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Lucas Plan

The Lucas Plan

The Lucas Plan is a visionary proposal crafted by a rank-and-file group of unionized workers (known as "Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop Stewards Committee") at the UK based Joseph Lucas Industries (popularly known as the Lucas Aerospace Company) who were facing downsizing due to "redundancy" (i.e. capitalist cost cutting in service of profit seeking) in 1976.

The workers believed that they could repurpose the company's spare manufacturing capacity and machines to produce socially useful products, such as advanced braking systems, hybrid-electric engines, medical equipment, and even renewable energy generating equipment (such as early generation solar electric panels) instead of weapons of mass destruction or luxury cars for the rich (Lucas produced motors for Rolls Royce, among other companies).

The combine was a rank-and-file organization, led by rank-and-file workers, focused at the point-of-production, that worked outside of the official union structure, which was seen by many of the rank-and-file as too timid or intransigent, and far too closely connected with the employers. Rather than seeking electoral solutions, running candidates for the union leadership, or even socialist party building, the Combine centered militant, rank-and-file organizing as their primary means to achieve their goals. However, the combine, while syndicalist in practice, didn't enforce ideological purity, as it was composed of workers from a polyglot of differing left and labor tendencies, including socialist, communist, liberal, and anarchist. In other words, it practiced the industrial unionism the IWW advocates. It didn't rule out electoralism, left parties, or running candidates for union leadership, but such work was seen as peripheral to the main shopfloor struggle.

Furthermore, the general consensus of the combine was pro-environmental. The overall analysis of the combine included environmental outlooks, noting how (colonialist, white-led) civilization had already significantly damaged the Earth by the mid 1970s, and the proposed repurposing included a good faith effort to produce environmentally and socially beneficial alternatives (although, since this plan was devised long before the dangers of climate change and loss of biodiversity had become daily realities, they still saw a role of ocean-floor mining and oil extraction, though they intended to produce equipment to make the process as non-destructive as possible, which, in 1976, was fairly leading edge).

It's no exaggeration to say that the Lucas Plan is an example of green syndicalism in practice.

The effort ultimately failed, primarily due to resistance from the bosses, bureaucratic inertia from the union officialdom, lack of support from the Labour Party (and outright opposition from the Conservative Party), and contemporary objective conditions which, in 1976, meant to ascendancy of neoliberalism and deregulation, which would accelerate greatly under Thatcher two years later. The fact that the Combine had an insular focus and was making a new road by walking into mostly unexplored territory didn't make the job any easier.

Now, as climate crisis deepens, as left-green and/or climate and environmental justice organizing continues to grow and deepen while neoliberalism is in sharp decline, and many workers and unions are growing increasingly favorable to green unionism, conditions for something like an updated version of the Lucas Plan (or many Lucas Plans) are growing increasingly favorable. As a result, interest in the Lucas Plan itself, long consigned to obscurity, has grown significantly in recent years.

The following articles, videos, and documents--organized in reverse chronological order from most recent to oldest--offer further insights into the Lucas Plan if you wish to take a deeper dive and learn more:

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Retired Union Member Explains Why Veterans Should Want Peace

Class Struggle Environmentalism, Degrowth, and Ecosocialism

By x344543 - IWW Eco Union Caucus, May 27, 2023

Calling for "DeGrowth" without conditions or even "Ecosocialist DeGrowth" is far too vague and could potentially alienate the working class (and no version of socialism, let alone ecosocialism, can be achieved without support of the working class.

Consider the report that the UC Labor Just Released: Fossil fuel layoff - The economic and employment effects of a refinery closure on workers in the Bay Area. This report de­tails the experience of union refinery workers who have lost their jobs at the Martinez

On October 30, 2020, the Marathon oil refinery in Contra Costa County, California, was perma­nently shut down and 345 unionized workers laid off. The Marathon refinery’s closure sheds light on the employment and economic impacts of climate change policies and a shrinking fossil fuel industry on fossil fuel workers in the region and more broadly.

In the aftermath of the refinery shutdown, workers were relatively successful in gaining post-layoff employment but at the cost of lower wages and worse working conditions. At the time of the survey, 74% of former Marathon workers (excluding retirees) had found new jobs. Nearly one in five (19%) were not employed but actively searching for work; 4% were not employed but not look­ing for a job; and the remaining 2% were temporarily laid off from their current job. Using standard labor statistics measures, the post-layoff unemployment rate among Marathon workers was 22.5% and the employment rate was 77.5%. If workers who have stopped actively searching for work were included, the post-layoff unemployment rate was higher at 26%.

Former Marathon workers find themselves in jobs that pay $12 per hour less than their Mar­athon jobs, a 24% cut in pay. The median hourly wage at Marathon was $50, compared to a post-layoff median of $38. A striking level of wage inequality defines the post-layoff wages of former re­finery workers. At Marathon, hourly pay ranged between $30 to $68. The current range extends as low as $14 per hour to a high of $69. Workers reported benefits packages comparable to their pre-layoff Marathon benefits.

Workers found jobs in a range of sectors. The single most common sector of re-employ­ment was oil and gas, where 28% of former Marathon workers found post-layoff jobs but at wages 26% lower than at Marathon. These lower rates of pay stem from loss of seniority and non-union employment.

Overall, workers reported worse working conditions at their post-layoff jobs, even in higher wage jobs. Workers described hazardous worksites, heavy workloads, work speed-up, increased job responsibilities, and few opportunities for advancement. Above all, workers cited poor safety prac­tices and increased worksite hazards as the most significant and alarming characteristics of degraded working conditions.

Some caveats:

  • While this report frames the closure as a result of energy transition in its press releases and in the media, they admit that the refinery really closed due to COVID, although the employer is opportunistically retool­ing the refinery for "renewable biodiesel" (a greenwashing scam, mostly);
  • Job losses and retooling happens all the time under capitalism.

This is NOT an example of "DeGrowth" andy more than it is an example of "Decarbonization" or "Energy Transi­tion", because fossil fuel profits are experiencing record and/or near record highs (for a variety of reasons)

Review - The Lucas Plan: A New Trade Unionism In The Making?

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, May 11, 2023

As the climate crises continues to deepen and as climate justice movements continue to rise to meet it, the concept of a just transition and/or a just transformation continues to be an ever present topic of discussion. However, most of these discussions remain in the abstract "what if?" realm, rather than the specific. Further, many workers and unions, even more revolutionary workers and unions, express skepticism due to lack of concrete examples of a just transition in practice.

The burning question is, do examples of worker crafted, specific concrete transformative plans exist and what do they look like?

Indeed, they do, and one of the best known examples is the Lucas Plan.

(From Wikipedia) The Lucas Plan was a January 1976 document produced by the workers of Lucas Aerospace Corporation. The shop stewards at Lucas Aerospace published an Alternative Plan for the future of their company. The plan was in response to the company’s announcement that thousands of jobs were to be cut to enable industrial restructuring in the face of technological change and international competition. Instead of being made redundant the workforce argued for their right to develop socially useful products.

In the most basic sense, the Lucas Plan was an example of green syndicalism in practice. 

What's even better, is that it's actually a well documented example, and The Lucas Plan: A New Trade Unionism In The Making? (Second Edition, Spokesman: 2018), by Hilary Wainwright and Dave Elliot, covers it all in rich, thorough detail. The book documents how the Lucas Aerospace, Shop Stewards Combine Committee, devised the plan, formed workplace committees, and devised a strategy to achieve it.

The workers possessed the necessary skills and determination to realize the plan, and they overcame many challenges, including craft divisions within the various unions that represented the Lucas Aerospace workers, as well as different left political tendencies among the rank and file workers and their shopfloor leadership. What these workers were unable to overcome were the inevitable refusal of the capitalists to agree to their demands, made all the more immobile by opposition from the workers' unions' officialdom, lack of support or interest from the various organized left parties and movements and obstruction from both of England's major political parties (Labour and Conservative).

The authors rely heavily on interviews and testimony from many of the workers who participated in the struggle, and as a result the account offers a variety of perspectives and honest self-criticism. The authors and the workers interviewed offer much advice on how to avoid the mistakes of the past.

A Worker-Led Approach: Shaping the Future of Aviation

#Insorgiamo: A Factory Occupation for the Climate

By Lukas Ferrari and Julia Kaiser - Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, January 11, 2023

Over the last two years, Italian autoworkers have built a broad and inspiring alliance for ecological transformation:

Imagine a climate strike in which 40,000 industrial workers, climate activists, pacifists, and other non-politically active people are brought together. In their speeches, they denounce the shutdown of an automotive supply factory. They all agree that what is needed is a conversion of production instead of layoffs. The bloc right at the front of the demonstration is made up of workers from the affected factory, and behind them are masses of militant climate activists and spontaneous demonstrators.

The workers of the plant join forces with scientists to develop a conversion plan together and, based on their skills and the latest research in environmental sciences, a vision emerges of producing components for hydrogen-powered buses. More and more people agree: we need production centred on people instead of profits!

This vision — one that would not be at all out of place in an ecosocialist manifesto — became a reality in Tuscany, Italy. After the 422 employees and approximately 80 agency workers of the automotive supplier GKN Driveline received an email on 9 July 2021 informing them that they didn’t need to come to work next Monday, they occupied their plant in Campi Bisenzio, on the outskirts of Florence.

The strategic centre of the occupation and the wave of mobilization that developed around it came to be known collectively as the Collettivo di Fabbrica GKN, which operates autonomously from but closely with official trade union structures. The majority of the more than 500 workers, including the workers’ councils organized within the Federazione Impiegati Operai Metallurgici (FIOM), the Italian metalworkers’ union, identify as part of the collective, which meets outside of working hours.

GKN is an automotive supplier with more than 50 production plants worldwide. Up until the production halt in summer 2021 the plant in Campi Bisenzio mainly produced axle shafts for Fiat (Ducato), Maserati, and Ferrari. The plant has changed ownership many times over the last decades. Once under the property of Fiat, in 1994 it was bought by the company GKN, which in turn was bought by the British investment fund Melrose Industries in 2018 for 8 billion pounds. Only three years later management announced the shutdown of the plant in Campi Bisenzio and the layoff of all its employees, days after the Italian government lifted the ban on dismissals it imposed during the pandemic.

Are Refinery Workers Climate Enemies?

By an anonymous ex-member of the IWW (with a response by Steve Ongerth) - ecology.iww.org, April 28, 2022

Editor's Note: Since Monday, March 21, 2022, the workers at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, members of the United Steelworkers Local 5 have been on strike and picketing the facility after voting down the company’s latest contract offer, which workers say contained insufficient wage increases and demanded cuts in union staffing that focused on health and safety in the refinery. The bosses have responded by bringing in scabs (including managers from other Chevron facilities). Meanwhile, USW Local 5 members have been picketing the refinery 24-7, and have been, at times, joined by members of the local BIPOC and/or environmental justice community. After IWW EUC cofounder and long-time Bay Area IWW General Membership Branch member, Steve Ongerth, brought a call for solidarity with the striking workers to the April branch meeeting, a disgruntled member (who has since resigned from the organization), sent the following letter to the branch (name deleted for privacy reasons).

Message from a Disgruntled (former) Member:

I’m sorry to say how disappointed I am in the IWW. I’m a relatively new wobbly and although I believe in standing in solidarity with fellow workers it seems at some point lines must be drawn.

As I’ve read through these last emails about the USW Local 5 and the call to action for us to stand with them as they strike, many questions come to mind. The first one is what if fellow climate activists, many of whom are wobblies were to implement a protest blockade to stall production of this refinery in defense of the environment? I wonder if those refinery workers with whom we are picketing would come outside and join our protest line? I also wonder if they would be interested in the invitation to join the 2022 Global Climate Strike that you forwarded to us? In both cases I assume it is reasonable to conclude they would not.

As wobblies, where do we draw the line? What if oil pipeline workers go to strike for hazard pay because a tribal nation, whose land the pipeline is planned to cross blocks safe access to thier jobsite in protest of the poisoning of thier waterways? Would the IWW Environmental Caucus also put a call out to picket with those Union workers? We draw the line when it comes to police unions who’s membership is hellbent on beating and imprisoning people protesting civil injustices. Why are we supporting refinery workers? This makes no sense. Iunderstand that just about every industry is to some degree tainted with These workers primary job is to process and prepare for market the product that’s catapulted us into the current global warming apocalyptic meltdown!

Green Unionism on the Chevron Richmond Refinery Workers Picket Line

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, April 15, 2022

Since Monday, March 21, 2022, the workers at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, members of the United Steelworkers Local 5 have been on strike and picketing the facility after voting down the company’s latest contract offer, which workers say contained insufficient wage increases. The bosses have responded by bringing in scabs (including managers from other Chevron facilities). The strike has gotten a good deal of media coverage:

However, the capitalist (and progressive) media have mostly missed some important details.

First of all, the striking refinery workers and their elected union leaders continue to emphasize that their issues extend beyond narrow bread and butter issues, such as wages and benefits. A major concern that they continue to articulate is that Chevron continues to try and cut unionized safety jobs and refuses to hire sufficient workers to safely and adequately staff the facility. Workers have complained of 12-hour days and six-day workweeks. All of these deficiencies not only risk the health and safety of the workers, but the surrounding, mostly BIPOC communities as well. Worse still, they have adverse environmental effects, a problem that hasn't been lost on the striking workers. As stated by USW Local 5 representative, B.K White:

“If we had more people and could get a better pay rate, maybe our members wouldn’t feel obligated to come in and work as many as 70 hours a week to make ends meet. We don’t believe that is safe. (that and the use of replacement workers) is at the detriment of the city of Richmond and the environment.”

Even less noticed by the media has been the presence of environmental justice activists (including, but not limited to, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Extinction Rebellion, Fossil Free California, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Sierra Club, Sunflower Alliance, Sunrise Movement, and 350), various socialist organizations (including DSA in particular), and members from the nearby front-line BIPOC communities, who have joined the pickets in solidarity with the workers, something the workers have also not hesitated to point out. Indeed, in spite of the fact that many environmental justice activists and community members are harshly critical of Chevron's role in turning the city of Richmond into a capital blight infested sacrifice zone, they recognize that the workers are not their enemies nor are the latter responsible for the damage done by the company. On the contrary, many recognize that the unionized workforce is one of the best mitigations against far worse capital blight (it bears mentioning that there has also been a good deal of support and picket line presence from rank and file workers and union officials from many other unions, including the AFSCME, IBEW, IWW, ILWU, SEIU, UFCW, and the Contra Costa County Central Labor Council).

Such seemingly unlikely bonds of solidarity, though delicate and, at times, fragile didn't arise out of thin air, but, in fact, have resulted from years of painstaking grassroots organizing.

Let Nature Play: A Possible Pathway of Total Liberation and Earth Restoration

By Dan Fischer - Green Theory & Praxis, April 2022

Many argue that we are running out of time, but perhaps the problem is time itself. Or rather, it is the alienated time that we spend working on the clock, obsessively looking at screens, letting consumption of commodities dominate our free time and even invade our dreams. And it is the perception we often have of the universe as a giant clock, an inert machine to be put to work. Too often, there is no sense that nature, ourselves included, has a right to relax, a right to be lazy, a right to play.

While Autonomist Marxists define capitalism as an “endless imposition of work” on human beings (van Meter, 2017), we could add that the system also imposes endless work on nonhuman animals and nature. Moving even beyond van Meter’s broad conception of the working class as inclusive of “students, housewives, slaves, peasants, the unemployed, welfare recipients and workers in the technical and service industries” in addition to the industrial proletariat, Jason Hribal (2012) describes exploited animals as working-class. He points to animals’ labor for humans’ food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, and medicine. Corroborating such a perspective, capitalists themselves label exploited ecosystems as “working landscapes” (Wuerthner, 2014), exploited farm animals as “labouring cattle” (Hribal, 2012), genetically modified crops as “living factories” (Fish, 2013), and extracted hydrocarbons as “energy slaves” (Fuller, 1940). As summarized by Indigenous Environmental Network director Tom Goldtooth (2015) the dominant worldview posits that “Mother Earth is a slave.” This endless work has been disastrous for the planet. Humans’ long hours of alienated labor contribute to deeply destructive economic growth (Hickel & Kallis, 2019; Knight et al., 2013). So does the exploited labor of animals, with livestock taking up some 76% of the world’s agricultural land (Poore & Nemecek, 2018). Working landscapes “suffer losses in biological diversity, soil health, and other ecological attributes” (Wuerthner, 2014). And even the cleanest “energy slaves,” wind and solar power, can require large amounts of resources and land in the context of a growing economy (War on Want & London Mining Network, 2019).

Green Unionism against Precarity

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, January 1, 2022

Editor's Note: all but one or two of the links in this article link to multiple articles, located on the IWW Environmental Union Caucus site, categorized by topic. Therefore, it is to the reader's interest to explore all of the articles brought forth by each link, at their convenience (and that body of information is ever evolving over time).

An edited version of this article appears in New Politics 72.

In a real sense, under capitalism, all workers are "precarious", meaning that they can be downsized, replaced, deskilled, outsourced, etc. It's simply a matter of degrees.

The ultimate peak in precarity is "gig work" (which has actually always existed; the names simply keep changing, but the concept is the same).

Unions represent a check against precarity, though this occurs on a graduated scale. The stronger the union, the less the workers' precarity.

Union strength manifests in various ways: it can result from a well organized, international, militant democratic union (ideal, but rare, with few real world examples, such as ILWU, and the IWW, of course), though more often than not it's a result of concentration of elite craft workers in skilled trades unions, which represents a strong guard against precarity, but only for workers in the union, in which case, solidarity is limited.

Other checks against precarity include high demand for skilled craft workers in rare supply, High demand for hard to replace workers (such as workers that required skilled credentials, such as teachers or transport workers), or tight labor markets (which exist in our semi-post COVID-19 world, due to a combination of factors spelled out in the Vox article).

This is nothing more than class struggle 101, as expertly phrased by Karl Marx, et. al.

There are new forms of precarity emerging due to climate catastrophe (brought on by capitalism). Workers find themselves facing new health and safety hazards and/or threats to their working environment.

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