Stop the U.S. war drive at home and abroad
Antiwar unionists meet in NYC
By Thomas Barton, trustee, AFSCME Local 768 | October 25, 2002 | Page 15
NEW YORK–Union members, their allies and supporters gathered here October 19 to plan more union organizing against Bush’s war on Iraq. The New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) organizing conference drew 110 participants, reflecting growing union opposition to the war threat.
In opening the day, Michael Letwin, co-convenor of NYCLAW and president of the Alliance of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325, pointed to the “sharply increasing” antiwar mood among workers to challenge the “nothing-can-be-done crowd.”
While the conference was primarily aimed at the New York City area, some participants traveled from upstate New York, the Boston area, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. Michael Eisenscher of San Francisco Labor for Peace and Justice read from a recent statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney critical of George W. Bush’s drive to war, pointing out that the shift by Sweeney and other top union officials reflected both a growing antiwar mood in the rank and file and the work of grassroots labor antiwar efforts.
Ray LaForest–NYCLAW co-convenor and a staff representative for District Council (DC) 1707, AFSCME–joined in to remind the conference that “our future depends on us, our willingness to organize ourselves to resist the enemy and stop the war.”
Meeting 15 blocks from Ground Zero at the headquarters of DC 1707, there were emergency medical workers who lost people closest to them when the World Trade Center collapsed, communications workers who put in endless hours after September 11 to repair damaged phone lines, and hospital workers who had treated the injured and comforted survivors.
In the session “Workers Under Attack at Home,” Dennis O’Neil, legislative director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, spoke of postal workers sickened and killed by anthrax while the government ignored them.
Jon Flanders, a railroad worker and president of International Association of Machinists Local 1145, reported on the recent adoption of resolutions condemning an attack on Iraq and support for October 26 and other antiwar rallies by central labor councils in Rochester, Albany and Troy, N.Y.
Half the meeting was set aside for discussions of how to do workplace and union antiwar organizing. Barbara Bowen, president of the City University-based Professional Staff Congress/American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 2334, spoke of a two-month debate anti-war teachers in her local launched that led to the adoption of an antiwar position–and how her union then forced a debate on Iraq at the recent AFT convention.
NYCLAW began work a year ago to challenge the notion that all union members in New York and across the U.S. supported the U.S. war on Afghanistan. “To hear other stories about organizing against the war in unions helps give you a sense that it can be done,” a worker at Verizon, a member of Communication Workers of America, told Socialist Worker.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, a cab driver with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said that he was impressed by the dedication he saw at the conference. “This is a good crowd willing to do work,” he told Socialist Worker. “No hot-air artists.”
LaForest summed up the conference with these words. “This was a success because it brought together organizers from throughout the country and laid the basis for us to move forward.”
Chicago Teamsters pass antiwar motion
By Donny Schraffenberger, steward, Teamsters Local 705
CHICAGO–Teamsters Local 705 overwhelmingly approved two resolutions at their October 20 meeting with more than 200 members in attendance. A resolution against the war was carried by a majority voice vote with one lone vote against.
Numerous speakers for the resolution were Vietnam War veterans. One vet was visibly shaking while he gave his account of the horrors he witnessed. He went on to say that today’s youth think war is like a video game, but it’s more horrible than you can imagine. He and other speakers also told of the personal toll on their lives and family members.
The sentiment in the room was markedly different from the post-September 11 mood. Secretary-Treasurer Jerry Zero also spoke on behalf of the anti-war resolution. Bush’s war drive and his attack on the West Coast dockworkers have led many Teamsters to make the connection between the war on workers at home and the war abroad.
The meeting also passed a resolution unanimously in support of the West Coast dockworkers. The resolution stated that the Bush administration’s imposition of Taft-Hartley on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is an attack on the entire labor movement.
Local 705 pledged to support the ILWU in its struggle against the Pacific Maritime Association and its close ally, the Bush administration–just as the ILWU supported the 1997 Teamsters strike at UPS by snarling the West Coast docks.
An excerpt from Local 705’s antiwar resolution:
Whereas, we value the lives of our sons and daughters, of our brothers and sisters more than Bush’s control of Middle East oil profits,
Whereas, we have no quarrel with the ordinary working class men, women, and children in Iraq who will suffer the most in any war,
Whereas, the billions of dollars being spent to stage and execute this invasion, means billions taken away from our schools, hospitals, housing, and social security…
Be it Resolved that Teamsters Local 705 stands firmly against Bush’s drive for war.