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green unionism

EagleRidge Ignores Fracking Worker Safety

By Sharon Wilson - Originally published on Earthblog, October 16, 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.

We already know that EagleRidge is a terrible neighbor!

  • An EagleRidge Operating worker was indicted in June 2012 on a felony charge of illegally dumping. City employees visiting the company’s well site in the 3100 block of Airport Road found a pump forcing contaminated water into a tributary of Hickory Creek. LINK
  • EagleRidge was operating wells in Denton without a permit. LINK
  • EagleRidge had a blowout in Denton that got "sanitized." LINK But it didn't stay "sanitized." LINK
  • EagleRidge is drilling in a Denton neighborhood less than 200 feet from homes.
  • EagleRidge is drilling in Mansfield and polluting air, violating sound ordinances and dividing neighbors. LINK

So it's no surprise to learn that EagleRidge is an awful employer that lacks regard for worker safety. Yesterday I stopped to take photos and video when I passed the EagleRidge drill site directly across from the University of North Texas athletic facility. (Yes, I know: polluting the air our young people are gulping in while practicing sports is reckless.) The video shows workers walking amidst swirling clouds of silica sand aka frack sand. In May 2012, OSHA and NIOSH issued a HAZARD ALERT regarding exposure to silica during hydraulic fracturing. The OSHA info sheet details steps industry needs to take to limit the amount of silica exposure. While they recommend breathing protection, they caution that respirators alone are not sufficient at the levels of exposure seen during fracking. Media reported that workers in Texas were exposed to over 10 times the safe limit.

Jerry Brown: The Wrong Stuff

By Steve Ongerth - Originally published at Counterpunch, October 17, 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.

On Thursday, October 17, 2013, the Blue Green Alliance will award Governor Jerry Brown a “Right Stuff” Award for “catalyzing the clean energy economy”.

The Blue Green Alliance is a coalition of AFL-CIO labor unions and environmental organizations. I am a union worker—a San Francisco ferryboat deckhand –and an environmentalist. You would think I would be supportive of this event. However, I am not.

A member of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) since 1995, I and two Earth First!ers sparked what became the Blue Green Alliance in the fall of 1998. We envisioned a coalition of environmentalists fighting to save Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County and steelworkers on strike at Kaiser Aluminum in Washington, Louisiana, and Ohio.

An oddball idea? Not really. The Headwaters Forest was in danger of being mowed down by Maxxam Corporation, a Houston corporate raider, to pay for the debt with which it saddled Pacific Lumber in its takeover. Three years later, Maxxam acquired Kaiser Aluminum in a similar fashion.

At first the alliance continued that spirit. Earth First! activists marched on steelworkers’ picket lines. Steelworkers encouraged nonunion Pacific Lumber workers to organize for better working conditions. The combined forces agreed that an “injury to one is an injury to all”, and “no compromise in defense of Mother Earth!” These efforts spawned the “Teamsters and Turtles” protest at the 1999 WTO meetings.

The Blue Green Alliance, while well meaning, has made far too many compromises to corporations. I support renewable energy, but it must be produced sustainably and deployed in harmony with the environment. Workers who manufacture, install and maintain the equipment must work under good and safe working conditions. Giving Jerry Brown an award is proof the Blue Green Alliance has lost its way.

Brown is not Green (and he's no Friend of the Workers Either!)

by x344543, x356039, and x363464 - October 3, 2013

The IWW Environmental Unionist Caucus recently learned that California Governor Jerry Brown will be appearing at an event in San Francisco at 55 Cyril Magnin Street (near Union Square) at 530 PM on Thursday, October 17.

At this event, Jerry Brown will be receiving an award from the Sierra Club and the Blue Green Alliance for "environmental stewardship".

However, Brown is a green washer and a union buster!

In the past few months, Brown has:

  • Signed SB 4 which allows fracking in California;
  • Pushed for the so-called "Peripheral Tunnels" in the Central Valley Delta, a project opposed by environmentalists;
  • (At the behest of corporate developers) Pushed to water down CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act!

He also issued a 60 day cooling off period during the recent BART strike thereby aiding the BART bosses in their ongoing campaign of vicious union busting - detailed at transportworkers.org.

Several environmental groups are protesting this sham award in protest of Brown's green washing. We call for workers to join this protest in opposition to Brown's aiding of union busting!

All out on October 17!

Brown isn't "Blue" or "Green" and he's not the workers' friend!

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Endorsed By:

Bay Area IWW

To add your name or organization as an endorser, contact is at euc@iww.org

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Capital Blight: The Yellow Unions' "Green Coalition" Blues

By x344543 - September 21, 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.

In a recent In These Times article, Rebecca Burns laments that the recent announcement by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to "open up the labor movement in order to regain political (sic) clout" by partnering with progressive NGOs, such as the Sierra Club, NAACP, and Council de la Raza, has not been well received by more conservative elements within the federation, namely the building trades.

“Giving people a seat where they have governance, and they don't represent workers--that was a bridge too far for lots of folks," Building Construction Trades Department (BCTD) union President Sean McGarvey told the (Wall Street) Journal. McGarvey, whose union has been a strong backer of the Keystone XL Pipeline because of the jobs it will create, also said that the Sierra Club’s attempts to dissuade the AFL-CIO from issuing a resolution supporting the pipeline last year “just highlighted the audacity of people in the radical environmental movement trying to influence the policy of the labor movement.”

There are so many problems with that statement (from McGarvey and Burns alike) it's difficult to know where to begin.

McGarvey's claim that Keystone XL Pipeline is being opposed by people in the "radical environmental movement" (and his identification of the Sierra Club of all organizations as being the leader of it) is absurd. The very idea that the Sierra Club is the leader of the "radical" environmental movement, or even radical at all is nonsense. The big NGOs opposing the project include Corporate Ethics International, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, 350.org, National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Rainforest Action Network, and as we have pointed out, these groups are anything but radical. Furthermore, Over 1,000,000 individuals have gone on record as opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, and it's highly unlikely that they're all "radical" in any sense, and don't get me wrong, it would be nice if they were, but I'm a realist! Does McGarvey understand that many of these people are union workers? Would McGarvey also include the growing number of unions who've gone on record opposing Keystone XL?

One might want to ask McGarvey to what extent the building trades themselves represent workers, because the evidence suggest that for the most part, they represent the capitalist class more than anything else. He also doth protest too much, because those so-called "radical" environmentalists, for the most part are fixated primarily on Keystone XL and ignoring the other pipelines--such as the Bluegrass Pipeline, Enbridge's Line 9, Transcanada East, and others--a strategy which Barack Obama might use to expedite the latter. Fortunately, the real radical environmentalists (who're not beyond criticism, certainly) are focused on those and doing quite well at fighting them.

In any case, McGarvey has little to worry about, because what Trumka is proposing is hardly anything close to a meaningful Blue-Green alliance and is, more likely than not, going to be more old wine in new bottles, namely building coalitions to keep the labor movement (and the progressive NGOs) firmly tied to capitalism and the Democratic Party. If the AFL-CIO's combined efforts with the Sierra Club et. al. amount to anything more than intensified lobbying and get-out-the-vote (for Democrats--and even occasionally Republicans) it will be a huge surprise.

To Stave Off Zombie Apocalypse, Organize a New Society Within the Shell of the Old

By x365097 - Southern Maine IWW, July 13, 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.

Let’s think back to late summer, 2008 — half a decade ago, right about now. It had been more than five years since the invasion of Iraq by the US, and nearly six years since the invasion of Afghanistan. The PATRIOT Act was still in the news, there was massive anti-Bush agitation from liberals and the left, and many people were looking forward to a change of regime — any change — in 2009.

The financial catastrophe that would soon arrive, however, punctuating the presidency of George W. Bush like a second 9/11, would make matters unfathomably worse, complicating the US economy for years to come and paving the way for the austerity agenda to trample workers’ hard-won economic rights like Orwell’s proverbial jackboot to the face. Of course, there had been preliminary signs of trouble; those had been plain to see. But when the blows finally started hammering down, they caught almost everyone unprepared.

Individualist survivalists, already bolstered by the much-hyped threat of terrorism, came out of the woodwork to sell emergency water filters and K-rations to the gullible and (somewhat justifiably) afraid. The average American worker hunkered down, usually alone or with a few family members, and prayed that the worst — a foreclosure, an eviction — might pass them by. And the media told us endless stories about the struggle to survive amid the mindless hordes who would ravage the remains when it all finally broke down outside the “Green Zone” of Wall Street.

It didn’t — and still doesn’t — have to be this way.

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.

Railroading Quebec

By Jonathan Flanders - Reproduced from Counterpunch, August 12, 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.

The bad news for the beleaguered trackside inhabitants of Lac Megantic, Quebec, continues to roll relentlessly downhill, just as the The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway(MM&A)  train did before it exploded in their town, incinerating more that forty of their citizens. After MM&A CEO Edward Burkhardt assured them that his railroad would pay for all the expenses of a cleanup, in the more or less immediate period after the crash(he took a few days to show up), his railroad has sought bankruptcy protection both in Canada and the US, and it has been revealed that it had only 25 million dollars in liability insurance. This is a fraction of what the ultimate cost will be to remediate the environmental disaster created by the wreck. Never mind making whole the families of the dead in Lac Megantic.

According the CBC “ “Burkhardt said that the railway wishes to continue to work with municipal and provincial authorities “on environmental remediation and cleanup as long as is necessary, and will do everything within its capacity to achieve completion of such goal.””

Evidently this railroad’s capacity only extends as far as hiring lawyers, since it has welshed on its bills for the cleanup so far, leaving Lac Megantic and Quebec to step in to pay cleanup workers. And as we know, once the corporate lawyers start circling  a disaster, the settlement will take years, not months.

Green and Red in the Frame

By Ewan Kerr - Scottish Left Review #77, July & August 2013 (used by permission of the author).

“Outside party politics new social movements, including environmental, anti-cuts and feminist groups, have not come together sufficiently with the old, defensive organisations of the working class to produce the coalition that might make them an effective political force” (S Hall, The Guardian 2 April 2013)

As the above quote by Stuart Hall illustrates, contemporary social movements and progressive organisations face an on-going problem: they struggle to form effective and inter-movement forms of organisation and collective action. It is widely recognised now that the political left’s main failings are by in large a result of the often fragmented identities of different groups. This in itself should not be cause for concern, as left-wing political theory and action depends upon the mantra of unity in diversity. It can though prevent groups who share a natural affinity with each other from organising coalitions which are both effective and long term, while also limit the ability to develop strategies for deeper and more meaningful co-operation. Some explanation for such divisions I believe can be found through an examination of a well-established approach to coalition forming, that of framing. Framing, in essence, seeks to align values, ideology and activities in order to construct common viewpoints and form a stronger sense of collective identity.

Featured in the last issue of SLR was an excellent article by David Eyre, which offered a useful introduction to the idea of framing. The article provided a concise and tidy description and explanation of framing, although focused very much upon values on a national basis, and efforts to change people’s attitudes. This brief article seeks to build upon this, and offer an example drawn from labour-environmental coalition building. This will involve two distinct discourses which are used to frame such blue-green coalitions, that is the Jobs Vs. The Environment dilemma and Just Transition. Each illustrates that though the creation of frames groups can either be framed as having mutually exclusive or inclusive interests, which on one hand can act as a barrier to potentially prevent effective coalition work, or on the other facilitate co-operation though the creation of a discourse which appeals to the deep seated interests of both environmental organisations and organised labour groups. As Jakopovich (2009) states in his 2009 article Uniting to Win;

“The construction of shared experiences and common or complementary perceptions of interest… is at the heart of more successful and permanent coalition building.”

That past efforts towards co-operation between environmental and labour organisations have often been characterised by conflict and distrust is an unfortunate reality. On the face of it, it’s difficult to understand how two groups who subscribe to many of the same values have such acrimonious relations. Burgman’s (in 2013’s Trade Unions in the Green Economy) evaluation of this is lengthy, but worth quoting in full:

“Capitalist economies are characterised by the underuse of labour resources and overuse of environmental resources. Corporations tend to both reduce labour costs and to use the cheapest production methods possible, regardless of ecological consequence. Thus employment options are restricted at the same time as the planetary environment is degraded.”

Upcoming Event: Towards an Ecological General Strike! The history of green unionism and it's recent revival.

Join us at the Holdout for a presentation about the BLF "green bans" in Australia and Redwood summer in California. The powerpoint will be followed by a discussion about strategy and tactics to build a social and ecological revolution.

  • When - Saturday, July 27, 6:00 PM
  • Where - The Holdout: 2313 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, California 94612

Facebook Event - To RSVP

Going Green at the Cost of Workers’ Safety

By Emmett J. Nolan - Reposted from Recomposition Blog, July 17, 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.

The issue I’m writing about may seem rather trivial to some readers. To be honest, I too was shocked that my co-workers and I had to fight so hard to be heard on such a small and seemingly obvious issue. The issue which management picked to draw a line in the sand over was providing a trash can in the dining area of the café I work at. Yes, a trash can. Something most customers and workers take for granted. Rightfully so, because who could imagine a counter service café with a bus your own table practice operating without a trash can?

In an effort to make the company more green, a composting service was hired and new compostable packaging materials were chosen. Now, compostable items were separated from recycling and garbage. A part of this change included removing all four of the trash cans within the dining and patio area of the café. The cans weren’t replaced with a sorting station like many other businesses had done. Instead the company replaced them with a sign that read:

[COMPANY'S NAME]

Composts & Recycles

Please Put Everything

In the Bus Tubs (Dishes, Trash, Recycling & Food)

We’ll take care of the sorting.

By not having a sorting station or a at least a trash can, management claimed it could ensure that all items would be properly sorted and that items that could be composted would not be mixed in with the garbage or vice versa. This was to demonstrate the company’s commitment to green business practices. Even though we were in a hyper-green-conscious city in which residents are trained to sort, recycle and compost whereever they go or otherwise feel guilty about not doing so, the company didn’t think its customers were capable of sorting their own garbage.

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