Focusing on everyday labor and the designs of union activists, Loomis provides a complex portrait of how the industry’s base attempted to advance its goals of securing both sustainable forest resources and health and safety protections for men and women in an often dangerous workplace. The result is an informed analysis of labor’s successes and failures, one that broadly encompasses the radicalism of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the challenge of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) to midcentury forestry policy, and organizing efforts by countercultural reforestation cooperatives in the 1970s to oppose herbicide exposure.
Drawing productively on Thomas Andrews’s notion of “workscapes” and Rob Nixon’s concern with “slow violence,” the author demonstrates how the IWW, and the industry-sponsored Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, initiated reforms to an increasingly industrialized work environment that punished bodies through the speed of production or the creeping pathology of disease from poor camp sanitation. A more holistic approach to the “total work environment” (p. 133) was later adopted by the IWA to moderate the debilitating impacts of postwar production technology; the union marshaled evidence from scientific sources and eventually called upon Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations to combat the effects of new ailments, such as the auditory and neurological consequences of prolonged chainsaw use and the toxic impact of chemicals, such as pentachlorophenol, used in mills.
Loomis’s description of union critiques of industrial forestry’s destructive practices—decades before the modern environmental movement—is equally illuminating.