversary and take forward more recent workers' plans like the Million Climate Jobs campaign. We hope the conference will give new impetus towards a 'people's transition' to sustainability with social justice.

Socially useful production

The Lucas Plan came about not as the result of activism from the peace movement, but as a positive response by the Lucas workers themselves, to save their jobs, in the face of recession and planned government defence spending cuts. In the early 1970s the workers at Lucas had organised themselves into a cross-union Combine Committee, which had already been extremely effective in fighting redundancies.

The Combine Committee worked on the plan throughout 1975, when it circulated questionnaires to the workforce requesting product suggestions which answered a social need and could be produced using the workforce's existing skills and technology. Emphasis was also to be put on the way the products were to be made, making sure that workers were not to be deskilled in the process of producing them.

150 product ideas were put forward by the workforce. From them, products were selected to fall into six categories: medical equipment, transport vehicles, improved braking systems, energy conservation, oceanics, and telechiric machines.

Public Servants or Corporate Security? An Open Letter to Law Enforcement and National Guard in North Dakota

By Winona LaDuke, Ann Wright and Zoltan Grossman - CounterPunch, November 2, 2016

So you joined law enforcement or the National Guard because you wanted to uphold the law, protect innocent civilians against the bad guys, and help your community in times of need. Instead, they’re having you blockade unarmed people who are trying to hold a prayer vigil, chasing them with armored vehicles and ATVs, raiding their tipis and sweat lodges at gunpoint, and shooting them (and their horses) with pepper spray, concussion grenades, tasers, and rubber bullets. You thought you’d be the cop on the beat or the citizen soldier, and they’ve made you into the cavalry riding in with Custer.

If you signed up for the National Guard, you swore a solemn oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States…against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This is a good time to read the text of that Constitution, including the First Amendment that prohibits abridging the free exercise of religion, or “the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Article Six of the Constitution defines “all Treaties made” (including those with Native nations) as “the supreme Law of the Land.”

The religious rights of Native people are further enshrined in the Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, both of which have been literally plowed under by the Dakota Access Pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners and Enbridge even hired private security goons, who on September 3 unleashed attack dogs on Native people praying to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” On October 27, praying people holding tobacco and sage had their arms stomped until they released the offerings. Impersonal numbers were written on the arms of the arrestees, who were held in dog kennels. Genuine law enforcement or military wouldn’t take sides or turn a blind eye to these shameful violations of constitutional rights, but protect the lives and property of all residents, whether Native or non-Native. If you deny others their humanity, you lose your own humanity.

Yes, some of the water protectors are trespassing on private property and locking themselves to pipeline construction equipment. Their actions are part of a long tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience in the face of tyranny, from Henry David Thoreau to Martin Luther King Jr. Remember the Boston Tea Party, in which rebellious Americans posing as Indians took direct action against British tea taxes? The only real difference at Standing Rock is that they’re not posing as Indians. When we visited there, we met many prayerful people who were justifiably angry—what if an explosive oil pipeline or train threatened your home, your drinking water, or your kids’ school?

Yes, many of the water protectors are from out of state, but they were invited by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, with one of the conditions that they don’t have weapons. The state of North Dakota has invited out-of-state armed police and unaccountable private security thugs, all to defend a corporation from Texas. Some of the police have come as far as Ohio and Wisconsin (and what self-respecting Packers fan would side with a corporate franchise based in Dallas?). Why is that that armed white militia members, from out of state and uninvited, are acquitted in Oregon, but invited, unarmed Native people are being criminalized and assaulted in North Dakota?

The trend of state security forces being turned into private corporate security is hardly unique to North Dakota. In his book Resource Rebels, Al Gedicks documents how Nigeria set up a special internal security force to crush Ogoni protests against oil leaks and pipeline explosions. Shell Oil not only admitted funding and arming the military force, but provided access to its boats and helicopters. The commander of the force wrote that Shell operations would be “impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence.” When Ijaw women led protests against Chevron’s oil pollution, the company flew in police and military personnel that killed unarmed protesters.

Gedicks also documented how in Colombia, “human rights abuses have risen dramatically in the areas with the most intense oil activity,” such as death squad killings and disappearances. BP and Occidental contracted with military units and private security firms to guard their oil pipelines, and BP gave photos and videotape of Indigenous community organizers to Colombian military units, which proceeded to arrest and kidnap them as “subversives.” One army unit even sported a shoulder patch with an oil derrick.

In Ecuador, police and military units have recently repressed protests by Amazon Indigenous communities against oil drilling and oil access roads in the Yasuní rainforest reserve. The repression echoes previous governments’ militarization around ARCO and Texaco drilling operations, including detention without charge and torture. Are these the kind of security forces that you’d be proud to be part of, merely appendages of Big Oil? These governments criminalize dissent not because they’re afraid of illegality; it’s because they’re afraid of legal dissent winning the day. They know, just as North Dakota Governor Dalrymple knows, that if the movements grow and gather support, they have the power to stop oil pipelines from damaging their land and water.

It seems impossible that the mostly-built $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline could be defeated. But that’s what happens when industries go into decline–corporations lose some of their enormous profits. The Bakken oil fracking boom is already starting to bust, from lower oil prices and declining well yields. When the nuclear power industry similarly went bust in the 1980s after the Three Mile Island accident, utilities abandoned mostly-built reactors worth up to $2.5 billion ($6 billion in today’s dollars). Why violate treaties and the Constitution for a pipeline that may carry less oil than anticipated, and eventually none at all? In a so-called “free enterprise” system, it’s not your job to prop up energy companies and guarantee returns for their shareholders. It’s your duty to defend the Constitution.

In North Dakota, National Guard personnel are ordered to staff checkpoints, with concrete barriers and lights modeled on Traffic Control Points in war zones like Iraq. At least one of the private security firms guarding the pipeline, TigerSwan, has also worked in Iraq and Afghanistan. Police officers are given trainings that demonize citizens exercising their First Amendment rights as the enemy, and are deployed to prevent legal demonstrations from taking place, even on public property. Outside agencies come in with hyped-up intel briefings and sensationalized scary videos that blow a few of the pipeline confrontations out of proportion.

But guess what? If the Native water protectors continue to be injured or worse, the conflict will only polarize and escalate, and you (and your department) will be left holding the bag. After the outside briefers fly home, you’ll be left with the public relations disasters, crippling security costs, and expensive lawsuits. And are you absolutely certain that your own department won’t hang you out to dry, by refusing to stand behind its “bad apples” who violently violated constitutional rights?

For Guard personnel, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Article 92) establishes a duty to obey lawful orders, but also a duty to disobey unlawful orders to that are clearly contrary to the Constitution. “I was just following orders” is not a legal defense for harming or violating the rights of civilians. If you feel you are being given an unlawful order to do so, you can legally send an “appeal for redress” to Congress that is protected under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act. You probably know quiet, creative ways to “work-to-rule,” and share vital information about unlawful actions, to help slow down the madness. And if in doubt, you can always kneel and pray for guidance.

You’re probably being kept in a bubble of skewed briefings and biased media coverage. But it is our hope that this letter will be shared widely so it reaches you through your friends and family (DoD Directive 1325.6 allows military personnel to possess one copy of unauthorized printed material that is “critical of government policies or officials”). We hope that you read it with an open mind, and act according to your conscience. As the German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote on the eve of World War II, “General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It smashes down forests and crushes men. But it has one defect: It needs a driver….General, man is very useful. He can fly and he can kill. But he has one defect: He can think.”

The Lucas plan and the politics of technology

By David King - People and Nature, October 26, 2016

Forty years ago workers at Lucas Aerospace created a detailed plan to transition out of the arms industry and into green, sustainable products and technologies, writes David King. it never happened, yet the Lucas Plan provides a blueprint for similar initiatives today to build a deep-rooted, broad-based movement for social, economic and ecological progress.

This year is the fortieth anniversary of The Lucas Plan, the pioneering effort by workers at the Lucas Aerospace arms company to propose alternative socially useful applications of the company’s technology and workers’ skills, whilst retaining jobs. It was an inspiring model of industrial democracy and has played an important role in showing that traditional trade union concerns about jobs losses arising from closures in harmful industries such as arms, nuclear power, etc., can be met. The Plan was hugely influential in the 1980s peace movement, during the crisis at the end of the Cold War.

But although younger generations of leftists, environmentalists and peace activists may never have heard of it, the ideas of the Lucas Aerospace workers are crucially relevant for the challenges we face today, including climate change, militarism and automation/artificial intelligence. A conference in Birmingham in November will both celebrate the achievements of the Lucas workers and, we hope, reinvigorate movements for socially just solutions to those crises.

EcoUnionist News #54

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 30, 2015

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 following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Green Bans:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

Green Bans: How Building Workers Saved Sydney

By Neale Towart - Working Life, June 10, 2015

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 worldwide movement to put the environment at the centre of politics was given a huge push in the early-1970s by the actions of a most unlikely group – the NSW Builders’ Labourers’ Federation.

‘Green Bans’ was the term BLF secretary Jack Mundey gave to the actions of the workers in combination with residents in Sydney and elsewhere to challenge the prevailing ethos of development for development’s sake, at any cost to the environment or communities.

The first Green Ban, on Kelly’s Bush in Hunters Hill, set the agenda.

The suburb was and is a wealthy one. The developer AV Jennings was keen to turn the bushland into flats at great profit. The local residents opposed and opposed in every way they could, using the established forms of democratic action, all to no avail.

One of the ‘Battlers for Kelly’s Bush’ Christina Dawson put it well: “being politically naïve, [we]”. . . had infinite faith in the democratic process”.

Event: Towards an Ecological General Strike: A Film Screening and Discussion about Revolutionary Ecology, Labor, and Anarchism.

By x363464 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 20, 2014

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.

Join us Saturday Night for a Movie, Presentation, and Discussion about Revolutionary Ecology, Green Anarchism, and Eco-Syndicalism! - 8:00 PM Saturday, September 20th @ The Base! 1302 Myrtle Ave.

The IWW Environmental Unionist Caucus will be presenting the film "Rocking The Foundations" which is about the Green Bans movement from 1971-1974 where Building Trades Workers halted $18 Billion in development projects to fight Gentrification, the destruction of the Earth, and displacement of Indigenous communities.

After, there will be a presentation about the historical and recent direct actions to unite the Labor movement and Radical Environmentalists towards revolutionary /insurrectionary ends.

Following that will be a discussion about our visions and strategies for Eco-revolution.

There will be relevant literature for free or donation.

Ironworkers Speakout On Wildcat Strike At SF 222 2nd Street Project In San Francisco

By Steve Zeltser  - Labor Video Project, September 12, 2014

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.

Ironworkers in San Francisco spoke out about why they went out on a wildcat and how they view their work. Also other supporters, including expelled Carpenters union member John Reimann--who led a similar wildcat of Carpenters in 1999--joined them on the picket line on September 12, 2014.

TURKEY: Construction Workers Riot Against Poor Labor Conditions

From Revolution News - September 8, 2014

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.

workersturk1

A group of construction workers have launched a protest over poor labor conditions in Istanbul’s Halkalı neighborhood, halting their work and blocking a busy highway. Workers said many of them had health issues due to the inhumane working conditions. They also said they couldn’t receive wages regularly and added that their meal contained parasites and worms. The workers brandished signs and shouted slogans demanding the management’s resignation. Some angry laborers also set various construction materials on fire, partially blocking traffic in the outer western suburb. Riot police were deployed to the area as were firetrucks, which extinguished the blaze. The protests reportedly lasted for around three hours.

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The working conditions of construction workers in hundreds of job sites in Istanbul have come under the spotlight after the September 6 disaster that cost 10 workers their lives. Officials from the construction company responsible for the field, Torunlar, rejected all accusations and even placed blame on the workers, prompting further anger. Worker unions and critics have repeatedly stressed that most employees in Turkey were made to work and live under unhealthy conditions and that the government is most responsible for this.

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