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An Open Letter to my Fellow Railroad Workers

By Jen Wallis - Railroad Workers United, September 4, 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 author wants to make it clear that her views are not necessarily those of her union, Railroad Workers United, or the members of either.

Dear fellow rails:

On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, five residents of Seattle and Everett working with Rising Tide Seattle, stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett by erecting a tripod-structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of a mile-long oil train.

Just to be clear, I had nothing to do with the action. Direct actions are the result of affinity groups, who plan these things completely amongst themselves within their own organizations. All I did was share the message of how dangerous one-person crews would be. I'm thrilled that they listened, but I'm actually opposed to most formal coalitions. All of the ones I've been involved with have ended by either imploding because of the hostile factions they inevitably splintered into, or became appropriated by the bureaucrats. I'm more inclined to simply keep lines of communication open between our respective movements, but personally it goes much deeper than that.

Every age has their growing pains. Growing as a society means that those who advocate social or economic change are invariably encumbered with a lot of “isms” or “ists” for their beliefs. More than 100 years ago, and for centuries before that, it was not universally accepted that slavery was wrong. If you believed that it was, you were labelled a “abolitionist”, along with the other colorful labels that went with it. If you helped slaves gain their freedom, you went to jail. Now it is universally accepted that enslaving people is wrong.

100 years ago, it was not universally accepted that women should have the right to vote. If you believed that women had the right to vote, you were called a “suffragist”, along with all of the labels and misconceptions that went along with it. Believing in it often landed you in jail. It was a controversial opinion to be held in that era, but in America, it is now universally accepted.

Just 50 years ago, if you believed that Jim Crow laws were wrong, you were called a “civil rights activist”, along with all of the horrible names that went along with that. If you believed that segregation was wrong, you often went to jail. Now at least it is not directly advocated, though we still have a ways to go.

All of these changes, which are now universally accepted as truths, came about as the result of numerous acts of non-violent civil disobedience and direct actions. The actual legislation came about much later as the result of public pressure.

Climate change is not a myth. It is scientifically proven, and many of the effects of the causes we have made in the last 30 years are irreversible. We have the opportunity to stop the destruction, but we are well past the time to act on it. It’s upon us right now. It is our obligation to our children and their children’s children to stand up and say, “Enough! This is no longer sustainable for our planet!”.

Whose Consumption is Killing the Planet?

By Ragina Johnson and Michael Ware - Socialist Worker, September 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 CONSEQUENCES of human-induced climate change are dire. Crop failures will increase. Severe weather and rising sea levels will wreak more havoc. Species are being wiped out by the hour--and the continued existence of our own is threatened.

Even without the threat of climate change, we live in a world of vast inequality, where the majority of the world's population struggles to meet basic needs like putting food on the table--while corporations refuse to pay living wages, and decent health care and housing remain unaffordable for many, when there is access at all.

As of 2010, 2.4 billion people in the world were living on less than $2 a day--more than one-third of the world's population. Close to 1 billion people live on less than a $1 a day on average. Nearly 870 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, according to UN standards--around one in every eight people on the planet.

The growing numbers and size of urban slums throughout the world have typified this poverty in the modern era. One-third of the global urban population lives in what are classified as slums--6 percent of the urban population in developed countries and a staggering 80 percent in developing countries. Most slum dwellers live without clean water or other infrastructure.

Yet some people would have us think that the growing ranks of the poor are the real source of environmental stress and food shortages, rather than demand from those who rule in the Global North.

This is simply not true. According to environmental writer Fred Pearce, the poorest 3 billion people are responsible for only 7 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases, while the richest 7 percent produce half of all emissions.

Clearly, the world's poor are not driving climate change. Food shortages have more to do with the price of food, not its availability.

Join the People’s Climate March

By Daniel Adam - Socialist Action, September 3, 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 People’s Climate March, scheduled for Sept. 21 in New York City, is poised to live up to its promise of mobilizing the largest number of people that the U.S. has ever seen against the mass production of greenhouse gases. With more than 1000 endorsing organizations, buses scheduled to leave from more than 200 locations, alongside chartered trains (including three leaving from Connecticut and one from San Francisco), over 200,000 Facebook invites, and countless meetings and events around the country, the march will create major advances for the climate movement.

By marching, participants will affirm for all to see that, at root, climate change is not a matter of isolated individual consumer decisions but of institutional forces that refuse to respond to the will of the majority. They will show that climate activists can go beyond local organizing on dispersed projects and can come together to articulate their vision.

The absence of mass demonstrations for many years kept the movement from forging a visible political expression—until the marches against the Keystone XL pipeline in 2012 and 2013. This had allowed climate change to appear like a fringe issue of the relatively well-to-do, or simply something beyond the scope of human intervention. September will mark an advance from the fringes to the mainstream, and from paralysis to action.

In particular, the participation of more than 30 unions presents a ground-breaking opening for labor and the climate movement. Endorsers include the Communication Workers of America, the Amalgamated Transit Union, 32BJ, the United Federation of Teachers, Transport Workers Union 100, US Labor Against the War, and other formations including machinists, electrical workers, farm workers, and a variety of food and service workers.

The participation of unions is a crucial question, given their members’ social position and ability to shift social production from a greenhouse-dependent one to a renewable, even waste-free, one. Such potential was raised at one presentation for a union meeting organized by the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, where participants showed impatience to go beyond discussing the evidence of climate change to working out the steps needed to end it. “We can build anything; what do you want us to build?” one worker asked.

To be sure, the union movement is still largely divided over climate questions. For instance, Pennsylvania mineworker unions have recently organized against milquetoast attempts to reduce coal-plant emissions, in an attempt to preserve their jobs. This strategy of aligning with the bosses to protect job security will only be successfully challenged as the movement grows powerful enough to realistically demand a secure livelihood and employment for workers affected by the transition to renewables and as the movement becomes capable of struggling independently of the boss class.

Still, September’s march will mean a considerable step forward for efforts inside the labor movement to bring climate change to the fore. It will also make considerable progress in awakening climate activists outside the labor movement to the importance of allying with organized workers.

IWW United Campaign Workers Demand: "Do the Right Thing, Nature Conservancy!"

By the United Campaign Workers of the IWW - September 8, 2014

IWW members and supporters handed out the following leaflet today at a rally in support of IWW Canvassers Union (for more details see IWW Canvassers Strike Over Unpaid Wages):

Chapter 26 : They Weren’t Gonna Have No Wobbly Runnin’ Their Logging Show

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

Now Judi Bari is a union organizer,
A ‘Mother Jones’ at the Georgia-Pacific Mill,
She fought for the sawmill workers,
Hit by that PCB spill;
T. Marshall Hahn’s calling GP shots from Atlanta,
Don Nelson sold him the union long ago,
They weren’t gonna have no Wobbly,
Running their logging show;
So they spewed out their hatred,
And they laid out their scam,
Jerry Philbrick called for violence,
It was no secret what they planned…

—lyrics excerpted from Who Bombed Judi Bari?, by Darryl Cherney, 1990

Meanwhile, in Fort Bragg, the rank and file dissent against the IWA Local #3-469 officialdom grew. Still incensed by Don Nelson’s actions over the PCB Spill, and not at all satisfied with a second consecutive concessionary contract, the workers now had yet another reason to protest: a proposed dues increase. Claiming that the local faced a financial crisis, the embattled union leader proposed raising the members’ dues from $22.50 per month to $29, an increase that amounted to more than a 25 percent rise. Ironically, IWA’s Constitution limited the monthly dues rate to 2½ times the wages of the lowest paid worker. The local’s financial shortage had resulted from a decrease in the wages and the loss members due to G-P’s outsourcing logging jobs to gyppos and automation of jobs in the quad mill. [1] The usual suspects readied themselves to blame “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs” once again.

Nelson presented his proposal in the form of a leaflet posted on the employee bulletin boards and distributed in the employee break rooms throughout the G-P Mill in Fort Bragg. The leaflet stated, “we are voting to maintain the ability of our union to function.” A group of rank and filers, however, led by a mill maintenance janitor, named Julie Wiles and her coworker Cheryl Jones, as well as some of the eleven workers affected by the PCB spill and others who had been most dissatisfied with the recent round of contract negotiations, responded by producing a leaflet of their own opposing the dues increase. Their leaflet stated, “Last year Union officers’ wages plus expenses were $43,622. This year they were $68,315. That’s a whopping 69 percent increase! Considering our lousy 3 percent pay raise, how can the Union ask us for more money?” The rank and file dissidents’ leaflets were quickly removed from the employee bulletin boards. [2] This wasn’t to be the worst of it, though.

California’s Pension, 55th Largest Fossil Fuel Company in the World

By Brett Fleishman, Senior Analyst at 350.org, with later edits by Jay Carmona, Community Divestment Campaign Manager - Fossil Free, September 3, 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.

California is the 8th Largest Economy in the World, And California’s pension fund is the 55th Largest Fossil Fuel Company in the World.

Today, Fossil Free Indexes’ research team published a deep dive analysis on CalPERS’ holdings of the Top 200 coal, oil and gas companies by CO2 emissions potential.

California’s pension fund isn’t really a fossil fuel company, or a company at all; but they currently finance enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to put them well within the top 100 oil and gas reserve holders and also the top 100 coal reserve holders.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is the nation’s largest pension fund, with a $300 billion portfolio. CalPERS is a leader in the investment world and has a huge impact on the global economy. When it comes to framing the climate crisis and finding solutions through an investment perspective, everyone, including the United Nations, looks to CalPERS for leadership.

On August 16th, Anne Stausboll, CalPERS CEO, published this article describing CalPERS response to climate and carbon risk within their portfolio. Essentially, the CalPERS team is focused on requesting transparency with companies on carbon risk issues (e.g. emissions and stranded assets), it’s called “disclosure.” They have done some fairly significant and progressive work changing the rules so that companies will have to disclose climate risk or carbon output with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) – which is a good thing. With that being said, Ms. Stausboll noted in her article that their efforts have fallen short of the issues, “…the breadth and quality of the disclosures with the SEC are still lacking.”

While CalPERS claims that “Climate change is an important issue for [the pension] System,” it’s useful to ask: what statements are they making with their money?

Fossil Free Indexes found, shockingly, that over the last 10 years, CalPERS has roughly doubled the potential emissions it finances. In 2004, CalPERS held 90 coal, oil, and gas companies on the Top 200 list; today they hold 149. If CalPERS directly held the fossil fuel reserves allocated to its 2013 portfolio it would rank #55 on the top oil and gas reserve holders list and #88 on the top coal reserve holders list.

Coming out of the Shadows: Human Rights and Animal Welfare in the Industrial Model of Agriculture

By Nancy L. Utesch - Organic Consumers Association, September 3, 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 burgeoning problems that the industrial model of farming present warrant the necessity to bring these issues out into the spotlight for discussion.  These problems have been brought to our communities, not problems citizenry has gone looking for.  These issues, super sized, along with the mega farms, have reached a tipping point in communities that can no longer shoulder the burden of this industry, evolving from the mom and pop farms of 20, 50 or 100 cows-and growing in numbers in the thousands-3, 5, 10,000 animals in the last decade.

The social implications for placing huge animal factories amid the rural populous with huge cesspools of untreated waste, also spread in those communities, is devastating.  The touting of progress and innovation, often voiced by this industry and its promoters, seems to be lost in the dark abyss of manure pits now containing as much as 82 million gallons of untreated lagoon slurry at a single site, displacing families from their homes and leaving those remaining with plunging property values, quality of life issues, and contaminated air and water.

While there are many issues to discuss on this model of food production, there are a few that others will warn you not to broach.  The first time I heard the term "third rail politics" was while speaking to one of the agencies designed to protect citizenry and the environment in the state.  It was the first, of what would become many times, that I would be warned to stay away!  The third rail "used to power trains, carries hundreds of volts of electricity, likely resulting in death by electrocution for anyone who comes into direct contact with it".  While a political term, the hazards of the rail are not limited to the political arena. The controversial "shock" of the third rail is warning enough. Don't Touch!   Safe to bet, most stay away from the hazards of the third rail. 

Two of the issues that that ride the rails include immigrant workers and animal welfare.   There are vast land mines that exist while dancing amongst these two topics, including the political forces that reign, and the potential social stigma of taking a stand on these two controversial topics.

Journalist sues Utah tar sands refinery for illegal "terrorism" police detention

By x373644 - press release, September 3, 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.

SALT LAKE CITY--An award-winning independent journalist filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tesoro and the Salt Lake City Police Department for illegally detaining him and accusing him of terrorism for taking photographs of a refinery. 

Jesse Fruhwirth posted a video on the Internet of December 16, 2013, when an ice storm and power outage prompted a major pollution event at Tesoro's tar sands refinery in the Rose Park neighborhood.

"I was in bed reading and through my window suddenly I could see that the night sky was ablaze as if all of Rose Park was on fire," says Fruhwirth. "Only the refinery was on fire, but I knew that such huge flare offs were extra dangerous events for babies, old people and sick people and I thought it was important to film the fire that might severely sicken or kill some of my neighbors that night."

Fruhwirth also filmed the interaction he had with a police officer who ordered him to stop filming. In the video, Salt Lake officer Yvette Zayas tells Fruhwirth that she detained him for taking pictures of "critical infrastructure,” that she would refer her report to a "Joint Terrorism Task Force" to protect "homeland security."

Zayas is simultaneously a paid employee of Tesoro and SLCPD, but that night she was working directly on Tesoro's payroll.

Seattle Activists Mount Tripod: Stop Exploding Oil Trains

By Rising Tide Cascadia - Rising Tide North America, September 2, 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.

UPDATE 3:32pm PDT: Abby has been extracted after an epic 8 hour blockade. Donate to get all five awesome climate defenders out of jail!

Five residents of Seattle and Everett, WA, working with Rising Tide Seattle, have stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett by erecting a tripod-structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of a mile-long oil train. Follow Rising Tide Seattle for live updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Seattle resident Abby Brockway – a small business owner, and mother – is suspended from the structure 18 feet above the tracks while four other residents are locked to the legs the tripod. The group is demanding an immediate halt to all shipments of fossil fuels through the Northwest and calling on Governor Inslee to reject permits for all new fossil fuel projects in Washington, including proposed coal and oil terminals.

Donate to support Abby and the other involved in the action!

“People in the Pacific Northwest are forming a thin green line that will keep oil, coal and gas in the ground,” said Brockway, “Just one of these proposed terminals would process enough carbon to push us past the global warming tipping point – we won’t let that happen.”

Today’s protest has shut down work at BNSF’s Delta Rail Yard in Everett. With the increase of fossil fuel transport in recent years the yard has become a crucial staging ground for coal trains headed to Canadian export terminals and oil trains bound for Washington refineries. An oil-train carrying explosive bakken crude oil sat stalled while the protest continued.

“Exploding oil-trains running through my town are just a reminder of how out of control the fossil fuel industry really is,” said Jackie Minchew an Everett resident and retired educator locked to one of the tripod’s poles.

In a controversial move, Burlington Northern Santa-Fe recently announced a tentative deal with Union leaders to reduce train crews from an engineer and conductor to a single engineer. The oil train that de-railed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec was crewed by a single engineer. BNSF claims that oil-trains will continue to have two person crews, but critics point out that nothing in the proposed contract binds the company to that statement. Under the proposed deal Coal Trains would be operated by a single crew-member.

“BNSF is endangering workers, communities and our environment. They should keep the conductors and lose the oil trains,” said Brockway.

The surge in oil-train traffic is already impacting other commodities like passenger rail and agricultural shipments. Farmers from the Midwest to Washington State have faced what they call “unprecedented” delays in moving Wheat and other products to West Coast ports. Amtrak service through fossil-fuel train corridors has also suffered significant disruption and officials have expressed concern that the problem will only get worse as more terminals come online.

The Last Gasp of Climate Change Liberals

By Chris Hedges - Truthdig, August 31, 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 climate change march in New York on Sept. 21, expected to draw as many as 200,000 people, is one of the last gasps of conventional liberalism’s response to the climate crisis. It will take place two days before the actual gathering of world leaders in New York called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the November 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris. The marchers will dutifully follow the route laid down by the New York City police. They will leave Columbus Circle, on West 59th Street and Eighth Avenue, at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday and conclude on 11th Avenue between West 34th and 38th streets. No one will reach the United Nations, which is located on the other side of Manhattan, on the East River beyond First Avenue—at least legally. There will be no speeches. There is no list of demands. It will be a climate-themed street fair.

The march, because its demands are amorphous, can be joined by anyone. This is intentional. But as activist Anne Petermann has pointed out, this also means some of the groups backing the march are little more than corporate fronts. The Climate Group, for example, which endorses the march, includes among its members and sponsors BP, China Mobile, Dow Chemical Co., Duke Energy, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Greenstone. The Environmental Defense Fund, which says it “work[s] with companies rather than against them” and which is calling on its members to join the march, has funding from the oil and gas industry and supports fracking as a form of alternative energy. These faux environmental organizations are designed to neutralize resistance. And their presence exposes the march’s failure to adopt a meaningful agenda or pose a genuine threat to power.

Our only hope comes from radical groups descending on New York to carry out direct action, including Global Climate Convergence and Popular Resistance. March if you want. But it should be the warm-up. The real fight will come once people disperse on 11th Avenue.

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