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Solutions to the Timber Wars

By Darryl Cherney - Anderson Valley Advertiser, June 26, 1991

I would like to suggest that there are two proposals forestry activists can endorse, that if implemented, would relieve much of the current tensions that are continuing to build within the context of what has become known as "the timber wars." In fact, the mere advocacy of these two concepts would do much to alleviate environmentalists of their stigma of being unconcerned with the fate of the timber workforce and the health of the economy. Sound to simple to be true? Read on.

The first proposal is that we enact into law, through either the legislative or he initiative process what I'll tentatively call is Forestland Restoration and Employment Tax Act. All figures presented are extremely flexible but the concept is rooted deeply in a singular morality: that those who do the destroying and unemploying should pay for the mess they've made. The two seemingly overwhelming problems of ruined forestland and massive unemployment can be combined into one solution: provide jobs to repair the damage. This massive undertaking will be paid for by taxing the wholesale price of lumber in the exact amount needed to repair the eroded hillsides, the devastated river and stream corridors, the denuded landscapes and the collapsed ecosystems. We'll need some big strong folks to move logs and boulders along the creeks (both in and out, depending on what's needed). we'll need rock climbers to scale and rappel steep embankments which were once covered with trees. There they can plant hardy, nitrogen fixing native species. we'll need tree planters and nursery operators who will grow and plant not just the "commercial species" like redwood and Doug Fir, but the pioneer cover species like oak, madrone, bay, native grasses and ferns and so one. And we'll need trained biologists, ecologists and other educated types to construct restoration plans that will work. The need is clear. There is much work to be done by us humans fixing this place.

After 150 years of rape and run logging in the Pacific Northwest, who better for footing this bill that the timber companies. let's say we've determined that it will take 20,000 people to get a good start at this job. let's say that $20,000 per year is a decent living wage. That will require $400,000,000 a year. Add on another $100 million for supplies and administration costs and we'll need to tax the timber industry $500,000,000 per year. Great. All we need to do now is determine what their gross annual wholesale receipts are and tax them the exact percentage needed to pay that bill. The program could be administered by either the state or county governments or an environmental group such as the Nature Conservancy, who has much experience in administering environmental projects. That agency will determine what needs fixin' and who and what to send there.

Perhaps this should be attempted on a trial basis on a smaller scale, or more likely, it will require a larger scale program to repair the sins of our fathers as well as our own. the program can be expanded to apply to all industries that cause environmental degradation. The tax will always and only be applied at the point of destruction (i.e. resource extraction). As activists lobby for this legislation or gather signatures for this initiative, we will legitimately be able to say that we are pushing for full employment within the framework with an environmental agenda.

Is this difficult to achieve? Hell yes. Is it more of an impossibility to realize than any other goal we've set for ourselves? Hell no. further, programs such as this have already been instituted over the years, such as the California Conservation Corp. (the CCC's). this is not a pipe dream.

A Conversation with Earth First! Activist Judi Bari

by Christine Keyser - On the Issues, Summer 1991

The spirit of Mother Jones lives on today in the backwoods of Northern California. The North Coast's most eloquent anti-chainsaw organizer, Earth First's! Judi Bari, is back at work defending the ancient forests from corporate slaughter after surviving a crippling car bomb in Oakland last May and the FBI's subsequent attempt to pin the blame on her and her companion Darryl Cherney. Just as the grandmother of the American labor movement fought King Coal a century ago, Bari has taken on the Big Timber barons armed with a bullhorn and a diehard credo, "No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth."

Ban's battlecry has reverberated from California's redwood forest to Wall Street to embrace a broad-based progressive agenda rooted in a profound reverence for the earth and its creatures. For the chief architect of 1990's Redwood Summer— the celebrated nonviolent campaign to save the vanishing remnants of California's once verdant old-growth coastal forest—stopping environmental destruction has profound urgency.

Bari has grafted environmentalism onto peace, social justice, equal rights and other progressive concerns. A former Maryland labor organizer, she is a longtime crusader for the dispossessed, the disenfranchised and the downtrodden in factories, fields and offices across the land.

Bari has put her organizing skills to work on the North Coast building coalitions with timber workers to fight corporate abuse. She founded a Mendocino chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World and represented a group of mill workers who were poisoned by leaking PCBs at Georgia Pacific's Fort Bragg pulp mill.

In a wide-ranging interview at her rustic "hippie shack" in the backwoods of Mendocino County where she lives with her two young daughters, Bari shared her perspectives on the impact of Redwood Summer, progressive coalitionbuilding in the 1990s, the "feminization" of Earth First!, and the departure in August of Earth First! co-founder, Dave Foreman, who, in a parting swipe, publicly denounced Bari and her feminist compatriots for injecting "class struggle" and "humanism" into an organization he conceived to preserve wilderness.

The Truth About Earth First! and Loggers

Earth to Earth First!, over... - Ignorance is Bliss

By Crawdad Nelson - Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 12, 1990

While it is charming to watch the struggle for consensus, and to read detailed accounts of meetings without portfolio, and to keep up to date on which wing respects the other, etc., it's becoming difficult to sort out where and when the anarchists plan on actually making the necessary link to the worker which has for some time now been that avowed goal of the non organization Earth First!

Earth First! has an image problem. The ungrammatical logo, while appealingly rebellious, is but an irritating trifle. The long hair, wild clothes and conjured hordes do little to reassure the workers of Fortuna, Fort Bragg, Eureka, McKinleyville, etc. and in many cases undoubtedly work against the noble aims of the movement. Vocabulary has superceded labor. What's needed is less debate, less bellyaching, less self interested whining over the sexual orientation of the frigging undefinable nebula of progress, and some actual work. I know it's a foreign concept to many in the movement, but work (sweat, slivers, backache, ill humor and etc.) is what EF! needs to concentrate on.

It sounds like real fun to jump around in the highway and make fun of the people who build the roads we all use to travel from one momentous event to the other, and no one would relish sitting in a tree singing folk songs more than myself, but the time has come to act out the fantasy of alternative logging. The documentary films made last summer show clearly how it's done.

Some of the folks who insist loggers ought to start working on stream rehabilitation, reforestation, putting roads to bed and the myriad chores of the future ought to have their parents buy them some tools, axes, shovels, come alongs, and rope are good things to start with. You might want a pair of boots.

The loggers don't believe you are serious. I don't believe it half the time either. If you are, prove it. Quit disrupting and lead by example.

Enviro-Unionists

A Speech by Jess Grant; transcribed by Brian Wiles-Heap from video – Industrial Worker, November 1990

Web editor's note: the following speech was given at a rally jointly organized by Earth First! and the IWW as part of Redwood Summer, held at the L-P export dock in Samoa, California, on June 20, 1990.

I’ll go ahead and introduce myself. I’m an “outside agitator” named Jess Grant. I’m an organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies.

I like to think of myself as an enviro-unionist. That’s a new word I made up for Redwood Summer. An “enviro-unionist” is somebody who is concerned with trees and forests, and the people who live and work in them. And that’s what we all are, I think; that’s sort of the twin goal of this thing.

I’d like to talk about the ecological and the social costs of the current practices of the timber industry: The companies have tried to pit one against the other; they’ve tried to pit the workers against the environmentalists. It’s the classic divide-and-conquer tactic. But it’s not going to work, because I think we’re all starting to realize that the interests of both the workers and the forest ecosystems are best served by sustainable-yield logging and a worker-community buyout of the timber companies.

Now, you’ll be hearing these two phrases a lot. You’re going to hear this “sustained-yield logging” and “worker-community buyout”, so I’d like to briefly explain what they mean to me:

Sustained-yield logging is cutting at a rate lower than the growth rate, so that the trees can grow back and we can have some forests again. Given the past devastation, we now actually need to cut less than is growing, to catch up with what we’ve done.

A worker-community buyout is pretty self-explanatory. The companies are motivated by profit; they’ll always clearcut, because that’s where the profit is. But if the power and the decision-making are put into the hands of those doing the work, logging would convert to sustainable yield, because the folks doing the work recognize that their long-term job security lies in preserving and sustaining the forests.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

By Judi Bari – Anderson Valley Advertiser, September 26, 1990

In case anyone still had any delusions about freedom of the press in Mendocino County, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat laid them to rest last week when they removed Ukiah Bureau Chief Mike Geniella from covering timber issues. Geniella has been the lead reporter in the timber region, and has broken important stories and won awards for his coverage. Removing him was an outrageous act of censorship, and marked a new low in corporate media kowtowing to big timber.

Geniella’s crime was that he gave an interview to the Anderson Valley Advertiser in which he told the truth about Redwood Summer. “Clearly Redwood Summer accomplished a number of things,” admitted Geniella. “Earth First! used to attract 30 or 40 people here on the steps of the Court House, so bringing 2000 to a rally in Fort Bragg is quite impressive. The sensational aspect of the bombing [of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney], I’m convinced, having been to some of the colleges, frightened some of the people away. For Redwood Summer to be able to regroup and do Samoa, which I think was absolutely critical, and to pull it off like they did, and then go do Fort Bragg, well, you have to give them a lot of credit…There was all this talk about violence and when the test came clearly it was the Redwood Summer people who kept the lid on.” Geniella also admitted that the Press Democrat’s coverage of the Fort Bragg action “probably was unfair.”

That’s it. That’s the worst of what he said. Of course, the fact that he said it in the big bad Anderson Valley Advertiser didn’t help matters. But the real irony of the Press Democrat’s actions is that, while still holding naive ideas about his right to free speech off the job, Mike Geniella had already caved in to timber industry pressure on the job. His reporting on timber issues, once among the most fair and hard-hitting around, had been watered down to satisfy his editors’ pro­timber bias. The last piece he wrote before being pulled off timber issues was a blatant piece of industry propaganda titled “Foresters Contend Logging in Balance.” It cited 53 professional foresters, “all of whom work in the private sector in Mendocino County,” claiming that there is no over­cut here. By calling them “private sector” instead of “corporate” foresters he gives the impression that they are independent. He never asks the simple question of who they work for (which in Mendo County is usually L-P or G-P), or why, if there’s no overcut, are they logging six-inch pecker poles.

Geniella also sacrificed truth in reporting to brown-nose his editors in his Redwood Summer wrap-up piece. You won’t find any of his legitimate praise of EF! organizers in this article. Instead he starts out. “Redwood Summer, the series of logging protests christened by a violent explosion, is set to end this week.” The implication, of course, is that EF! was the cause of the explosion, not the victim. No further explanation is given, and when he gets into listing acts of violence associated with Redwood Summer he omits the bombing entirely and bends over backward to make it look like both sides were violent. His description of the incident with Pacific Lumber President John Campbell was absolutely fraudulent. “Campbell said protesters rocked his car and pounded their fists on rolled up windows as he tried to leave,” wrote Geniella. “The timber executive later described the experience as ‘very frightening.’” What Geniella didn’t write was that Campbell had picked up protester Bob Serena on the hood of his car as Campbell attempted to break through the picket line, and that Campbell then floored it and careened down the road with Serena clinging for his life to the car hood. “That’s called balanced reporting,” Geniella answered when I complained to him about the inaccuracy.

There are many other examples of Geniella and other reporters engaging in self-censorship this summer by failing to write about attacks on demonstrators and, especially in August, failing to cover our demos at all. But even compromising his integrity in his reporting was not enough for Geniella’s editors. They want to shut him up in his private life too. What this really shows is what a hoax any claim of objective reporting is. No reporter has ever been disciplined for being “too close” to Harry Merlo or Charles Hurwitz. Geniella describes a reporter’s job as having a front row seat on the parade of life. But when you are dealing with forces as ruthless and powerful as big timber, there are no seats. We are all in the parade. And Geniella’s complicity in distorting and suppressing info about the success of our demos and the viciousness of attacks on us helped contribute to the atmosphere in which he could become the next victim of the Timber Wars. First they come for the Earth First!ers, then they come for the reporters.

Labor and Ecology

By Chris Clarke - Ecology Center Newsletter [Terrain], September 1990

If you were to believe the headlines found in major newspapers these days, you might decide that the majority of the environmental activists don‟t care much about people‟s economic needs, and that most employed people are concerned only with their paycheck, and let the ecosystem be damned. From the anti-wilderness advocates in Northwest California, to the defense contractors in Pasadena (California) who bemoan peace's price in unemployment, to the steelworkers in Lackawanna, New York, who blame environmental restrictions for their closed steel mill (and consequent breathable air), to the self-styled “environmental President” (George Bush Sr.) who waters down the Endangered Species Act with economic mitigation, a chorus of seemingly disparate voices contends that the interests of labor must counterbalance the interests of the environment.

We all want to be able to work for a living, right? And any compassionate person watching the “six o‟clock news” who sees these honest, hardworking people beset by the concerns of “tie-dyed (or Italian suited) long hairs from the big cities (all on welfare or defaulted student loans) who value animals and trees more than the livelihoods and tax-paying ability of middle America” probably feels a great deal of well-placed sympathy for these workers. But are the concerns of labor and environmentalists really at odds? Don‟t both groups have some common ground?

Astute observers will point out that most of this so-called conflict is based on a limited perception of reality, one which ignores the existence of the people who benefit from this conflict. The giant logging companies care not one whit about the welfare of either the logger or the tree unless than welfare has a positive effect on their profit margin. Oil companies will fight new demands by workers with the same ferocity that they fight restrictions on oil leasing on marine sanctuaries. And it‟s worth pointing out that Judi Bari, one of the two victims of an assassination attempt in Oakland in May 1990 [was] both a union organizer and environmental activist—both activities not exactly guaranteed to endear one to the people in power. There‟s a common enemy, in other words, that both labor and the environment share. And where there‟s a common enemy, there is usually common ground.

Bertrand Russell once stated that there are two types of labor: the expenditure of human energy to alter an object‟s form or position relative to other objects; and the telling of someone else to do so. Taking things at their most basic level, labor can be defined as the expenditure of human energy to achieve some intended purpose, whether that be physical or mental energy. Humans take in food, which is a product of the biosphere, we metabolize that food, producing energy, and that energy is harnessed as labor. In years past, labor was often supplied by other animals as well as humans; under ideal circumstances, a nonpolluting, renewable resource. (please note that I don‟t mean to be reductionist, defining people‟s work as a resources—but more on that later.) Labor is a part of the bio-sphere, then, deriving energy from the environment and functioning, except in the case of the labor of astronauts, wholly within the biosphere.

Seen in this light, it becomes a little harder to understand how the interests of human labor can be divorced from the interests of the biosphere at large and for human labor to set itself against environmental protection seems as counterproductive as if the rainforest were to challenge the legal rights of the North Slope. When systems are so interconnected, a disruption of one system must necessarily affect the other. Air-borne pollutants from the Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna caused extreme cancer rates among the workers living nearby. Deforestation in the tropics causes flooding in settlements downstream. Smog-laden air in the Los Angeles Basin produces chronic health problems for the workers who live there. One might make a rather Machiavellian case for environmental protection, then, on the grounds that only in a healthy environment can one obtain full value from human labor otherwise, the laborers suffer diseases and injuries that interfere with their peak efficiency. This argument, however implies a rather bleak social structure in which labor is seen only as a resource for extraction, and not as something with inherent rights worth protecting for their own sake. In other words, it assumes a social structure pretty much like the one we have today.

Workers, Corporations, and Redwood Summer: Whose Side Are We On?

Judi Bari, et. al, Redwood Summer Coalition – from the Redwood Summer Handbook, second edition, ca June 1990

When you’re sitting in front of a bulldozer or walking a picket line and an angry logger is screaming at you to “Get a Job!” and “Go Home!,” it’s easy to forget that timber workers are not our enemies. And when they see thousands of college students and other environmental activists from out of the area coming to the Northcoast threatening their livelihoods (as they see it), it’s easy for them to see us as the enemy too.

This is a tragic mistake, for workers and environmentalists are natural allies. Loggers and mill-workers are victimized by the giant timber companies. Since their whole way of life—their jobs, homes, families—depends on unsustainable forest practices, we must make the timber companies pay for the education, retraining and job placement needed to cushion the blow of conversion to ecologically health timber practices. It’s easy for us—since our future and our kids’ future does not depend on continued over-logging—to demand others to sacrifice for the good of the planet, but without concrete support to make change possible; they will not listen seriously.

Over the years, timber workers have been subject to some of the most dangerous working conditions in the country, as well as speedups, low pay, low/no benefits, and near-total company control over their lives. Fighting to better their conditions, Pacific Coast loggers and millworkers have a long history of militant unionism. The logging camps of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia were strongholds of the Industrial Workers of the World. Early timber unions, including the IWA (International Woodworkers of America) were radical unions, and often led bitter strikes which the corporations violently put down. From early on, the woodsworkers witnessed and protested the destruction of streams, hillsides and forests caused by company practices of maximizing profit at the expense of both the land and the workers. Indeed, the workers knew better than anyone what was going on in the woods, but lacked the power to stop it. In our capitalist “free market” economy, it is companies, not workers who control production.

Environmentalism and Labor: Bridging the Gap

Speech given by Gene Lawhorn at the Public Interest and Environmental Law Conference (ELAW) in Eugene Oregon, March 4, 1990

I have been working in the wood products industry here in Oregon for five years. I started out at West-brook Wood Products in Norway. I injured my wrist on the job and had to have surgery. Shortly after I returned to work I was laid off out of seniority when they curtailed a shift. This was my first experience with the caring benevolence of the timber industry towards their workers.

After several months of unemployment I got hired at International Paper’s Gardner sawmill. About a year before I got hired the workers were forced to take wage cuts amounting to $3 an hour. The Reedsport City Council and the Chamber of Commerce got behind I-P because they threatened to close the mill if workers didn’t take wage cuts. But if workers would take cuts, I-P promised to return the wages in the next contract and they promised to be around at least another 20 years. In December of 1987, 1½ years after the pay cuts and false promises, I-P gave its 400 employees a Christmas present of one week’s notice of permanent plant closure due to selling the mill to Bohemia Lumber Co. This was my second experience with the caring benevolence of the timber industry.

After four months of unemployment I got hired by Roseburg Forest Products and relocated to Sutherlin. After eight months on the job I got my third experience of the caring benevolence of the timber industry towards workers when we were forced to go on strike to keep from taking wage cuts amounting $1.50 an hour. In a four month long (and very bitter) strike we ended up taking a $0.60 wage cut (lost) three (paid) holidays, Sunday overtime, and lost vacation time.

It was during the strike that I started to become vocal about environmental issues when I took notice all the cars and trucks that crossed my picket line had one thing in common. They all were displaying the yellow timber industry support ribbon. To many of us who stood on the picket line the yellow ribbon became a symbol of the scabs and the timber industry greed. Even today—a year after the strike—only a small handful of RFP workers will display the yellow ribbon.

The strike became a real eye opener for me, so I began to study the environmental issues. The more I learned the more frightened and concerned I became. The poisoning of the rivers, lakes, and oceans; the pollution of the atmosphere, depletion of the ozone layer, the advancing of the greenhouse effect, and the rape and plunder of the world’s ancient rainforest all alarmed me, and I began to see that all these things are tied to the profit motive mentality which cut our wages. I became fully aware that workers and environmentalists have more in common than workers and employers. For the sake of the great and holy profit motive of laissez faire capitalism workers and the environment are both being exploited beyond their means to cope, especially in third world developing nations.

IWA Rank-and-File Union Millworkers Reply: Victims of G-P’s Fort Bragg Mill PCP Spill Speak Out

Written by Ron Atkinson, Cheryl Jones, Joe Valdao, Julie Wiles, and Treva VandenBosch
Edited by Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 13, 1989, Mendocino Commentary, December 14, 1989 and the Industrial Worker, January 1990.

Web Editor's Note: all of these workers authorized Judi Bari and the IWW to represent them before OSHA hearings that soon followed.

Judi Bari’s Introduction: Unionism was hard won in the Pacific Northwest. In the early 1900’s, the IWW stepped in where the AFL feared to tread, and broke the stranglehold of the timber barons on the loggers and mill workers. The companies and the government fought back with terror and bru-tality eventually crushing the IWW and settling instead for the more cooperative “Business Unions”.

Today these unions have stood by and watched the erosion of the gains the people fought so hard to win. The following statement from five workers at the Georgia-Pacific mill in our area shows the situation timber workers are in today, both from the companies and the “Business Unions”.

Minutes of the founding meeting of IWW Local #1

Recorded by Judi Bari, x332349, November 19, 1989

The Mendocino-Humboldt General Membership Branch of the IWW held our first meeting on Sunday November 19, 1989. Fourteen (out of 24) members came.

Structure

We set up our basic structure as follows: Judi Bari was elected Corresponding Secretary and Anna Marie Stenberg was elected Financial Secretary. They were instructed to open a bank account and keep track of dues and other paperwork. Other than these utilitarian positions, we will have no officers. Decisions will be made by the members at the meetings. If events occur between meetings that require action, temporary decisions (subject to ratification at the next meeting) will be made by the Entertainment Committee. Membership on the Entertainment Committee is voluntary, and the people who volunteered were Mike Koepf, Treva VandenBosch, Judi Bari, Anna Marie Stenberg, Pete Kayes, and Bob Cooper.

Work So Far

The work of Our Branch was described: We are a General Membership Branch (GMB) and will take on whatever issues the members want, especially issues related to our workplaces. But so far our activities have been centered around providing support for timber workers who are fighting their employers’ destruction of forests, jobs, and working conditions. We hope to be a bridge between environmentalists and timber workers and help bring about community understanding of the workers’ problems.

Pete Kayes, employee of Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO), in Scotia , talked about the failed attempt by workers to form an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and buy the company back from corporate raider Charles Hurwitz. Pete also gave out copies of the rank-and-file newsletter Timberlyin’ that he and others produce and distribute at the Scotia mill.

Treva VandenBosch, recently retired employee of Georgia Pacific (G-P) Corporation in Fort Bragg, told about being doused with PCBs in the G-P mill and receiving no help from the company or union (IWA Local #3-469, AFL-CIO). She walked off the job and single-handedly picketed the plant, eventually hooking up with Anna Marie and Mike (now also IWW members), who helped get the story out. The plant was finally closed for three days for clean-up, and OSHA fined G-P $14,000 for willful exposure of workers to PCB’s. G-P is appealing that decision, and the hearing will be on February 1, 1990 in San Fran-cisco. You must sign up in advance to be allowed to attend the hearing. We are asking all Wobs to sign up, even if you don’t expect to come, to demonstrate public interest. See enclosed forms.

Anna Marie told about Fort Bragg millworker Julie Wiles being arrested and led away in handcuffs for distributing a leaflet calling for fellow IWA Local #3-469 members to vote “no” on a proposed union dues increase. IWA shop stewards distributing pro-dues increase leaflets were not interfered with by the company. The IWA has not provided Julie with any support on her arrest and charges. We are asking all Wobs to come to Julie’s trial, and we have been helping her with her defense. Ten people showed up to support Julie at her arraignment.

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