Call to a National Labor Assembly for Peace (USLAW)

OCTOBER 24-25, 2003 in CHICAGO

Dear Sisters and Brothers:
The undersigned trade unionists invite you to join us for a National Labor Assembly on the issues of peace, prosperity, security, democracy and justice.  Its purpose will be to forge an ongoing labor coalition that will challenge the U.S. foreign policy of permanent war and its consequences for working families both here at home and abroad.  The Assembly will be held in Chicago on the evening of October 24 and all day on October 25, 2003.

In the months preceding the invasion of Iraq, hundreds of local, state and national unions, central labor councils and other labor organizations took official positions opposing war on Iraq.  This led to the founding, on January 11 in Chicago, of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW).  On February
27 the AFL-CIO Executive Council adopted its own resolution opposing Bush’s unilateral and preemptive military action.  By the time the invasion of Iraq was actually launched on March 20, labor organizations representing almost one-third of all organized workers in the U.S. were on record opposed to the war.

U.S. troops are now committed to an indeterminate occupation of that war-devastated country.  All the important questions about Iraq’s future remain under a cloud, including what role the Iraqi people will have in shaping their own future and whether Iraqi workers will enjoy internationally recognized labor rights, including the right to organize freely, to bargain collectively and to strike.

Despite its rhetoric about liberation, it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration is motivated more by global ambitions and corporate interests than by the freedom of Iraqis.  Consistent with its belligerent posture and preemptive war doctrine, threats of military action against other countries continue to emanate from the administration.  Its announced decision to resume development of tactical nuclear weapons will escalate the arms race, making the U.S. and the whole world less, not more, secure.

Our nation is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in decades. Organized labor and working families are under a relentless assault from the Bush administration on every front.  Government has become a willing ally of big business in attacking unions and the right to organize and bargain. More than 180,000 federal workers have lost the right to union representation in the name of “national security.”  While the social safety net is being shredded, the administration is massively cutting taxes for the wealthy.  It has undermined cherished democratic ideals and eroded Constitutional rights with measures like the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act.  The budget for the military and prisons continues to grow, while social programs and public sector jobs and services are being downsized, outsourced, privatized or eliminated.  Schools are being shuttered and teachers laid off by the thousands, veterans benefits are being slashed, millions are jobless, many millions more are without health care and adequate housing. In communities of color, among immigrants and the poor, these cuts will have a disproportionately painful impact.  Children will suffer their worst effects. The $200 billion being spent to topple Saddam Hussein and reconstruct Iraq could have been spent addressing these urgent needs.

The stakes at this moment in history are high.  For many trade unionists who did not oppose the war earlier, the relationship between a militarized foreign policy and its effect on our domestic economy are becoming painfully clear.  “National security” has become the cover for gutting many of the social and economic gains won by working people during the 20th century. The Administration is using the power of the US military to boost Bush’s image in the face of the disastrous results of his economic policies.

This administration presents the most serious threat to the economic and social well being, civil liberties and civil rights,  security of the nation and peace in the world of any in memory.  Bush’s defeat in the 2004 election is of paramount urgency. However, in seeking his defeat, we must assure the defeat of the policies he has promoted so that no matter who is elected, it will be politically impossible to pursue them.  We believe organized labor can defeat these policies only by making the connection between the militarization of U.S. foreign policy and the militarization of our society, the curtailment of civil liberties and encroachment on our Constitutional rights, and the bankrupting of government services at all levels.

We propose to create a voice within the labor movement that is an energetic advocate for policies that strengthen international institutions so that conflicts between nations can be resolved through diplomacy rather than war. We seek a U.S. foreign policy that promotes global economic and social justice, not the use of military force.  We want our government to meet human needs, not cater to corporate greed.

(list in formation)

1199 New England SEIU
AFSCME Dist. Council 1707, NYC, by President Brenda Stokely
AFT Local 2121, San Francisco, by President Allan Fisher
Arabs Building Community – Bay Area (CA) Labor Committee
Bay Area (CA) Labor Committee for Peace & Justice
California Federation of Teachers, by President Mary Bergan
Chicago Labor Against the War, by Treasurer Larry Duncan
Coalition of University Employees (UC – CA) Anti-war Caucus
Washington, DC Metropolitan Labor Council, by President Joslyn Williams
King County (Seattle) Labor Council, by Executive Secretary Steve Williamson
Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, Local 1521, by the Executive Board
Massachusetts Labor for Justice With Peace
Pride at Work by Co-President Nancy Wohlforth and Executive Director
Marta Ames
PSC-CUNY/AFT Local 2334, by Senior College Officer Nancy Romer
San Francisco Labor Council, by Secretary-Treasurer Walter Johnson
SEIU Health Care Workers Local 250 (CA) by President Sal Rosselli
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers, by General Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Klipple
United Educators of San Francisco, by the UESF Executive Board

(organizations and titles for identification only)

Amatullah Alaji-Sabrie, President of Local 3, Coalition of University Employees (UC – CA)
Thomas Balanoff, President, SEIU Local 1 and International V.P. of SEIU
Alan Benchich, President, UAW Local 909, Warren, MI
Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union
Gene Carroll, Director of Union Leadership Program, ILR, Cornell University
Miguel Contrerez, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor
Alice Dale, President, SEIU Local 49 and International V.P. of SEIU Portland
Art Doherty, President, Philadelphia Area Local APWU, V.P. Philadelphia CLC, V.P. PA State Federation of Labor
Maria Elena Durazo, President, HERE Local 11, Los Angeles; VP of HERE
David Foster, Director, United Steelworkers of America, Region 11 (MN)
Fred Hirsch, Vice President, Plumbers & Fitters Local 393, San Jose
Claudia Horning, Statewide President, Coalition of University Employees (UC-CA)
Marty Hittelman, Vice President, CA Federation  of Teachers
John Kirk, Chief Grievance Officer, AFT Local 1493, San Mateo County Community College Faculty
Nancy Lessin, USWA 9358 (Boston); Co-founder of MFSO
Zev Kvitky, President, United Stanford Workers; Vice-President, SEIU Local 715
Charles Lester Political Director, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor
Michael Letwin, Co-Convenor, NYC Labor Against War
Elena Marcheschi, Chicago Labor for Peace, Prosperity & Justice
Eliseo Medina, Executive V.P., SEIU Western Region
David Novogrodsky, Executive Director, Professional & Technical Engineers Local 21, San Francisco
Debby Pope, Director of Communications, Chicago Teachers Union, AFT #1
Charley Richardson, SEIU 254 (Boston) and Co-founder, MFSO
Louie Rocha, President, CWA Local 9423, San Jose
Wendy Thompson, UAW President 235, Detroit
Jerry Tucker, Executive Director, United Health Care Workers, St. Louis
Howard Wallace, Executive Committee, San Francisco Labor Council; Former National Co-Chair, Pride at Work
Gerry Zero, President, Teamsters Local 705, Chicago


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