(Dis)Organizing Tree Planters: Labour and Environment Politics in the British Columbia Silviculture Industry

  • Michael A Ekers University of Oxford
  • Brendan Sweeney Queen University
Keywords: labour force, forestry, environment, trade unions


Tree planters have become a cultural fixture on the B.C. landscape: a group of young white middle class men and women and career planters who reforest clear-cuts and inundate timber-dependent communities on their days-off. Surprisingly very little has been written about tree planting outside of the popular press. This article responds to this lacuna through examining past attempts to organize tree planters. We examine the efforts of the International Woodworkers of America and the Canadian Reforestation and Environmental Workers Society to bring tree planters into the fold of organized labour. We asses the possibilities and limitations in the political mobilization of each group and examine why each organization ultimately failed. We situate our discussion of labour organizing within debates on community unionism and political ecology. Finally, we examine what this literature and past organizing drives might mean for future attempts to politically mobilize tree planters.

Author Biographies

Michael A Ekers, University of Oxford

School of Geography, Center for the Environment

University of Oxford

Brendan Sweeney, Queen University

Labour and Workplace Studies Program, University of Manitoba