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Our Plan for May Day — All out to fight for the working class!

Statement by United Rank and File in San Francisco - April 30, 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.

On International Workers’ Day, Thursday, May 1 (yes in two days) join us as we take our fight to “Smash the 2 Gate System” directly to those who profit from it.

If it is at all possible for you to be there at 5am, please do! We will need numbers in the beginning for the action to last and be successful.

If you cannot be there at 5am, get there as early as you can. Use this rough schedule to find us, and follow @UnitedRnF on Twitter to get updates. Obviously, some of this may require adjustment due to circumstances that morning but generally you should be able to meet up with us along the way.

Here is the plan:

5am – Meet at 16th and Mission

We will have United Rank and File T-Shirts and picket signs for folks, donations accepted but not required. Otherwise, wear work attire but comfortable walking shoes. Please, do not wear construction union specific (shirts/hats with bugs, etc.) apparel so as not to give the implication that this was organized by any construction union officialdom but by rank and file workers ourselves.

5:30am – March to 2 Gate Jobs

If you are not able to make there before we leave 16th and Mission, walk to Market and Guerrero. Cross Market onto Laguna. Walk a few blocks up Guerrero. Turn right, walk one block to Octavia. Walk back toward Market on Octavia. If you walk this route, you should see and/or hear us someplace nearby. There are a handful of 2 Gate jobs in that area and we will be at one or more of them.

6am – Set up pickets at 2 gate job(s)

We will have a flag at each location that we need to be at. We plan to have well organized pickets. Please know that we have a process for making decisions at this action should we need to adjust our actions. We will stay at any given location until an outcome has been determined.

10:40am – March to the War Memorial Performing Arts Center

201 Van Ness Ave. The Herbst building is currently undergoing a complete remodel. They are using the 2Gate System. A nonunion subcontractor is doing around 10 million dollars in work. This is unheard of in downtown San Francisco.

11am – Rally at the War Memorial Performing Arts Center

We will have a short speakout against the 2Gate System and building a sustained and united fight for the working class.

11:30 – March to City Hall to meet up with the Building Trades Council’s rally.

END – After this there are other rallies in the Bay Area that people should consider attending. If you are hosting or know of one, please comment with the information. 

As construction workers, are directly affected by the 2Gate system and so we strive to collectively lead this effort as organized rank and file workers. This is one part a larger struggle that affects all working people and for that reason we call on all members of the working class to come out and join us.

We also realize that solidarity goes both ways. Members of United Rank and File have gone to many other actions in solidarity and plan to continue in the future as an organization.

At this action, we ask that everyone comes in true solidarity. We ask that you be as militant as we are. We are respectful of everyone’s choice to protest in the ways that they feel are necessary at times but we ask that everyone coming to this action help make it a success in the using the tactics and strategies that we have worked very hard to organize.

We look forward to building United Rank and File and class solidarity with everyone!

See you on May Day!

Call to Action – May 1, International Workers Day

Statement by United Rank and File in San Francisco - April 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.

United Rank & File Construction Workers Take A Stand on May Day

Join us as we return to a proud history of direct action to fight to protect our own livelihoods, to raise up and organize all workers and against laws that restrict us. 

On May 1, International Workers Day, we will be gathering at 16th and Mission at 5am to protest the 2 Gate System. This is a system that contractors and developers have created in order to impose the restrictive, discriminatory and repressive anti-worker laws of the Taft-Hartley act on construction unions.

San Francisco appears, on the surface, to be recovering from the economic disasters of recent years. There are cranes all over town and buildings are popping up everywhere. The people building these buildings are unable to afford the luxuries that many supposedly offer. We are also growing further and further from the chance of ever living a reasonable distance from the city in which we work. Most of us have long been unable to afford to live within the limits of the city we built. We see new wealth coming into SF all the time and yet we have gotten modest or no raises.

Many of us are lucky to have collective bargaining. We look forward to contracts coming up during this building boom. It seems the time has finally come for us to get the raises that we have lacked in the last few years while the cost of living has skyrocketed. We are looking forward to the opportunity to dig out of the financial holes we are in after years of unemployment, losing insurance for our families, losing houses and having to raid our retirement accounts to make ends meet. Now, contractors and developers need us badly and will have to give us a decent raise next contract, right? Maybe not…

Historically in San Francisco a vast majority of building has been done by workers who together, through their unions, bargain with all of their employers for a fair and equal wage rate for all of the labor done by their craft. This is still the case but we see other employers winning work contracts in SF at an alarming rate. Building has increased suddenly in San Francisco but it has disproportionately increased for the non-signatory contractors. There is an unprecedented amount of building being done by contractors who do not agree to the standards of pay and conditions that workers have fought for.

This gives signatory employers (those who employ workers under collective agreements) a powerful bargaining chip as we go into negotiations during this boom. They will argue that they need to stay competitive or the “union contractors” (and therefore workers) will all lose jobs. “Staying competitive” they argue, means that they cannot give raises, may even need some back, in order to compete. Suddenly, the snowball that has killed all the reasonably livable jobs across the country is being rolled around in San Francisco, the last bastion of hope for a decent living for those of us with blue collars.

The AFL-CIO's Keystone Pipeline Dreams

By x344543, x356039, x362102, and x363464 - February 9, 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.

The IWW maintains that we must not only abolish wage slavery, we must also, "live in harmony with the Earth". The same economic forces that subject the working class to wage slavery are those that are destroying the planet on which we all live. Logically, if the business unions are not fighting to abolish wage slavery, it follows that they will be unable to take a meaningful stand on environmental issues.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that the AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka has officially declared his support for the Keystone XL Pipeline, specifically stating, “there’s no environmental reason that [the pipeline] can’t be done safely while at the same time creating jobs.”

He has further gone on to speak in favor of increasing natural gas exports, opining,

“Increasing the energy supply in the country is an important thing for us to be looking at…all facets of it ought to be up on the table and ought to be talked about. If we have the ability to export natural gas without increasing the price or disadvantaging American industry in the process, then we should carefully consider that and adopt policies to allow it to happen and help, because God only knows we do need help with our trade balance.”

Do we really need to elaborate on the foolishness in suggesting that Keystone XL is either good for the environment or creating jobs, because it most certainly is neither, and we can readily prove that.

To begin with, it’s not the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline itself that’s the primary issue, but what will inevitably be transported through it that is the bone of contention. Nobody disputes that it will transport oil extracted from Canadian tar sands mining, and such oil will be anything but green.

Cole Strangler's article in In These Times, Angering Environmentalists, AFL-CIO Pushes Fossil-Fuel Investment Labor’s Richard Trumka has gone on record praising the Keystone pipeline and natural gas export terminals, lays out a fairly strong case that Trumka’s claims are false, stating:

The anti-KXL camp has long argued that construction of the pipeline will facilitate the extraction of Alberta’s tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. Many also oppose Keystone XL on the grounds that its route crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground sources of fresh water. “We invite President Trumka to come to Nebraska and visit with farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are directly put at risk with the Keystone XL pipeline,” says Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, which has organized local opposition against the pipeline. “To say the pipeline will not harm our water is ignoring real-life tragedies witnessed by all of us with the BP explosion, the Enbridge burst pipe into the Kalamazoo River and tar sands flowing down the street in Mayflower, Arkansas.”

“Brendan Smith, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, a group that works with labor unions and environmental groups to fight climate change, took issue with Trumka’s argument that Keystone would create jobs.  “There is plenty of work that needs to done in this country, and we can create far more jobs fixing infrastructure and transitioning to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” says Smith. “Why build a pipeline that will significantly increase carbon emissions and will hurt our economy when there is a more robust and sustainable jobs agenda on the table?”

However, the author’s critique barely scratches the surface.

No Thanks Resistance Festival this Weekend (November 28 - 30) at the Albany Bulb!

By x363464 - November 25, 2013

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.

Come join us for The No Thanks Resistance Festival and three day Camp-out to defend the Albany Bulb from Eviction! See the Flyer for the schedule of events! Schedule updated to the event page tonight!

FB Event Page - http://www.facebook.com/events/405870986212443/

FB Event Page for the No Thanks Anti-Colonial Potluck - http://www.facebook.com/events/547036912048234/

FB Event Page for the Artwalk of Friday and Saturday! - http://www.facebook.com/events/587362084664394/

To help organize, distribute flyers, and or propose a workshop send an email to nothanksresistancefestival [at] gmail.com

Workshop proposals should include if you want to do it on Friday or Saturday, What time between 10 AM and 3 PM, things you need from organizers, and the title of your workshop!

Existing workshops include: Know your rights training - Labor, the Working Class, and Housing - Towards An Ecological General Strike - Tarsands Blockade - Direct Action Training - The IWW EUC, The BLF Green Bans, and Working Class Strategies to Halt Gentrification and Ecological Destruction - ect.

A Workers’ ‘Green Ban’ on Fracking?

Ira Berkovic of Workers' Climate Action reports from a workshop at this summer's anti-fracking protest camp - Originally Published at Red Pepper Blog, 9 September 2013

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.

A workshop on 'work and transition' at the Reclaim The Power protest camp in Balcombe, Sussex, was part of an ongoing conversation between the labour and climate movements. It is a conversation which, in Britain, has involved the historic links between the Reclaim the Streets movement and striking dock workers in the 1990s.  Lucas Aerospace workers’ transition plan in the 1970s, which proposed to repurpose their socially and ecologically unsustainable factories to produce socially necessary goods.

With the climate movement reviving in the context of the government’s newfound mania for expanding fossil fuel energy generation and 'extreme energy' solutions like fracking, it is a conversation which must be had again with a new generation of activists.

The workshop aimed to give activists who might not have engaged with the labour movement before to learn about trade unions and workers’ organisations, and to discuss questions around workers’ agency in fighting climate change and the potential for worker-led models of transition.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of transport union TSSA, spoke about the links between the fight for a top-quality, publicly-owned transport system and the fight against climate change. Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) assistant general secretary Chris Baugh introduced the Campaign Against Climate Change’s 'One Million Climate Jobs' pamphlet, a campaigning publication which argues for investment in and expansion of 'green collar' jobs in sustainable, socially-necessary industries like transport, social housing construction, and renewable energy.

PCS officer Clara Paillard recounted her experiences as a workplace environmental rep fighting for sustainability in the workplace, making links with local environmental campaigners to fight the construction of a privately-operated, for-profit waste incinerator in their local area. Green Party activist Derek Wall discussed models from economic theory, including Karl Marx and Elinor Ostrom, which could help develop a vision for democratic collectivism and a sustainable future.

I spoke to tell the story of Workers’ Climate Action (WCA), a direct-action solidarity network active between 2006 and 2010 which aimed to bring a working-class political approach to the climate movement and radical ecological politics to the labour movement. WCA sought to make links with workers in high-emissions industries like energy and aviation, because we knew that a conversation about transition was only possible from within a framework of basic solidarity with workers’ day-to-day struggles.

Small-group discussion in the workshop covered a range of topics. It would be disingenuous to deny the difficulty of discussing the potential power of aviation, construction, and energy workers in a workshop made up of participants who had little or no experience of working in such industries. However, with participants working as teachers, journalists, and in local government – all sectors and industries with high levels of trade union organisation – there was plenty of opportunity to discuss applying workplace and union-focused models of environmental activism to participants’ own workplaces and experiences, rather than seeing them solely as something we can engage some alien worker 'other' with.

Green Unionism in Theory and Practice

By Dan Jakopovich - Synthesis/Regeneration 43 (Spring 2007)

A new current in the global anti-capitalist movement has begun to develop in the last few decades. Rather than unfolding into a cohesive, self-assured and well received movement, it has largely existed on theoretical and practical margins, thwarted by dogmatic party-political, “affinity group” and NGO dominance, yet periodically reappearing as the “star of the day” wherever favorable socio-economic conditions or visionary initiatives gave it the broad attention and determination it needed to flourish.

The biggest hope for the greening of the labor movement lies in the revival of this decentralized, grassroots unionism. The parochialism, corruptibility and ingrained authoritarianism of the union officialdom have been shown time and time again, and only a bottom-up, rank-and-file approach to union work can seriously aid environmental protection and wider social change.

A basic tenet of green unionism is that labor struggles and ecological struggles are not necessarily separate, but have a potential to be mutually reinforcing. The basis for a working relationship between differing strands is the unity-in-diversity approach to organizing a mutually respectful and supportive alliance.

Especially since the late 60s and early 70s, partly as a response to working-class deradicalization and often an integration of traditional “workers’ organizations” — statist, bureaucratic political parties and business unions — there has been a massive practical and theoretical retreat from questions of class and especially class struggle, particularly in the “new social movements” which have gained in popularity after the second world war.

With the onset of neoliberal globalization, there has been a reversal to previously held positions, decomposition of people’s political “representation” (especially in social-democratic parties), a deterioration of workers’ rights and living conditions. A six-hour working day even seemed more plausible at the beginning of the 20th century (and indeed, some called for its implementation) than it does today.

Parallel to the de facto progressive deterioration of working conditions, depoliticization of the workplace has also continued, along with a general activist culture largely still hostile to labor issues (although this has partly been changing recently, especially due to the “new organizing model” exemplified by the Justice for Janitors campaign).

A dynamic understanding of people as workers and workers as activists is missing. For several decades now, there has occurred a shift of the concept of oppression from production relations (as the material basis for exploitation) to consumption, especially among many mainstream Greens who would have us confined to our roles as consumers, where we are inherently relatively powerless and almost always disorganized. This approach, as commonly understood and implemented, produces an individualistic and moralistic substitute for sustained political activity.

It is important to recognize the central importance of class and the revolutionary implications of class struggle at the point of production. People are in their materially most powerful role as producers of goods and services, capable of withholding labor, and also democratically taking over the means of production and distribution.

It is the material conditions of life which restrict and deform peoples’ humanity; therefore the struggle against those conditions also has to be concrete:

The constitution of new identities as expressive human beings in transcendence of alienated class identities implies a successful struggle over the very structures of domination, regimentation, hierarchy and discipline which exist concretely within the workplace. One cannot assume that the job site will simply wither away with the flowering of a new identity. [1]

Murray Bookchin discards the syndicalist strategy as narrow economism [2], and while it is true that the syndicalist movement has in fact often been guilty of “cultural workerism,” productivism and the idealization of the working class and its role in society, especially in the past, this has been widely challenged in and by the movement itself, and is only a secondary tendency now.

Not believing in the future of the workplace as an arena of political and social change, Bookchin calls instead for a sole focus on the “community” (as though communities exist without workplaces or classes). When talking about his libertarian municipalism, Bookchin conveniently forgets it is precisely the syndicalists who have the strongest and most successful tradition of community organizing among all explicitly libertarian currents and wider. [3]

However, democratic unionism from below is not inconsistent with the conversion to a bioregional structure consisting of self-governing, socialized units of producers and consumers, and in a system of production for need, not profit, rank-and-file unions might be able to provide the necessary councilist infrastructure necessary for decentralized decision-making and distribution, at least in the transitional period.

Green syndicalists insist that overcoming ecological devastation depends on shared responsibilities towards developing convivial ways of living in which relations of affinity, both within our own species and with other species, are nurtured (See Bari, 2001). They envision, for example, an association of workers committed to the dismantling of the factory system, its work discipline, hierarchies and regimentation — all of the things which Bookchin identifies (Kaufmann and Ditz, 1992; Purchase, 1994; 1997b). This involves both an actual destruction of some factories and their conversion towards “soft” forms of small, local production. [4]

Building the new society in the shell of the old entails changing who controls production, what is produced and how it is produced. This can be achieved only through democratizing the workplaces and empowering the communities. “The questions of ownership and control of the earth are nothing if not questions of class.” [5]

A Perspective on Sydney’s Green Ban Campaign, 1970-74

Burgmann, V. - Power and Protest, 1993

The background to the green-ban struggles is the story of the destruction of Australia's major cities in the 1960s and early 1970s, when vast amounts of money were poured into property development: giant glass and concrete buildings changed the face of our cities and valuable old buildings were razed in the process. The interests of home buyers and architectual heritage lost out against often purely speculative construction. At one stage, there was ten million square feet of vacant office space in Sydney's business district, while people looking for their first homes or flats could find nothing.

In 1971, the New South Wales branch of the Builders Labourers' Federation (BLF) decided this destruction should stop, even though they were the people employed to do it. The New South Wales branch was led by three men who soon became notorious. They were either loved or hated – Jack Mundey, Bob Pringle and Joe Owens. They argued that:

In a modern society, the workers' movement, in order to play a really meaningful role, must engage in all industrial, political, social and moral struggles affecting the working people as a whole…In this context, building workers are beginning to demand of governments, employers and architects that buildings which are required by the people should have priority over superfluous office buildings which benefit only the get-rich-quick developers, insurance companies and banks.

The union insisted priorities be reversed, that the construction of flats and houses was more important than piling up empty or under-used commercial office buildings. They claimed the right to intervene in the decision-making process and exert a degree of workers' control, determined as they were to use their labour in a socially useful manner. The campaign maintained that 'all work performed should be of a socially useful and of an ecologically benign nature'.

The movement got under way in 1971 when a group of women from the fashionable suburb of Hunter's Hill sought the help of the NSW BLF to save Kelly's Bush, the last remaining open space in that area, where A.V.Jennings wanted to build luxury houses. They had already been to the local council, the mayor, the local state member and the Premier, all to no avail. The union asked the Hunter's Hill women to call a public meeting at Hunter's Hill, to show that there was community support for the request for a union ban on the destruction of Kelly's Bush. Over 600 people attended the meeting, which formally requested a ban. This ban was called a green-ban, to distinguish it from a black-ban, a union action to protect the economic interests of its own members, in this case the union was going against the immediate economic interests of its members for the sake of a wider community and environmental interest.

1976: The fight for useful work at Lucas Aerospace

by Kevin Doyle - Based on an article first published by Workers Solidarity in the Summer of 1988, Workers Solidarity Movement

In the 1970s workers at the Lucas Aerospace Company in Britain set out to defeat the bosses plans to axe jobs. They produced their own alternative "Corporate Plan" for the company's future. In doing so they attacked some of the underlying priorities of capitalism. Their proposals were radical, arguing for an end to the wasteful production of military goods and for people’s needs to be put before the owners’ profits.

Military Matters

Lucas Aerospace in the early 70s was one of Europe's largest designers and manufacturers of aircraft systems and equipment. It had over 18,000 workers on its payroll, spread over 15 factories, throughout Britain. Nearly half of its business was related to military matters - in production of combat aircraft and the Sting Ray missile system for NATO (pictured, above). But it also had small interests in medical technologies.

The company had been formed into the size it was through the take-overs and amalgamations of smaller size companies. It had been backed by the Government of the day who wanted a strong and efficient aerospace company to compete with the other European manufacturers. As part of achieving this Management planned to rationalise the whole 15-factory operation into a more integrated and streamlined company. This would mean lay-offs for at least 20% of the workforce and the closure of some areas. The prize for the owners of Lucas in doing this would be a much greater involvement in the military markets where profit rates were very high compared with other industries.

Poor Wages

The intentions of the company owners and management did not go unnoticed by the Lucas workers or their Shop Stewards Combine Committee (SSCC). The origins of the SSCC was in the strong trade union tradition at the time in Britain though particularly in the aerospace industry. Over a period of years the workers in the different unions had seen the need to co-ordinate their negotiations against a single management so as to avoid poor wage increases as one section was paid off at the expense of the others. So they formed shop stewards committees that bridged their different union memberships. As the company had grown bigger these shop steward committees from different areas also linked up to carry on the same idea of meeting the management with a single voice for all workers in any negotiations.

Video: ROCKING THE FOUNDATIONS - A HISTORY OF THE GREEN BANS MOVEMENT

Documentary Film - 1985

For the full documentary, please visit this page (YouTube).

The film "Rocking the Foundations" is about the Builders Labourers' Federation of Australia who fought victoriously for their rights as a union, the rights of indigenous people, against gentrification, and in defense of the environment. They did this by performing the first of what are now known as the "green bans" or an environmental strike.

Green Bans: Worker Control and the Urban Environment

By Mark Haskell - Industrial Relations, May 1977

Australian trade unions, have long made effective use of the “black ban,” that is, the tactic of boycotting employers and others in order to improve wages or working conditions or to implement political goals. During the Indonesian struggle for independence shortly after World War II, longshoremen placed bans on shipments to and from the Netherlands, More recently arms shipments to South Vietnam were boycotted and an Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) black ban was imposed on French shipping to protest nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific.

In 1971, the black ban was transposed into the “green ban” when the New South Wales branch of the Builder’s Labourers Federation (BLF) agreed to boycott a construction project in Hunter’s hill, an upper-middle class area on the Paramatta River, an arm of Sydney Harbor. In September 1970, residents of that area had organized to oppose the construction of 25 luxury homes in Kelly’s Bush, an eight-acre bushland tract which had been preserved in its natural state. The tract had been zoned as “residential” just one year earlier despite widespread community opposition. After unsuccessful attempts to interest the state in purchasing the land for recreational purposes, the newly organized group, the “Battlers for Kelly’s Bush,” approached the New South Wales BLF to request that they not work on the construction site. Construction was halted and, despite the subsequent demise of the New South Wales branch in 1975, this green ban remains in force.

Thus emerged an unlikely collaboration between community groups struggling against drastic neighborhood changes and traditionally job oriented trade unionists - a merger which has often been labeled “unique” and may, in fact, have been the product of a special set of circumstances. On the other hand, the green bans do have the possibility of becoming an example for others. This paper is an attempt to analyze this movement for the purpose of providing an explanation for its appearance at a particular time and place. Part of that explanation may lie in the nature of the union which was most heavily involved, i.e., in the characteristics of its leaders, its members, and the way in which the union’s affairs were managed. Hence, the line of questioning will focus on the New South Wales BLF-i.e. why this union adopted this unconventional tactic to achieve this unconventional goal.

Read the entire document (PDF File).

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