Jackson County Fuel Committee (JCFC) is a free and voluntary association comprised on forestry, timer and mill workers, low-income seasonal workers, students, teachers, clergy, and other concerned community residents. We are dedicated to address the disparity between the lack of access to heating fuel for thousands of low-income workers and their families, and the abundance of heating resources in the area. Volunteers joined together to form an organization specifically designed to attack the economic root of the problem and government policies that promote profits over people, while immediately providing critically needed resources.
Participation in JCFC is open to anyone who desires to see a deprived segment of the population gain access to heating resources, and work succinctly toward those ends. JCFC volunteers give of their time, skills and resources to help fight for improved living conditions in our lowest-income communities. By necessity, this began with and continues to this day to include fundamental survival needs such as emergency firewood, utility advocacy to prevent shut-offs, and weatherization to cut heating costs.
JCFC has no paid employees, provides no form of remuneration to its staff from top to bottom, accepts no government funding or any money with strings attached, and instead exists only through the dedication and generosity of its membership. Outside its stated goal, no other aim or aspiration is being served.
JCFC was established in 1977 by a group of concerned community residents and members of the Jackson County Workers Benefit Council and Northwest Seasonal Workers Association in Medford, Oregon who agreed with the need to build a self-help organization specifically to address the heating and heating-related problems of Jackson County’s low-income residents.
At the same time organization efforts of seasonal workers in Medford, Oregon, where unemployment had soared for workers in the traditionally higher-paying wood products manufacturing industry, following union-busting operations by international corporations that nearly eradicated union timber mill jobs. Fully 75,000 timber and mill workers statewide were driven into low-paid, non-union service worker jobs. At the same time that Jackson County cut social services to the bone, federal cuts cost the county $41 million in Oregon and California Railroad land timber receipts. Aid programs for low-paid, unemployed and underemployed workers – already extremely limited in southern Oregon – virtually disappeared. People were being evicted from their homes. Families were sleeping in the street. The government-funded social service programs of the 1960s, which had purported to assist low-income workers, had discredited themselves either by closing down altogether or cutting vital services.
The 1960s “War on Poverty” had, by the late 1970s, left many refugees and little hope for the working poor, elderly and disabled. Many who had been part of earlier organizing attempts aligned themselves with JCFC to join in seeking viable solutions to the socioeconomic problems that caused workers to go without adequate heat, medical care, food, clothing, shelter and other basic day-to-day survival needs in the most advanced industrialized nation in the world.
In the middle of 412,633 acres of prime forestland, thousands of people are freezing every winter in Jackson County. Utility costs that take up to one-third of many people’s monthly income present the grim choice of cutting tight food budgets or cutting off the heat. Electricity bills of $200 a month are common for small houses, and even wood has gone as high as $280 a cord.
JCFC works under the supervision and responds to the needs of the Jackson County Workers Benefit Council, a representative body of independent organizing efforts of workers who fall outside the dubious protections of the national labor laws. Because of JCFC’s structure and principles, it is free to represent the interest of Jackson County’s lowest-paid workers without financial coercion by government or other special interest.
JCFC began woodcutting expeditions of volunteers in southern Oregon in 1978. JCFC expanded its benefit program to include utility advocacy with utility companies, as well as warm winter clothing and blanket distributions, and home weatherization. The benefit program provides neither acts of charity nor isolated acts of good will, but rather aids people in obtaining what is rightfully theirs in a context that promotes their best interest on all levels.
JCFC pledges to aid any and all organizations fighting in the interests of seasonal and other low-paid workers.
JCFC volunteers organize regular woodcutting expeditions, organizational, institutional and school-wide coat, warm clothing and blanket drives and distributions; benefit dances, baked goods tables, car washes, wine and cheese parties and specialty benefits. JCFC also sets up speaking engagements and house meetings as part of its ongoing program of community outreach and education.
JCFC organizers provide on-the-job training to volunteers, teaching leadership skills to provide those who suffer the problem the ability to take and active role in changing the poverty conditions they face.
As the organization continues to grow, we believe that those who suffer the problem know best the needs and the methods by which these needs can be satisfied. JCFC needs more volunteers, and provides on-the-job training in basic skills to all who dedicate themselves to learning how they can advance the just cause of access to energy resources by members of low-income organizing efforts.