Unions Across Country Raise Concerns About Potential War

[Correction: Letwin was, until December 17, president of UAW Local 2325, not Local 1981]


Workday Minnesota Monday, December 9, 2002

Unions across country raise concerns about potential war
by Mark Gruenberg

WASHINGTON — Dolores Huerta has a new cause. It’s GOP President George W. Bush’s planned war against Iraq. She’s against it. And so are thousands of other individual unionists, plus a growing number of local labor organizations.

Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, received a human rights award on Dec. 4 from The Nation Foundation for her career “challenging the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work of significance.”

Now, she and the others are again challenging the status quo by opposing Bush’s war plans. Many of the unionists have signed a second petition, posted on the website of New York-based International Answer, supporting planned anti-war marches in Washington on Jan. 18-19.

They include AFSCME District Council 1707 President Brenda Stokely, co-founder — along with UAW Local 1981 President Michael Letwin — of New York City Labor Against The War. They’re joined by a wide variety of unionists from all regions of the country.

The rising tide of workers’ protest against the war both preceded and followed AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney’s letter to lawmakers on it, just before Congress approved Bush’s plan. It was the first official federation pronouncement on the war.

Sweeney urged lawmakers to allow a free and full debate and sought postponement of the votes until after the Nov. 5 election. He also said Bush had not fully explained why we should fight Iraq. But lawmakers brushed Sweeney aside and voted with Bush.

Other backers of the D.C. marches include four United Federation of Teachers members from the same local, a National Association of Government Employees/SEIU activist, and members of the Screen Actors Guild and the New Jersey Education Association. Members of UFCW Local 1001, CWA Local 1119, the Letter Carriers, the Teamsters, Education Minnesota, the Oakland AFT, Millwrights’ Local 2158, SEIU Locals 250 and 535 in California, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers also signed up.

The Ohio Fair Trade Campaign Network and the Seattle-based Filipino Workers Action Center signed the petition, too. And Pride At Work, the AFL-CIO’s gay-lesbian-transgender affiliate, formally pledged to campaign as a group against the war.

“Our country is preparing for war with Iraq–a war that will not benefit Postal Workers or the vast majority of the American people,” wrote Paul Felton, the elected editor of the APWU Local 480-481 Communicator in Michigan.

“It will not make us freer, it will not make us safer, it will not make our lives any better. I believe the labor movement should be speaking out, loudly and proudly, against George Bush’s plans to invade Iraq,” Felton said in his column. And he accused union leaders of “sleepwalking” on the issue of Bush’s use of the Iraq war to battle against unionists.

“Bush wants to privatize the Post Office. He wants to bust unions throughout this country…His economic stimulus package after 9/11 gave millions to wealthy corporate CEOs and the shaft to working people. In short, Bush is an enemy of working people and a friend to the super-rich. So why should we trust his foreign policy?”

Mark Gruenberg writes for Press Associates, Inc., news service. Used by permission.


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