U.S. Labor Against the War marches in New York, supports the “Occupy” movement.
Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Labor Against the War’
53 cents of every dollar in taxes goes to military spending. It’s not just the $717 billion that the Pentagon has requested for its regular budget. Watch this great video. (If you’re having trouble running it, turn off the HD.)
Also posted on US Labor Against the War, “Militarism is stealing the future from ordinary Americans,” at http://uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?id=24810
What is the One Nation March?
On Saturday, October 2, 2010, hundreds of thousands of people from across America will gather at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate our re-commitment to change. The One Nation March will feature human and civil rights leaders, labor leaders, environmental and peace activists, faith leaders, celebrities and sports figures – all marching together to help Put America Back to Work and to Pull America Back Together. And to help reorder our national priorities so that investments in people come first.
When is the March?
Saturday, October 2, 2010. Our official program will begin at 12:00 pm and end at 4:00 pm. The event site will open for our guests at 6:00 am, and our pre-program will kick off at 11 am. We anticipate tens of thousands of people from across the country for this march. Please plan on arriving in the morning to allow sufficient time to get to the Lincoln Memorial.
Where is the March?
The March takes place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial located on the National Mall in Washington DC.
Is the event open to the public?
Yes, this event is open to the public. No tickets or pre-registration is required. Please note that all buses traveling to the event are required to register with March organizers.
ONE NATION official website: http://action.onenationworkingtogether.org/content/index
US LABOR AGAINST THE WAR flyer: http://www.uslaboragainstwar.org/downloads/One%20Nation%20USLAW%20flyer.pdf
(TxLAW note: U.S. Labor Against the War played an active role in this conference, partnering with Iraqi union reps in a workshop on what’s going on in the Iraqi labor movement and its struggles with the Iraqi government. Check out labourstart.org.)
Online Activists Gather from Around Globe to Jumpstart Labor Movement
More than 200 people from 28 countries attend LabourStart’s first public conference
HAMILTON, ONTARIO—Sometimes it’s hard to understand the importance of an event or an organization when you’re involved in it. As a volunteer correspondent for LabourStart.org and a participant in its “Act Now” campaigns, I obviously think LabourStart an important project. But I really didn’t really comprehend its potential until I attended the first public LabourStart conference at McMaster University’s School of Labour Studies in Hamilton, Ontario.
“As unions confront a 21st century global capitalism, which is imposing a race to the bottom to union-free environments, unions must use new technologies to create a new labor internationalism,” said Eric Lee, founding editor of Labour Start. “The mission of LabourStart is to promote those technologies and to practice a consistent internationalism.”
LabourStart is an international labor news and campaigning site, run on a shoestring and powered by nearly 800 volunteer correspondents. Every day the site publishes links to labor news in 23 different languages, and its news feeds appear on more than 800 union websites. It conducts e-mail campaigns in eight different languages.
There was some trepidation among LabourStart leaders about whether an Internet-based, low budget union news and campaigning site could attract an audience of union activists oustide its most committed corespondents. Particularly since, unlike the recently concluded ICTU conference, this was not a delegated meeting.
But the conference was able to attract over 200 participants from more than 28 countries. Attendees ranged from presidents of national unions, to representatives of Global Union Federations, to local union officers, to staffers, to grassroots activists.
Adam Lee of United Steelworkers International thanked LabourStart for its “tremendously effective” campaign on behalf of Vale nickel miners strikers, who settled a year-long strike just days before the conference began. On the first morning of the strike, which began in July 2009, more than 1,000 emails were sent to the Brazil-based multinational company. Two-thirds were from outside Canada, in eight languages from 80 countries, Lee said, It provided a “real boost” to the workers. And Brazilian workers for Vale were able to win a better than expected contract because the company didn’t want to take on two international campaigns at the same time.
Robin Alexander, director of international affairs for the United Electrical workers union, said that when she got an appeal from workers at PEMEX, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, the first place she turned for help was LabourStart.
As Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, a union leader from Taiwan, spoke on a panel about China, I loooked to my left and saw Benedicto Martinez Orozco, co-president of the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo. Michael Eisenscher of US Labor Against the War, Amjad Ali of the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra (Iraq), and Erin Radford of the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center spoke on a panel about unions in Iraq. Other panels were devoted to Mexico, Eastern Europe, and Iran.
Unfortunately, some people were unable to attend the conference—but the reasons why are enlightening. A leader of Bangladeshi textile workers union canceled his visit because of a monumental campaign in his home country—more than 50,000 workers there are on strike, protesting the lowest wages in the textile industry.
Representatives of independent unions in Egypt and Algeria were, at the last moment, denied visas by Canada. (AFL-CIO Solidarity Center representatives ably filled in at a workshop on the revival of unions in those countries.) The ham-handness of Canadian authorities may backire. Derek Blackadder, national representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said that there was so much outrage at the exclusion of the Egyptian and Algerian unionists and so much excitement about their pioneering work that Canadian unionists will be exploring ongoing solidarity work on their behalf.
Of course, connecting disparate unionists, spread across different levels of different unions, to unite in international solidarity is no easy task. But LabourStart’s global network of 800 correspondents and 70,000 Act Now e-mail activists will continue to be a part of that effort, which must be a central component of the future of the labor movement.
Most of you know about the U.S. Social Forum this year. Many people from San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and other Texas cities are going. Some are presenting workshops. USSF’s website is http://www.ussf2010.org/ or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1828946493&v=app_2344061033#!/event.php?eid=111695722194402&index=1
U.S. Labor Against the War is sponsoring 2 workshops: “Building solidarity with working people and unions in Iraq and other U.S. war zones” (Thurs., 6/24, 1 – 3 pm) and “Talking to workers and unions about war, military spending and U.S. foreign policy” (Friday, 6/25, 10 am – 12 noon).
Here’s a small excerpt from the USSF’s statement of beliefs:
- “Believe that there is a strategic need to unite the struggles of oppressed communities and peoples within the United States (particularly Black, Latino, Asian/ Pacific-Islander and Indigenous communities) to the struggles of oppressed nations in the Third World.
- Believe the USSF should place the highest priority on groups that are actually doing grassroots organizing with working class people of color, who are training organizers, building long-term structures of resistance, and who can work well with other groups, seeing their participation in USSF as building the whole, not just their part of it. . . .”
U.S. LABOR AGAINST THE WAR
Our struggle continues
It’s never too late to make a resolution that in this new year you will dedouble your efforts for peace and justice.
We do it for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We do it for our troops and their families. We do it for our children and grandchildren, and generations yet unborn. We do it for the unemployed, the homeless, those without health insurance, and for all those who could be helped with the resources now wasted on war. And we must do it for our nation – to create real security that comes when our country inspires respect and admiration rather than instills fear and anger in the world.
Thanks for your continuing support.
Check out the decisions made during the December 4-6 National Assembly in Chicago.
Learn what USLAW plans for 2010. Read the resolutions, organizational and financial reports, and plan of work/action for the new year. You’ll find out all about it HERE.
|Support USLAW’s Important Work with a DONATION!
Your contribution keeps labor’s antiwar movement going and growing.
Thanks to our friend Ali Issa (formerly in Austin, now in New York) for the link to his blog, Iraq Left: On Iraqi Organizing and Movement Building Now, http://iraqleft.wordpress.com/
(The Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq is a left-led, independent labor federation that has had a lot of communication and solidarity with U.S. Labor Against the War. The reference to the “Ba’athi move of banning ‘unrecognized’ unions” recalls Saddam Hussein’s edict banning public sector unions. This was one of the few Saddam-era laws kept on the books by the U.S. occupation.)
January 2, 2010
After a 53-day strike (the longest in Iraq since 1931) won workers in the leather industry the release of long promised safety benefits and back wages, FWCUI-affiliated unions are at it again, this time organizing Baghdad cotton factory workers and announcing a strike for similar demands, now entering its 19th day. There is yet a another strike, this one in the industrial area of Nahrawan (east of Baghdad) at al-Thalal brick factory. This strike began on the 23rd of December. If these actions are any indication, organizing in the industrial sector is really catching fire in Iraq. In the face of such effective and uncompromising direct action, the Iraqi authorities –surprise, surprise—have stepped up their attempts to interfere, by “relocating” organizers to out of the way offices, or simply firing them. The most threatening of these attempts though, takes the form of planned union federation elections, which the FWCUI considers to be a sham meant only to confer legitimacy on the state-backed federation. This then may lead to the very Ba’athi move of banning of all ‘unrecognized’ unions.
Here’s an earlier post with background on the same subject. Privatization is an issue everywhere:
November 26, 2009
The Baghdad based Federation of Worker’s Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) has called for an expansion of the now 41 day-old leather industries strike, into other industries and sectors across Iraq. In their call (which you can read in the original Arabic here, and in English translation here) they cite numerous wage and condition-related grievances, but also emphasize what Iraqi labor unions have for decades been struggling against: a 1987 law, enforced to this day, which prohibits worker organizing in the public sector, in addition to various economic initiatives which they see as threatening the public sector’s very existence. The FWCUI’s analysis also has a broader reach, and considers these moves an expression of the desire on the part of the Iraqi Government, multi-nationals, and the US-led occupation, to privatize nearly all Iraqi industry.
Labor writer Steve Early connects a lot of dots, as state workers in Vermont accept layoffs and pay cuts while their family members and friends get shipped out to Afghanistan.
He stays in a Holiday Inn where “Although only in her 30s, [my waitress] had the weary, weighed-down look common among the working poor struggling to survive in northern New England’s low-wage, service economy. Her cousin, the father of three, has been deployed overseas multiple times already. That’s why, she informed me, the war is “a sore personal subject” for her. “It’s ridiculous,” she declared. “We have people living on the street, who’ve lost their jobs, can’t pay for their homes. And now we’re sending more people over there to fight somebody else’s battles?”
|by Steve Early, Counterpunch|
December 18-20, 2009
Green Mountain Mustering for the War at Home or Abroad?
Earlier this month, the “People’s Republic of Burlington” had a busy weekend mustering its “troops” for active duty on several fronts, one at home and the other abroad.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, two hundred labor and progressive activists gathered at the University of Vermont to plan more effective resistance to job cuts and contract give-backs demanded by recession-ravaged employers. The title of their conference –“Turning Crisis Into Opportunity: Building Democratic, Fighting Unions and Defending Public Services in Hard Economic Times”–was almost as long as the list of domestic challenges its participants face.
The very next day, on the same UVM campus, another group of working class Vermonters assembled to be fighters and defenders of a different sort. They were the first 298 of nearly 1,500 National Guard members who will be sent from here to Afghanistan between now and March. As reported in the Burlington Free Press, their unit’s largest deployment since World War II was celebrated at an “emotional ceremony,” attended by friends, neighbors, and family members at an indoor tennis court. Flags were waved, speeches were made, a military band played, and “farewells were the order of the day.” To keep things on an upbeat note, one Guard officer proclaimed, with great enthusiasm and to much applause: “The Green Mountain Boys are coming!”
Similar irrational exuberance, in 1775, led Ethan Allen to attempt a disastrous invasion of Quebec, which remains, to this day, part of a foreign country unoccupied by the U.S. Allen’s Taliban-like frontier home-boys did much better fighting royalist intruders from New York and, early in the Revolutionary War, seizing Fort Ticonderoga. In the run up to the UVM labor gathering, worker skirmishing with modern-day Tories was not going quite as well on the Vermont-side of Lake Champlain.
Joblessness in the Green Mountain state–while running lower than in the rest of the northeast–has been high enough to leave its unemployment fund nearly broke. The region’s largest telecom, Fairpoint, just declared bankruptcy, throwing 2,500 workers into an uphill fight to defend their contract and customer service quality. (For the back-story there, see “Broadband Redlining Targets Rural America,” The Nation, May 14, 2007, about the debt-laden Verizon sale to Fairpoint that has, as predicted, landed the latter in Chapter 11.)
And then on Dec. 3, the Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) tentatively agreed to an unprecedented 3 percent pay cut for its 7,000 members, followed by a salary freeze. (Some VSEAers are currently campaigning for membership rejection of this unpalatable deal.) Already 580 state jobs have been eliminated through lay-offs or attrition, but Republican Gov. Jim Douglas says he still faces a projected $150 million state budget shortfall next year.
In the Free Press, Douglas Administration official Neal Lunderville called the VSEA capitulation “a common sense approach that should serve as a blue-print for teachers, municipal workers, and others who receive a paycheck from tax-payers”—a clear warning that they’re next in line for pay or job cuts too, like their public sector counter-parts all around the country.
At the Dec. 5 UVM conference, rank-and-file militants and campus socialists had a different message for Douglas. Summed up in the rousing chant that ended the final session, it was: “They say give-back, we say fight-back!” The difficult question that local teamsters, teachers, telephone workers, nurses, and state employees grappled with throughout the day was how to make that standard lefty bargaining position actually stick. Their strategy discussions were aided by Labor Notes, the 30-year old, Detroit-based labor education and research project, which publishes a monthly newsletter for “union troublemakers” of all stripes.
In the fifteen-minute talk I gave to the group, which included many local stalwarts of U.S. Labor Against The War (USLAW) and the Vermont Progressive Party, I tried to connect some dots, related to the back-to-back events on the same campus. I noted that everyone’s employer is chanting the mantra that times are tough, money is short, and there must be shared national (or local) sacrifice. In Vermont, that apparently means working class people must, in disproportionate numbers, fight and die in Afghanistan, foot the bill, as tax-payers, for a $680 billion a year Pentagon budget (including the soon-to-be-increased $130 billion annual cost of two wars), and endure cuts in the pay, benefits, jobs, or public services that they and their families depend on.
What’s wrong with this picture, I asked? The powers-that-be (or would-be) are saying, in their usual authoritative fashion, “there is no alternative!” But there is, in fact, an alternative. To avoid a 3 per cent pay cut for 7,000 state workers, we could shut down the war in Afghanistan for twenty minutes and, at the current rate of U.S. spending there, raise the $2 million that Jim Douglas seeks from the VSEA that way. To close the governor’s entire fiscal year 2011 budget gap would, of course, require the additional “sacrifice” of diverting 24-hours worth of Afghan war spending to help keep Vermont state government afloat for another year.
The following day, down at the Holiday Inn in South Burlington, where some National Guard families spent the weekend saying private good-byes, the logic of my brilliant anti-war math was not lost on a non-union waitress named Dawna. (For the record, there is no such thing as a “union hotel” in Vermont.) As she brought pancakes and syrup to my table late Sunday morning, everyone but Dawna was transfixed by the big flat-screen TV hanging next to the bar in the restaurant. There, we could watch real-time coverage of the National Guard deployment ceremony being held just up the road at UVM. All the Holiday Inn wait staff could recognize people they had served, in the same room, just a few hours earlier.
Now, these “citizen soldiers” who had been their breakfast buffet and overnight guests were among those standing stiffly at attention, wearing field caps, camo, and combat boots. On the platform in front of them, a parade of local politicians–pro- and anti-war alike, including Douglas, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, plus U.S. Rep. Peter Welch—praised their patriotism and devotion to duty. Douglas has been a chicken hawk since his days as a late 1960s Middlebury College classmate of mine, when he was an outspoken, Richard Nixon-loving Young Republican. So from his usual perch, far from the front-lines, the governor assured the soldiers and their families that “while you are doing your duty, I promise you we will do ours, here on the home-front”—presumably by slashing state programs or UI benefits?
Meanwhile, my waitress Dawna was simply disgusted by the whole televised spectacle. “I’m tired of seeing a lot of guys marching around in uniforms,” she confided. “I wish they’d turn that off and go back to the ‘relax your muscles’ show”—a bit of self-help programming for sufferers of lower-back pain that was on the TV when I entered the restaurant. By this point in her Sunday morning shift, Dawna did not seem particularly relaxed herself, in her white shirt, bedraggled tie, and sagging black waitress apron. Although only in her 30s, she had the weary, weighed-down look common among the working poor struggling to survive in northern New England’s low-wage, service economy. Her cousin, the father of three, has been deployed overseas multiple times already. That’s why, she informed me, the war is “a sore personal subject” for her. “It’s ridiculous,” she declared. “We have people living on the street, who’ve lost their jobs, can’t pay for their homes. And now we’re sending more people over there to fight somebody else’s battles?”
Observing the somber family gatherings in the hotel over the weekend had clearly not been easy for some Holiday Inn staff members. Mistaking one mother and daughter in the dining room for a non-military family, Dawna had asked the child how she liked the hotel pool. “I’m here to say goodbye to my Dad,” the little girl sadly informed her.
“I’ll feel better later on, when I get off work,” Dawna assured me, as I paid for my breakfast. “You know—‘out of sight, out of mind, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger?’”
At the same time, she didn’t seem very convinced about the truth of those two oft-repeated but oddly conjoined phrases. And one thing was certain: for some of the guests she had served earlier in the day, America’s troop build-up in Afghanistan will prove fatal, while leaving Dawna’s state, nation, and fellow workers a lot poorer and not any stronger.
Steve Early worked for the Communications Workers of America in New England for 27 years and, before that, was Vermont Field Secretary for the American Friends Service Committee. He is a longtime supporter of Labor Notes and author of “Embedded With Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home” from Monthly Review Press). He can be reached at [email protected]
Call to the Third USLAW National Assembly
December 4-6, 2009 – Wyndham O’Hare Hotel, Chicago, IL
6810 North Mannheim Road, Rosemont, IL 60018
An International Call to Labor for
World Wide Peace with Economic and Social Justice
in a Time of War and Economic Crisis
- Iraqi Oil Worker Union Leaders
- Pakistani Women, Youth & Labor leaders
- Scholars and Policy Experts on Afghanistan
- Antiwar Trade Unionists from Across the US
- Iraq & Afghan War Veterans
We are at a turning point in US History. In 2008 the labor movement had a moment of triumph, playing a critical role in electing Barack Obama and a majority Democratic Congress. In 2009 we find ourselves still in the middle of a devastating economic crisis with wars and militarism standing between working people and the peaceful just world we seek and deserve.
This is a moment of both peril and promise. USLAW is challenged to develop a program and organizing strategy that will expand and deepen the influence and effectiveness of antiwar forces within the labor movement, while continuing to play a leading role within the broader antiwar movement.
This is the context in which USLAW will convene its third National Assembly in Chicago, December 4-6th.
The Assembly is open to delegates from USLAW affiliates as well as individual associate members. It is the highest decision-making body of USLAW where we debate and adopt resolutions on a range of issues that establish USLAW policy and strategic direction for the next three years. The Assembly will elect the leadership that will guide the organization, and has the authority to make changes in the By-Laws that govern USLAW.
In October 2003 at the historic founding Assembly of USLAW, the delegates adopted a visionary Mission Statement that calls for:
- A just foreign policy
- An end to U.S. occupation of foreign countries,
- Redirecting the nation’s resources from inflated military spending to meeting the needs of working families
- Supporting our troops and their families by bringing the troops home now
- Protecting workers’ rights, civil rights, civil liberties and the rights of immigrants
- Solidarity with workers and their organizations around the world
In the Fall of 2009, the need to organize based on these principles is greater than ever.
Despite hundreds of billions of dollars, more than 4300 US fatalities and an unknown number of Iraqi deaths and personal trauma, the people of Iraq and the US have little to show for it. Violence and economic devastation abound. More than 130,000 US troops and an even greater number of private contractors remain on Iraqi soil. Iraqi workers still have no right to union representation, as the US supported government clings to Saddam’s 1987 anti-union labor law. Global corporations hover over Iraq like vultures waiting for the opportunity to seize control of Iraqi resources
In Afghanistan, after 8 years of war the US faces another quagmire of death, dollars and destruction, with the added elements of drug lords, massive corruption and untold human dislocation and suffering. This is now President Obama’s war – a war that threatens to undermine both Obama’s and labor’s domestic agenda, much as Vietnam did to LBJ’s.
Meanwhile Pakistan, a country with 173 million people ruled by a corrupt regime with a nuclear arsenal, is threatened with dangerous destabilization as the US has turned it into part of a military battlefield in what is now a regional war.
The giant sucking sound you hear is the US military budget of 2/3 of a trillion dollars that consumes 58 cents of every tax dollar as it drains away precious resources from meeting human needs.
Labor can never have a sustainable full employment economy, healthcare for all, an environmentally responsible energy policy, and humane immigration policy while billions of dollars and countless lives are squandered on unwinnable and unnecessary wars that make us no safer but make a small elite very rich. The Iraq and Afghan wars will distract from and overwhelm any possibility of implementing a progressive agenda.
USLAW has had a powerful effect in the labor movement since its formation in 2003, helping to alter how organized labor views foreign policy. But our mission is far from over. USLAW is the only voice of workers that brings them to the forefront in linking the struggle for a just society to the struggle for a just foreign policy.
U.S. labor needs a larger, more powerful and influential USLAW.
Our challenge is to refocus and re-energize our movement, to more clearly make the connection between the economic crisis, a national economy that operates in service to the military-industrial complex and a militarized foreign policy that puts our country at odds with most of the people of the world. We need to figure out how to make foreign policy a legitimate subject of discussion and an important concern to be addressed by our labor movement – in much the same way concern for the environment and a sustainable economy is now understood to be a legitimate focus for organized labor.
Our task is to expand the vision of the labor movement so that unions serve as more than instruments for reshaping our workplaces. They must become instruments for reshaping our world.
Come to Chicago to help
US Labor Against the War
Chart a Path to Peace with Justice
For registration and hotel reservation information,
27 July 2009
This report is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions.
Upon invading Iraq in 2003, the U.S. government kept in force Saddam Hussein’s edict banning labor unions in the public sector (which is the majority of the economy, including oil). Nonetheless, Iraqi trade unionists have fought to rebuild their labor movement. They have had to withstand attacks by both the U.S. and Iraqi authorities. Iraqi unions have called for an end to the illegal occupation and for an end to U.S.-promoted plans to privatize industries and contract out control of Iraq’s oil resources to multi-national, U.S.-allied corporations.
This report is also available on the U.S. Labor Against the War website:
Negotiations are presently taking place between the ICEM-affiliated, Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) and the Iraqi Drilling Company, following demonstrations and a workplace strike 24 June, 2009.
Management called in Iraqi security forces, who cordoned off the demonstrators and workplaces. We are informed that only the demonstrators’ determination and good will prevented violence, given that the management had informed the military forces that the demonstrators were terrorists. Workers left at the end of their working hours but returned on the second day, gathering in front of the worksites and halting operating machines.
Workers submitted their demands to the management which include: reopening the trade union, which had been closed by the Director-General, upon the Minister’s directive; re-activating the productivity allowances payments and various other allowances; and moreover, the workers called on the ministry to be patient in the signing of licensing contracts which the ministry want to conclude.
Iraq’s oil workers are legally prevented from forming unions, based on remaining Saddam Hussein-era laws. The workers have organized nonetheless. The 2005 Constitution calls for new labour laws.
Iraqi oil unions have repeatedly protested working conditions; including pay and housing, and opposition to the draft oil law, viewed as too open to foreign investment. The Oil Ministry has instructed its state oil companies not to deal with the unions and has come down hard in the past, as often reported by the ICEM. See recent ICEM reports on Iraq here.
Iraq has the world’s third largest oil reserves, with considerable potential for increased levels of production. Iraq earns around 95 percent of state income from oil sales, nearly $62 billion last year.
Negotiations are continuing with workers at the Iraqi Drilling Company. The ICEM will report further developments in this brave struggle for trade union rights.