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labor and environment

But What About Jobs?

By Judi Bari, Fall 1996

When Redwood National Park was created in the 1970's, the loggers and millworkers in this region still had unions to represent them. Those unions negotiated an agreement in which displaced timber workers were paid two thirds of their wages for the next six years, to give them a chance to re-train or re-locate and find a new job.

Since then, the unions have been busted, and the only ones pretending to speak for the workers are MAXXAM management and their captive congressman Frank Riggs (a Republican). For all their talk about jobs, none of their proposals have included one iota of compensation for displaced workers, although all of their proposals have included oodles of compensation for corporate criminal Charles Hurwitz.

Back in 1993, when Dan Hamburg (a Democrat at the time) had just been elected to Congress and environmentalists were drafting the Headwaters Acquisition Bill, I got a chance to look at this problem in detail. I was in charge of the committee assigned to write a worker's clause for the bill.

In order to do this, I convened a group of displaced and currently employed loggers and millworkers from MAXXAM, Simpson, and L-P, who met with a small group of hand-picked Earth First!ers. We asked the timber workers what to do about the loss of jobs that would come from saving Headwaters. Printed below is the proposal we came up with. This proposal should be part of any plan to save Headwaters.

An answer to the jobs-environment conflict?

By Tony Mazzochi - Green Left - September 8, 1993

Our first concern is to protect the jobs, incomes and working conditions of our members. On the other hand, people who work in hazardous industries, as many union members do, want safe jobs and a healthy environment. We must do everything we can to provide a workplace and environment free from recognised hazards.

The only way out of the jobs versus environment dilemma is to make provision for the workers who lose their jobs in the wake of the country's drastically needed environmental clean-up, or who are displaced or otherwise injured by economic restructuring, or military cutbacks and shifts of manufacturing overseas.

It will take an ambitious, imaginative program of support and re-education — going far beyond the inadequacies and deceptive "job retraining" programs that really mean a downward spiral to low-paying service jobs or subsistence level unemployment income.

The GI Bill after World War II, an innovative and successful program, is the precedent upon which the Superfund for Workers is based. The GI Bill helped more than 13 million ex-servicemen and women between 1945 and 1972 make the transition from military service to skilled employment in the private sector. This program had a formidable price tag, but the country overwhelmingly approved it as an investment in the future. Education became the key to national economic recovery. Education remains just as powerful a force today and is the basis of a concept supported by OCAW called "The Superfund for Workers".

OCAW members are concerned with the environment — our record over the years demonstrates this very fundamental fact. However, our members also are concerned about their jobs. It is small comfort to know that the environment is improving, but our jobs no longer exist.

There is, obviously, a major contradiction to be overcome. We want jobs and a clean environment. Environmental organisations representing millions demand a clean-up of toxics and a halt to the continuing toxification of the environment. However, they lack a clear idea of how to accomplish that desirable goal without a loss in jobs or a mass movement into jobs that pay only the minimum wage.

Greens, Loggers, and Woodworkers Blast Louisiana-Pacific’s “Good Neighbor Policy”

By Don Morris – Earth First! Journal, Samhain (Nov. 1), 1985

A loose coalition of environmentalists, woodworkers, loggers, and angry citizens has joined to protest the gangster tactics of the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation in Mendocino County, California.

Louisiana-Pacific has earned a national reputation as the premier union busting timber beast, and its callous disregard for neighbors and workers has caused a firestorm of protest in this rural Northern California county. In a 1979 referendum, county residents voted by a 2 to 1 margin to ban the aerial spraying of phenoxy herbicides after local children, while waiting for a school bus, were exposed to 2,4,5-T by a timber company spray helicopter. The ban was appealed by the state, but eventually upheld by the California Supreme Court in mid 1984. Under massive pressure from the Agro-Chemical Empire, the state legislature frantically passed a new law which transferred the control of herbicides and other “economic poisons” back to the state. Spray regulations are now back in the hands of the Department of Food and Agriculture (the California Pentagon) which is aggressively engaged in chemical warfare against all living threats to monoculture. Soon after the reversal, in early 1985, Louisiana-Pacific held a festive press briefing and, with total contempt for the democratic vote of the people, announced plans to resume spraying 2,4-D in the fall. The company mouth piece stressed that herbicide use was the only cost effective way of preventing hardwood species such as tanoak, madrone, and ceanothus (a nitrogen fixer) from competing with their conifer monocrops, He also expressed the desire to destroy the habitat of rabbits, gophers, and other forest creatures which pose a threat to conifer seedlings. The company resource manager, suppressing a grin, assured the press that Louisiana-Pacific would continue its “Good Neighbor” policy.

Environmentalists and other concerned citizens, enraged at the loss of local control, quickly began organizing to prevent the fall spraying, and while local resistance was still in disarray, “Good Neighbor” Louisiana-Pacific mounted a sneak chemical attack on its holdings near the communities of Rockport and Comptche. The weapon used was Dow Chemical’s new herbicide Garlon, which is sometimes referred to as 2,4,5-T in drag. Garlon is an unrestricted, relatively unknown, and inadequately tested chemical which is only one atom different from the banned 2,4,5-T. Adding injury to insult, Louisiana-Pacific cleverly managed to drift spray on a logging crew working near the Rockport site. Within 48 hours, the workers all developed remarkably similar flu like symptoms and were examined by a local physician who was unable to conclusively determine the cause of illness. Louisiana-Pacific, while asserting that the loggers were never sprayed, assured them that the chemical was harmless. Citizens near the Comptche spray site also complained of nausea and other flu-like symptoms, and later discovered that the spray had drifted into local streams. Several loggers and their families, despite fears of unemployment are planning legal action against the neighborly company.

After protesting in vain to timid local officials, environmentalists and irate citizens decided to confront the intransigent timber beast. The Comptche Citizens for a Safe Environment, with support from two other local groups—(SOHO) Support Our Herbicide Opposition, and the fledgling Mendocino Greens—planned a protest demonstration at the Louisiana-Pacific mill and offices in Ukiah. Local affiliates of two labor unions, the International Woodworkers of America, and the International Brotherhood of Carpenters, announced support for the picket in exchange for the Greens support of a leafleting campaign at area lumber yards calling for a boycott of all Louisiana-Pacific products.

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