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John Medhurst “When the day comes that there is a serious strike of workmen against the poisoning of the air with smoke or the waters.

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Presentation on theme: "John Medhurst “When the day comes that there is a serious strike of workmen against the poisoning of the air with smoke or the waters."— Presentation transcript:

1 John Medhurst


3 “When the day comes that there is a serious strike of workmen against the poisoning of the air with smoke or the waters with filth, I shall think that art is getting on indeed”


5 The Social Democratic Federation Sheffield Socialist Society “Towards Democracy” “Our Parish and Our Duke” - argued that rent should go to a common fund for roads, the environment, care of old people and higher wages. Sold 20,000 copies. Influenced the “New Unionism” and the Independent Labour Party


7 Poor working conditions - 14 hour days, use of white phosphorous Annie Besant wrote “White Slavery in London” Management demanded workers repudiate article. When refused, some sacked. 1,400 working girls and women went on strike Led to better conditions e.g. separate eating areas Eventually led to British Govt banning White Phosphorous in matches

8 Women’s Trade Union League organised female garment workers 1909 – walkout of 400 workers at Triangle Shirtwaist factory demanding better conditions 9 th floor – 240 workers crammed in. March 1911 – breakout of fire on 9 th floor. Fire-escapes did not reach ground. Doors opened inwards 146 dead- mostly teenage immigrant girls



11 WTUL agitated for new working environment laws and better inspection NY State Legislature created Factory Investigating Committee. Led to a "golden era in remedial legislation" in NY State. Many trade unionists and progressives active in fight for improved worker safety in garment trades became leading figures in 1930s New Deal – introduced labour and environmental protections.


13 First Trade Union to have specific environmental policies 1925 - called for “Conservational Action” against lumber companies “Nothing but mute stumps over hundreds of acres. Where is it going to end?” - The Industrial Pioneer

14 “If it hadn’t been for the IWW, the forests of Montana and Northern Idaho wouldn’t be there now” Joseph Davis, U.S Forestry Service, 1917

15 “With their combination of revolutionary fervour, love for wild nature, and scorn for capitalist “development”, Joe Hill and others in the “rebel band of labor” can truly be regarded as forerunners of the Earth First! Movement in the 1980s.” Franklin Rosemont – The IWW and the Making of a Revolutionary Working Class Counterculture.

16 Judi Bari - environmentalist, feminist and union activist. Organiser of Earth First! campaigns in 80s/90s against logging of redwoods in California. Organized links of Earth First! and IWW to bring timber workers and environmentalists together. 1990 - severely injured by FBI pipe bomb in her car whilst organising the “Redwood Summer” campaign to save redwood forests and build alliance with loggers.

17 3 month long campaign by Earth First! Non-violent blockade of ports and logging, demonstrations, sit-ins, and debates with logging workers and families 5,000 people participated “The goal was, and is, to turn the timber industry to sustained-yield harvesting under community and worker control and ownership” Jeff Ditz, Libertarian Labor Review, 1991

18 “She helped transform Earth First! from a narrow minded conservationist movement into an allied social force that aimed to transform social relations themselves, and the new and inventive way she went about it was undoubtedly the reason she was subjected to an attempted bomb assassination in 1990”. Dan Jakopovich – Green Unionism in Theory and Practice, 2007


20 Only IWW tried to organise immigrant farm workers 1963 – Chavez created the UFW UFW agitated for Filipino/Mexican farm workers in California – used “Community Service Organisation” Campaigns and strikes led to support of RFK, and passage of 1st collective bargaining law for farm workers In 1980s focused campaigns on environment – fasted for 36 days to protest use of pesticides

21 Encouraged grass roots democracy and debate Anti-Vietnam War activities Encouraged female membership and equal pay 1973 – 1 st female organiser of a construction workers union in the world Immigrant members provided bi-lingual resources Supported student and gay activists.

22 “In the course of this great boom the developers were not concerned with what was destroyed; Georgian terraces, Victorian spires and domes, parkland, jewels of art deco all fell to the wrecker’s ball. Scab labour would be used in nocturnal operations to pull down heritage listed buildings. This was capitalism in the raw.” Green Bans and the BLF: the labour movement and urban ecology

23 “Perhaps the most radical example of working class environmentalism ever seen in the world”. John Tully, ex BLF activist

24 Green Bans saved – The Rocks – Sydney’s oldest precinct, parklands & terraced houses with controlled rents Kelly’s Bush – Last remaining natural bush land in Sydney Harbour Centennial Park Botanical Gardens – Sydney’s “lungs”. Theatre Royal Many others

25 NSW Branch destroyed by alliance of property developers, corrupt union officials, and criminals BLF President funded by employers – with their money he flew in scabs to break NSW Branch, hired armed thugs to intimidate activists Prominent resident supporter Juanita Nielson vanished – presumed murdered NSW Branch office burgled and records stolen Jack Mundey reluctantly concedes defeat

26 “The NSW BLF perished, but its exploits have become the stuff of legend and an inspiration to all who wish to rebuild the worker’s movement as a thoroughly democratic, class-conscious movement, committed to social and environmental action as an integral part of building a better world” John Tully, BLF

27 “Petra Kelly saw the Green Bans which the unions were then imposing on untoward developments in Sydney. She took back to Germany this idea of Green bans, or the terminology. As best as we can track it down, this is where the word “green” as applied to the emerging Greens in Europe came from” Australian Green Party Senator Bob Brown

28 “An Alternative Corporate Plan for socially useful and environmentally desirable production”

29 Lucas Aerospace management sought to cut jobs. LA shop stewards meet - a mix of aerospace designers, shop floor engineers and “unskilled” labour Alternative Corporate Plan drawn up by a combine of all LA workers Ideas for alternative production based on social usefulness – new kidney machines, portable life support systems, improved wheelchairs, battery driven cars, solar panels, wind generators, many more.

30 LA management refused to negotiate the plan Suggestions of public ownership of LA Only govt supporter – Industry Secretary Tony Benn Wilson removed Benn from post after pressure from CBI and media because of support for LA workers and public ownership. LA Alternative Corporate Plan not acted on, but an inspiration for today’s Green New Deal and the “Just Transition” agenda.


32 “If the climate were a bank, the US would already have saved it” Hugo Chavez, Copenhagen Summit

33 2000 - Bolivia’s water supply privatised Cochabamba Water run for profit by Bechtel “Law 2029” – gave Bechtel control of all water resources in Cochabamba. Bechtel raised prices by 35%, charged for installation of meters, and for licenses to collect rainwater. “If people don’t pay their water bills, their water will be turned off” – G. Thorpe, Bechtel Executive


35 Massive campaign of resistance led by Trade Unions – especially the Union of Coca Farmers (UCF). UCF leader Evo Morales led 600km march from Cochabamba to La Paz. Occupation of central la Paz. Eventually privatisation reversed and water re- nationalised. Morales and others create “Movement Toward Socialism” party 2005 – Morales elected President of Bolivia

36 MTS government nationalised major utlities Provided subsidised food for poor Pressured food producers to sell to local markets first After failure of Copenhagen Climate Change conference, Morales called for counter-conference at Cochabamba to focus climate change resistance "The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change, and the disease is the capitalist development model." - Evo Morales, 2007


38 In response to NAFTA Based on grass roots participatory, anarchist, indigenous resistance Occupied land of absentee landlords & created autonomous communities Used internet to create global network, linking to anti-capitalist groups like Reclaim the Streets

39 1991 - Reclaim the Streets formed in UK by Earth First! activists. “A campaigning Collective with a shared ideal of community ownership of public spaces. A resistance movement to the dominance of corporate forces in globalization, and to the car as the dominant mode of transport”



42 World’s largest Wind Turbine producer July 2009 – announced closure of Isle of Wight factory and loss of over 500 jobs Offices occupied by some of workforce and campaign by unions (RMT, PCS) to nationalise Labour Govt supports “Green jobs” but refuses to nationalise August 2009 – Vestas opens plant in China with 5,000 jobs

43 “Vestas symbolises how we can’t rely on the motor forces of the capitalist market. Here were green products but low profits; hence, in a capitalist market, the result is closure and “rationalisation”. How can the passions and reflections stimulated by the Vestas campaign be turned into the strategy we need for an effective and socially just green transition?” Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper, 2009


45 Founded 2001 in response to US rejection of Kyoto Protocols 2008 – major Trade Union conference on climate change The “Just Transition” agenda The Green New Deal “One Million Climate Jobs Now!” pamphlet

46 “Ecologists with a socialist perspective and socialists with an ecological perspective must form a coalition to tackle the wide-ranging problems relating to human survival. And then my dream, and that of millions of others, might come true: a socialist world with a human face, an ecological heart and an egalitarian body”. Jack Mundey, Secretary NSW BLF

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