The Latest News and Updates:

Redwood Uprising: From One Big Union to Earth First! and the Bombing of Judi Bari

To know who bombed Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, it is much more important to determine why they bombed Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.

The two were targeted because they represented a viable democratic, populist, grassroots challenge to the powers that be, in this case, Corporate Timber, and its established paradigm of total control over the redwood forests of California’s North Coast and by extension—as you will see in this book—America’s forests in general, the modern timber industry, and capitalism itself. They stood upon the crest of a wave of change that was poised to undermine the existing order, and she was more than willing to ride it to its conclusion. That wave was a confluence of both environmentalist and labor movements and, if left unchecked in its course, it could very well have washed away institutions, both “private” and “public” that were, by many people’s accounts, corrupt and rotten to their very core.

This book chronicles these struggles and how a divided community began to overlook their differences and fight against the real outside agitators: multinational corporations. The struggle is no less relevant today as multinational corporations continue to receive massive bailouts, working people struggle more and more just to make ends meet, and global warming threatens not only old growth forests, but civilization as we know it.

The book will soon be available in hard copy, but in the meantime, the individual chapters are being released weekly on this site. To read them in order, visit this page.

The most recently published chapter is featured immediately below:

Chapter 10 : Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

It was inevitable that the two would meet, really. Earth First! was challenging the corporate extraction of resources, but it wasn’t combating it at its source: the point of production. The problem was that the business unions theoretically could, but in practice they would not. They were too invested in their role as junior partners in the capitalist economy, which left them incapable of fighting it. There was only one union in the United States that could, and luckily, it still existed, even if it was but a shadow of its former self.

That the IWW influenced Earth First! is obvious. If the opposite was true in the early days of Earth First!’s existence, it is difficult to say. Initially, there was no direct or textual reference made by the IWW to Earth First! in its official publication, The Industrial Worker, prior to February 1988, although there was a one-time reproduction of one of Mike Roselle’s images (frequently used in the Earth First! Journal’s “dear shit fer brains” letters section), slightly altered and used in the Industrial Worker’s own letters section in September 1983.

The IWW did take note of general environmental struggles and actions within the pages of the Industrial Worker. For example, in the October / November 1980 issue there was a lengthy article titled, “Big Mountain Dine & Hopi Bat­tle Mine Interests”, a struggle which Earth First! supported for many years. In the June 1981 issue included a lengthy article about the Bolt Weevils”—which predate Earth First!, but serve as one of its inspirations—called, “The Power Line Protest in West Central Minnesota”. Earth First!er Roger Featherstone, was once involved in this campaign. There was a similar, uncredited article about this movement, simply called “Bolt Weevils” in the May 1, 1984 issue of the Earth First! Journal. An isolated column (that does not mention Earth First!) called “Ecology Notes” appeared in the Decem­ber 1982 issue. The same column never appeared again, however. By 1983, articles about ecologically oriented workers’ struggles became more and more frequent, but Earth First! was never mentioned, even if Earth First! was involved in the struggle. Meanwhile, the Wobblies were rarely mentioned in the Earth First! Journal except for a few occasional letters from self-identified IWW members, or former members. [1]

Behind the scenes, however, individual Wobblies and Earth First!ers frequently came into contact with each other. Dave Foreman later revealed that he had regularly corresponded with Utah Phillips. Franklin and Penelope Rosemont had also been in contact with Foreman as well as Roger Featherstone, a veteran of several environmental campaign, who described himself as “a roving reporter for Earth First!” [2] In Tacoma, Washington, IWW members Barbara Hansen and Allen Anger lived in an apartment in the same building as the IWW hall along with long time member, and then branch secretary, Ottilie Markholt. They were friends with George Draffan, who had been a member of the IWW when he was in college, long before joining Earth First! in the 1980s. [3] Colorado IWW member and oilfield worker Gary Cox was also sympathetic to Earth First!. Cox had read The Monkeywrench Gang, become a subscriber to the Earth First! Journal, and had attended an Earth First! speaking event by Dave Foreman and Roger Featherstone at the University of Colorado. [4] A handful of IWW members were Earth First!ers themselves, including a musician known as “Wobbly Bob”. [5]

Nevertheless, the first actual mention of Earth First! in the pages of the Industrial Worker touched on the Cameron Road tree spiking and the injury to George Alexander.

Chapter 9 : And they Spewed Out their Hatred

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“We are witnessing the biggest assault in 20 years on the remaining ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, and the rhetoric could hardly be more Orwellian as far as the environment is concerned.”

—North Coast Environmental Center director Tim McKay, June 1988 [1]

“PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!” shouts Oz, the Great and Terrible in the theatrical version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, just after Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulls aside the screen exposing the simple man-who-would-be-wizard. As elaborate a ruse as it was, L Frank Baum’s loveable humbug couldn’t hold a candle to the heads of modern corporations. Corporate Timber maintained economic and political control over the Pacific Northwest using the many methods to manufacture consent, including: the concentration of timber holdings and production capital (namely mills and milling equipment) in the hands of a few corporations; reliance on gyppo logging firms and either nonunion millworkers or millworkers with mostly compliant union representation; insurance of the gyppos’ loyalty through forestry and bidding practices that made the latter financially dependent upon the corporations; dominance of regulatory agencies by subservient or likeminded officials, sometimes even former timber executives; ideological and financial domination over timber dependent communities, their public institutions, and their locally elected officials; the donation of just enough charitable contributions to those often financially starved institutions as a “carrot”; the threat of capital flight—which was becoming increasingly feasible due to new technologies—as a “stick”; appeals to cultural ideals particular to the region, namely rugged individualism, cultural conservatism, and private property; and the establishment of ostensibly grassroots false front groups to foster the illusion of populist counter-opposition to the corporations’ political opponents. [2] In the spring of 1988, Pacific Lumber used this last tool extensively.

After Jerry Partain rejected the Shaw Creek and Lawrence Creek THPs proposed by Pacific Lumber, the following letter by Ramona Moore appeared in the Eureka Times-Standard and the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance:

“I’ve lived in Humboldt County since 1954 and have been employed at the Pacific Lumber Company for 24 years, and my husband for 29 years. Our four children were raised in Scotia…

“We take great pride in knowing we have always paid our full share of taxes, never drawn welfare funds nor filed unemployment because we didn’t want to work, and contributed what we could to charitable organizations. What have Earth First and EPIC people contributed? They have opposed everything from importing bananas to cutting trees and are only for legalizing marijuana. They are mostly unemployed which means they are drawing unemployment benefits or on welfare, and maybe growing ‘pot’ to supplement their income. They certainly are not paying federal, state, and county taxes…

“…We have to work for our living and whether they realize it or not, it’s our work and contributions in taxes that allows them the benefits they’re living on. So what gives them the right to play God with our future?

“Humboldt County relies on fishing, tourism, and timber (a renewable resource) for their livelihood. If Earth First and EPIC people win their endeavors, none of these things will be available. Pacific Lumber contributes $30 million in wages yearly, and millions are contributed in taxes. If this is taken from the community and thousands of people are without work, only one thing can happen—disaster!” [3]

This was but one of many very similar letters published between April 19 and June 10, 1988, including those by Steve White, published in the Eureka Times-Standard, April 19, 1988 [4]; Dann Johnson, Times-Standard on April 23, 1988 [5]; Rodney and Melodee Sanderson, Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance on May 10, 1988 [6]; Richard Adams [7] and Lee Ann Walstrom [8], Times-Standard, May 21, 1988; Samuel and Linda Bartlett [9], Mary L. Fowler [10], Kevin Morris [11], Nita M Whitaker [12], Keith Kersell [13], and Lee Ann Walstrum [14], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, May 22, 1988; Gaird Hamilton, Times-Standard, May 23, 1988 [15]; Lynda Lyons, Times-Standard, May 24, 1988 [16]; Richard Ward [17] and Fred Johnson [18], Times-Standard, May 25, 1988; Forrest Johnson, Times-Standard, May 26, 1988 [19]; Dennis Coleman, Times-Standard, May 27, 1988 [20]; Raymond Davis [21], Jeff and Sherrin Erickson [22], and Gary L Wyatt [23], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, May 27, 1988; Deborah August of Eureka [24], Ken Cress [25], and Jim Scaife [26], Eureka Times-Standard, May 28, 1988; Linda Bartlett (again) [27], Allan E. Barrote [28], Josh and Betty Edwards [29], Vanessa Frederickson [30] Mohota Jean Pollard and Donald H. Pollard [31], and Dee Weeks and family (sic) [32], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, June 3, 1988; and James Ober [33] and Cindy Cardoza Tyler [34], Beacon and Fortuna Advance on June 10, 1988. The Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance commented that the sheer volume of letters was unusual. [35] Even the owner of the Chevron gas station in Scotia got into the act. [36]

Chapter 8 : Running for Our Lives

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“The only reason that I ran for the Board of Supervisors in the first place, primarily, was to support the timber industry”

—Humboldt County District 2 Supervisor Harry Pritchard, 1987

When Maxxam came to Humboldt and bought out old “PL”,
And ripped the worker’s pension fund and turned the land to hell,
Old Bosco sent a press release to say he’d lend a hand,
And he didn’t break his promise—he just lent it to Maxxam.

—Lyrics excerpted from Where’s Bosco? By Darryl Cherney, 1988

 

Darryl Cherney ran for congress,
As a singing candidate,
Some folks said, “he dropped out early”,
Others said, “it was too late”.

—Lyrics excerpted from Darryl Cherney’s on a Journey, by Mike Roselle and Claire Greensfelder, 1990

The fallout from EPIC vs. Maxxam I was felt almost immediately. Emboldened by Judge Petersen’s decision, and the revelations that the California Department of Forestry had essentially bullied the Department of Fish & Game into silence on the cumulative impact of logging on wildlife in the THP review process, the latter agency took an unprecedented stand. Led by John Hummel, the DFG filed “non-concurrence” reports on five Humboldt County THPs, including three by Simpson Timber Company, one by Pacific Lumber, and one by an independent landowner. In doing so, Hummel declared:

“The wildlife dependent on the old growth redwood/Douglas fir ecosystem for reproduction, food, and cover have not been given adequate consideration in view of the potential impacts…Our position in Fish and Game is that if clearcuts on old-growth stands are submitted, we will not concur until these issues are resolved.”

He further declared that economically viable alternatives to clearcutting had been proposed or evaluated, and the DFG was considering developing position statements in favor of protecting spotted owls, marbled murrelets, fishers, red-tree voles, Olympic salamanders, Del Norte salamanders, and tailed frogs as “species of special concern” in the THP process. [1]

The CDF remained entrenched and indicated that they would ignore Petersen’s ruling by announcing that they would simply change the rules to benefit Corporate Timber. Following the DFGs “non-concurrence” filings, CDF director Jerry Partain called upon the California Board of Forestry to invoke its emergency powers to allow the CDF discretion to overrule DFG findings and approve THPs anyway. This was also unprecedented. The emergency rules had hitherto only been used to protect the environment; now Partain was calling for the opposite. The CDF director’s action brought immediate condemnation from the Office of Administrative Law, the Planning and Conservation League, and EPIC. Among other things, they charged that this rule change should require a full EIR under CEQA. [2]

No doubt Corporate Timber was the biggest motivator behind Partain’s machinations. Epic vs. Maxxam I threatened to shake the agency’s practices up significantly, and not just in Humboldt County. For example, in Mendocino County, local residents filed challenges to two Louisiana-Pacific THPs in the Navarro and Big River Watersheds. [3] The Corporations’ response was to lobby the BOF to require administrative fees of $1,000 per challenge, a threat to citizen oversight that even some pro-Corporate Timber backers considered overshoot and legally untenable. [4]

* * * * *

It was within this political context that Darryl Cherney’s and Greg King’s campaign for office took place. As the environmentalists’ struggle for forestry reform gained momentum and public support they increasingly found themselves in conflict with the government at all echelons. Whether at the fed­eral, state, or county level, it was scarcely an exaggeration to say that poli­ticians and judges were heavily influenced by Corporate Timber. Maxxam and Simp­son called the shots in Hum­boldt County, Georgia-Pacific con­trolled Mendocino County to the south, and Louisiana-Pacific was a heavy hitter in both.

Chapter 7 : Way Up High in The Redwood Giants

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“I just wish Mr. Hurwitz would go out in the woods and take about a day and just sit down in inside a redwood grove. Maybe he’d have a different opinion (about) what’s going on. Rather than looking at a dollar bill, he’d be seeing a tree for its value.”

—John Maurer, Pacific Lumber shipping clerk, 1976-86.

“The employees of PL have no union or representation; they’ve been kidnapped. Whatever their employer requires, they must fulfill or risk unemployment. They’ve become forced through economics to support practices they would never have supported otherwise. PL employees are paranoid by necessity. Folks are so afraid of losing their jobs. There’s lots of fear in our community, fear that keeps us separated from one another.”

—Pete Kayes, Pacific Lumber blacksmith, 1976-91

Earth First! was committed to their Week of Outrage Against Maxxam, whether or not their message of forests and timber jobs forever was superimposed with images of mill worker George Alexander speaking through the bandages that covered his mutilated face. Greg King worried that the negative publicity for an act Earth First! didn’t commit would indeed distract attention away from the real issue: the long term liquidation of the last remaining virgin redwood forests of Northern California. Darryl Cherney, however, assured everyone, “We will be upholding the laws. It is Pacific Lumber that is breaking them.” [1] Beginning on Monday, May 18, Earth First! planned to conduct actions in several places specifically targeting Pacific Lumber operations, Maxxam offices, and related facilities. [2] The largest and most important of these was to be a multifaceted action on Pacific Lumber land in Humboldt County itself, targeting the Booths Run “All Species Grove” THP concurrently being contested by EPIC. [3]

In preparation for the demonstrations, on the day before a group of Earth First!ers attempted to block Pacific Lumber’s main haul route into All Species Grove, while a second crew, including Larry Evans, Mokai, Kurt Newman, and Darrell Sukovitzen, conducted a group “tree sit” 120-150 high on four three-by-six foot suspended wooden platforms up in the giant redwoods nearby. Only two platforms were successfully deployed, however. Mokai had retreated at the advice of the other sitters for logistical reasons, and instead watched his would-be fellow climbers ascending their trees through binoculars. Newman was able to climb his tree, but his platform was intercepted by P-L security who arrived very quickly. From the canopies, the sitters hung large 30-foot banners with slogans such as “Save the Redwoods” and “Stop Maxxam” which also included a blood colored skull and crossbones. The sitters stayed up for several hours until Humboldt County sheriffs arrived, at which time Evans and Sukovitzen surrendered. Newman, on the other hand, remained in place until a professional P-L climber, Dan Collings ascended to his position, at which time Newman surrendered also. [4] The three tree sitters, three of their support people (Lynn Burchfield, Debra Jean Jorgenson, and Linda Villatore), and Sacramento Weekly reporter Tim Holt [5] were arrested and spent two nights in the Humboldt County jail and faced fines of up to $3000. [6] They had collectively managed to remain in the trees for between 12 and 20 hours, but had hoped to remain longer to give the next day’s action “staying power”. [7]

As it turned out, the tree sits weren’t needed anyway. The next day, the show went on at the enormous P-L log deck at Carlotta nearby, attended by 125 Earth First!ers and their allies holding banners, chanting, and singing songs, led by Darryl Cherney. [8] The tree spiking furor had brought larger than expected numbers of media representatives to the action, and they got a good look at Maxxam’s pillage and the Humboldt County sheriffs’ heavy handedness firsthand. One demonstrator was slightly injured when a pickup truck, driven by a disgruntled, unsympathetic P-L employee, attempted to storm the protesters at the logging gate. [9] A group of three women swarmed the log deck attempting to display huge banners there. [10] Although the sheriffs were anticipating the action and managed to arrest Agnes Mansfield, Aster Phillipa, and Karen Pickett [11], they were distracted long enough for Bettina Garsen, Tierra Diane Piaz, and “Sally Bell” [12] to ascend the log deck with banners conveying messages calling for a halt to old growth logging. [13] The sheriffs eventually arrested the second group, and all six arrestees each spent a night in the county jail. [14] Although the tree sit had been thwarted, the action turned out to be successful anyway, because P-L determined that it was in their short term interest not to haul any logs during the demonstration, and this nevertheless advanced Earth First!’s strategy beautifully. [15]

Chapter 6 : If Somebody Kills Themselves, Just Blame it on Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Haul it to the sawmill, Got to make a buck,
Your blades are worn and dangerous, Better trust your luck,
Don’t stop for the workers’ safety, Never fear the worst,
‘Cause if somebody kills themselves, Just blame it on Earth First!,
L-P…

—Lyrics excerpted from L-P, by Judi Bari, 1990.

“Anybody who ever advocated tree spiking of course has to rethink their position.”

—Darryl Cherney, June 1987.[1]

Earth First! received much negative press for its advocacy of biocentrism, the notion that all species (including humans) were intrinsically valuable. Their slogan “No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!” was forceful and militant, and given the misanthropic leanings of some of its cofounders, it was often taken to mean that they valued the lives of nonhuman species above humans—even if it meant the suffering or death of the latter—which wasn’t actually the case. The situation was complicated further by Earth First!’s advocacy of monkeywrenching: industrial “ecotage” which included everything from deflagging roads to putting sugar in the fuel tanks of earth moving and/or logging equipment. Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman described monkeywrenching thusly:

“It is resistance to insanity that is encapsu­lated in Monkeywrenching…(it) fits in with the bioregional concept. You go back to a place and you peacefully re-inhabit it. You learn about it. You become a part of the place. You develop an informal and al­ternative political and social struc­ture that is somehow apart from the sys­tem… it’s also a means of self-empowerment, of finding alternative means of relat­ing to other people, and other life forms…there is a funda­mental difference between ecodefense resistance and classic revolutionary or terrorist behavior.” [2]

Such a description, while informative, was hardly likely to silence critics on the right. The most controversial of these controversial tactics by far, was Earth First!’s advocacy of “tree spiking”, the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter timber sales. [3]

Chapter 5 : No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“One man, Charles Hurwitz, is going to destroy the largest remaining block of redwoods out of sheer arrogance. Only we the people can stop him.”

—Dave Foreman, October 22, 1986.[1]

Well I come from a long, long line of tree-fallin’ men,
And this company town was here before my grandpappy settled in,
We kept enough trees a-standin’ so our kids could toe the line,
But now a big corporation come and bought us out, got us working double time…

—lyrics excerpted from Where are We Gonna Work When the Trees are Gone?, by Darryl Cherney, 1986.

On the surface, very little seemed to have changed in Scotia for its more than 800 residents, but deep down, they all knew that the future was very much uncertain. Some seemed unconcerned, such as 18 year Pacific Lumber veteran Ted Hamilton, who declared, “We’re just going on as always,” or his more recently hired coworker, millworker Keith Miller, who had been at the company less than six years and who stated, “It doesn’t bother me much.”[2] Indeed, many of the workers seemed to welcome their newfound financial prosperity. [3] However, there were at least as many workers whose assessments were quite pessimistic, including millworker Ken Hollifield, a 19 year veteran who opined, “I’m sure this place won’t be here in five to seven years.” Former millworker and then-current owner of the Rendezvous Bar in Rio Dell, George Kelley, echoed these sentiments stating, “For 2½ years they’ve got a good thing going. After that they don’t know what’s happening.” Dave Galitz dismissed the naysayers’ concerns as typical fear of change, but careful estimates of the company’s harvesting rates bore out the pessimistic assessments. In the mills and the woods, however, production had increased substantially, to the point that many were working 50 and 60 hours per week. If there was to be any organized dissent, it would be difficult to keep it together, because the workers had little time to spare.[4] There seemed to be little they could do outside of a union campaign, and the IWA had neither been inspiring nor successful in their attempt.

Deep in the woods however, the changes were readily obvious. In 1985, the old P-L had received approval from the California Department of Forestry (CDF) to selectively log 5,000 acres.[5] With John Campbell at the helm, under the new regime, the company filed a record number of timber harvest plans (THPs) immediately following the sale, and all of them were approved by the CDF. There was more than a hint of a conflict of interest in the fact that the director of the agency, Jerry Pertain, had owned stock in the old Pacific Lumber and had cashed in mightily after the merger. [6] Since the takeover, the new P-L had received approval to log 11,000 acres, 10,000 of which were old growth, and there was every indication that these timber harvests would be accomplished through clearcutting.[7] Pacific Lumber spokesmen who had boasted about the company’s formerly benign forest practices now made the dubious declaration that clearcutting was the best method for ensuring both long term economic and environmental stability.

P-L forester Robert Stephens claimed that the old rate was unsustainable anyway, declaring, “About five years ago, it became apparent that there is going to be an end to old-growth. We simply cannot operate on a 2,000 year rotation.”

Public affairs manager David Galitz repeated what would soon become the new regime’s gospel, that clearcutting had actually been in the works for some time before the hint of a merger, even though in actual fact, this was untrue.

Pacific Lumber’s logging operations which had hitherto been idyllic by comparison now outpaced those of even Louisiana-Pacific and Georgia-Pacific. They tripled their logging crews, bringing in loggers from far away who had never known the old Pacific Lumber and had no particular loyalty to the fight to prevent Hurwitz’s plunder of the old company. [8] Most of the new hires were gyppos, and there were rumblings among the old timers that the quality of logging had decreased precipitously. In John Campbell’s mind, such inefficiencies were likely to be temporary and any small losses that occurred were more than offset by the much larger short term gain. The expense to the viability of the forest, however, was never entered into the ledger.[9] One resident who lived very close to the border of Pacific Lumber’s land relayed their impressions, writing:

“I live at the end of (the) road in Fortuna. Maxxam’s Pacific Lumber logging trucks drive by our house six days a week now. (It has) never been like this in the past. Ordinarily, logging was five days a week in summer…

“From Newberg Road you can look up and see the damage they are doing to the badly eroding hills, now bare of third growth. They are logging third growth from their graveled road now. As the trucks come by, it is amazing to see how small their (logs are), like flagpoles.

“What will be the value of their property when all of the trees are gone? Are they trying to eliminate all other competition—L-P, Simpson, etc.—as their long-range goal?”[10]

Environmentalists expressed alarm and outrage at the sweeping and regressive changes that had been instituted now that Hurwitz had assumed control of Pacific Lumber. John DeWitt, executive director of Save the Redwoods League, the organization that had been instrumental in coaxing the Murphy Dynasty to adopt sustainable logging practices in the first place, expressed these fears stating, “We thought they practiced excellent forestry over the past 125 years and deplore the fact they’ll double the cut. It may result in the ultimate unemployment of those who work at Pacific Lumber.”

Chapter 4 : Maxxam’s on the Horizon

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“There’s a little story about the golden rule: those who have the gold, rule”

—Charles Hurwitz speaking to Pacific Lumber employees in December 1985

In the town of Kilgore, Texas was born a tailor’s son,
From the killing of the Indians he learned how the west was won.
His name was Charlie Hurwitz and he terrorized the land,
His killing field was Wall Street and his gang was called Maxxam…

—lyrics excerpted from Maxxam’s on the Horizon, by Darryl Cherney

By the fall of 1985, the Pacific Lumber Company (PL), based in southern Humboldt County, had existed for over 115 years and remained a virtual eye in the hurricane of class conflict, capitalist boom and bust, and ecological battles that raged throughout the Pacific Northwest. The company had been established in 1869 along with the company town of Forestville with the help of two Nevada venture capitalists named A. W. MacPhereson and Henry Wetherbee for a grand total of $750,000. [1] It was, in fact, the first foray by absentee owners into the redwood lumber industry of Humboldt County, predating even the California Redwood Club. Although it didn’t commence actual lumber operations until 1887, it grew quickly, and by the last decade of the 19th Century, it was the largest lumber company in the county. [2] By 1904, P-L owned 40,000 acres of timberland and its mill (“A”) operating on two ten-hour shifts, could produce 300,000 feet of cut lumber daily. By 1909, the construction of a second mill (“B”) increased the company’s productivity to a whopping 450,000 feet per day with one eight-hour shift working in both mills. The milling complex was one of the largest such facilities on the Pacific Coast. The town’s population increased from 454 in 1890 to over 3,000, and the company’s workforce numbered at least 2,000. [3]

There had been but one significant change in Pacific Lumber’s ownership over its history. In 1905, Maine lumberman Simon J. Murphy acquired the company with the help of east coast investors. [4] Upon acquiring the company he changed the name of the town to Scotia, in honor of his family’s roots in Nova Scotia. [5] It was under Murphy’s leadership that the company instituted its “welfare-capitalist” paternalism in a clear attempt to stave off attempts by the IWW (and other unions) to gain a foothold among Pacific Lumber’s employees. [6] In an effort to ensure that peace would reign supreme, the company closed its saloon, “an infamous whorehouse and gambling parlor” known as the “Green Goose”, in 1910, and replaced it with a bank. That establishment was later transformed into Bertain’s Laundry, which would at one time become the largest cleaning establishment in the county. [7] By the second decade of the 20th Century, Scotia was one of the nation’s most developed company towns, boasting of two churches, two banks, a saloon, a hospital, a schoolhouse, a library, a clubhouse, and a large company owned general store. It also included several cultural and social institutions, including four fraternal orders and a volunteer fire department. [8]

The IWW spared no vitriol at the obvious—and essentially overt—attempt by the employing class to steal their thunder, but the scheme worked. [9] The company wasn’t ever entirely free of dissenters, and there was at least one attempt at a wildcat in 1946 during the Great Strike. [10] Yet, the company remained nonunion throughout its history, resisting organizing attempts by the IWW, various AFL unions, and the IWA, even though ironically it was the threat of unionization that had inspired P-L to implement its benevolent dictatorship in the first place. [11] When Murphy’s grandson, Albert Stanwood Murphy, assumed the role of Chairman of the P-L board of directors, he carried on and enhanced his grandfather’s practices. [12]

Chapter 3 : He Could Clearcut Forests Like No Other

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“Come to light: L-P’s literally poisonous policies literally poisoning forest workers. Has any other business a higher profit-to-wages ratio? And yet, are any local workers at higher risk? Where’s the IWW? The first Wobbly who writes in gets a free lunch, courtesy of RADIO * FREE EARTH.”

—Marco McClean, Mendocino Commentary, April 18, 1985.

Harry Merlo is one of the highest paid executives in the industry. He makes $353,000 and he just got a 10 percent raise”

—Harold Broome, carpenter.

“Harry was down to see the strike in his mink coat the other day.”

—Walter Newman, spokesperson and business representative for Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Union Local 2592.

Americans are raised on the mythology of the “self-made man”, the “enterprising go-getter” archetype who creates his own fortune and charts his own destiny. Very often he faces incredible odds, and, armed only with his wits and will to succeed, he alone overcomes disadvantages to become a leader among his fellow Americans. The gender specific pronoun is intentional, because in these stories, women more often than not play a subordinate role. There is an element of “pioneer” spirit within this narrative, and this is not entirely coincidental, because much of the narrative stems from the European-American subjugation of indigenous peoples and the wild. This archetype certainly matches the description of most “captains of industry”, particularly railroad bosses, oil magnates, and timber barons. There is more than folktale about such individuals. Indeed there is a strong ideological component to them, a personification of capitalism, perhaps expressed most unapologetically, albeit crudely, in the narratives of Ayn Rand, particularly Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.

Whether fact or fiction, in these narratives, the entrepreneur is always the hero—virtuous to the core—and he is held up as an example to the rest of us to follow. Very often they not only rely on their own means, they often struggle against a cool and callous society, usually personified by a bureaucratic government, who appropriates some or all of the hero’s self-made fortune to serve its own political ends. What these stories consistently omit, is that most often these “conquering heroes” are neither self-made nor are they virtuous. They often lie, cheat, bend or break the rules, stab those close to them in the back, and rely on the benefits provided by the very same “government” they decry when it doesn’t serve their every need. They appropriate the fruits of others’ labor and call it their own. If there are consequences to their actions, they are shifted to the general public, usually upon the backs of those most unable to resist. And, it is the richest and the most powerful among them who commission the narratives that celebrate their triumphs, sanitizing their own histories so that it is difficult to tell what constitutes fact or fiction.

Harry A. Merlo Jr. was such a man. He began his career as a shipping foreman at a small, independently owned mill, advanced to partner, and then, after the mill was bought out by Georgia Pacific (G-P) he quickly moved up ranks of the G-P corporate structure.[1] Georgia Pacific spun off Louisiana Pacific (L-P) as a result of an antitrust suit brought by Boise Cascade (B-C) against the former for monopolistic practices in 1973. The Federal Trade Commission had threatened to break up the former for monopolizing the timberlands of northwestern California after acquiring holdings formerly held by Boise-Cascade, including the Fort Bragg California mill.[2] Merlo took over as head of the newly created L-P, and, under his management, the latter quickly expanded to become the second largest lumber company in the United States with 110 plants and at least 13,000 employees nationwide, with annual sales in excess of $1 billion.[3] Despite Merlo’s reputation as a self-made man, he received achieved many of his “successes” on the backs of others.

Chapter 2 : Pollution, Love it or Leave it!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

"Since when are humans solely a biological product of wilderness? (What is ‘wilderness’?) If you accept an evolutionary development of Homo sapiens, as I do, it does not mean that you profess a disbelief in God. Quite the contrary. It was God, the Creator, who created humans, who imbued them with a will, with a soul, with a conscience, with the ability to determine right from wrong. It is inconceivable that the Creator would create such vast resources on earth without expecting them to be utilized."

—Glenn Simmons, editor of the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, February 1, 1990.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

—Edward Abbey

Earth shattering though it may have seemed, the IWW’s victory was both transitory and incomplete, and historical currents would never again mesh as perfectly. To begin with, the strike on the job had taken place only in the Pacific Northwest, and had excluded California at that. The Wobblies recognized one strategic weakness in this situation in noting that the employers could have eventually organized a lockout of that region and relied instead on wood production from the southern or eastern United States. They knew—in the abstract at least—that their victory would never be complete until they organized all lumber workers nationally and internationally.[1] The Wobblies inability to make inroads among the highly skilled redwood loggers of California’s North Coast was especially troublesome, and it portended their undoing. Two companies, Pacific Lumber (P-L) and Hammond Lumber Company (HLC) had each adopted separate techniques that had kept the IWW out and would soon be duplicated by the Lumber Trust elsewhere. That combined with the much larger shockwaves brought on by the Russian Revolution in 1917 conspired against the One Big Union and led to the eventual decline of the American working class as an adversarial force and the liquidation of the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Although most corporations comprising the Lumber Trust had refused to budge, lest they embolden the Wobblies, there were those that adopted “welfare capitalism” on their own initiative, in which they would provide amenities and benefits to their workers—union or not—in an attempt to win over their loyalty. It was in the crucible of timber worker unionism, Humboldt County, where this was first attempted with any lasting success, by the Pacific Lumber Company (P-L), based in Scotia, beginning in 1909. P-L had discovered that by creating a wide variety of social programs, employee benefits, and community based events, it was able to secure the loyalty and stability of its workforce. P-L general manager A. E. Blockinger described these efforts in great detail in an article featured in the Pioneer Western Lumberman:

"A reading room with facilities for letter writing and any games, except gambling, is easily and cheaply put into any camp. Arrange subscription clubs for papers and periodicals or let the company do it for the men. If you can have a circulating library among your camps and at the mill plant, it will be much appreciated. Let the daily or weekly papers be of all nationalities as represented in your camp. Lumber trade journals are especially interesting to the men and they can and will readily follow the markets for lumber and appreciate that you have some troubles of your own.

“Organize fire departments among your men. The insurance companies will give you reductions in rates for such additional protection while it offers another opportunity for your men to relax and enjoy themselves.

“Shower baths at the camps or mill are easily and cheaply installed. They will be used and appreciated after a hot, dusty day’s work.

“Get your men loyal and keep them so. Let this replace loyalty to a union. The spirit is what you want in your men. Ten good men will accomplish as much as fifteen ordinary laborers if the spirit and good will is there. Treat them right and they will treat you right.”[2]

The employers’ introduction of paternalism achieved its intended goal. The Secretary of the Pacific Logging Congress, an employers’ association had declared in his 1912 report, “The best cure for the IWW plague—a people without a country and without a God—is the cultivation of the homing instinct in men.”[3] When the IWW campaign for the eight hour day ensued in 1917, P-L simply added more programs. Carleton H. Parker, a onetime U.C. Berkeley economics professor working for the War Department as a mediator during the lumber workers’ strike, had previously conducted sociological studies on workers, including agricultural and timber laborers. Parker was familiar with P-L, and had some fairly extensive knowledge of the Wobblies.[4] Some of the latter had been gained through first-hand studies by two of his assistants, Paul Brissenden[5] and F. C. Mills[6] who had posed as IWW members and later produced extensive studies on the organization. Using this knowledge, Parker offered many suggestions to Disque which the latter somewhat reluctantly adopted. The LLLL created social halls for its members and replaced the employment sharks with free employment agencies. The IWW quite rightly recognized these amenities as a means to buy the workers’ loyalty and likely to be liquidated when the employers drive for profits once again accelerated, but this process would take a long time, and convincing the workers of a threat that could take one or more generations to manifest proved futile.[7]

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