NYCLAW Report on October 25 Protests, USLAW
By Michael Letwin
The mass protests and labor conference held in late October did not end war and occupation in Iraq. They did not resolve disagreement within the antiwar movement about whether US occupation should be replaced by the UN, or about whether to support Democrats in the presidential elections.
But they did unite behind the key grassroots demand to “Bring the Troops Home Now.” And each highlighted growing antiwar activity among military families, G.I.s, veterans and labor, whose resistance — along with that of Iraqis themselves — is critical.
Thus, while still modest and imperfect, each helped renew and expand the antiwar movement.
OCTOBER 25 PROTESTS
It was not lost on the media that military families and vets were in the forefront of 50,000-100,000 who protested in DC and thousands who rallied in other cities. As the Washington Post reported:
“They were near the front of the antiwar march downtown yesterday, dozens of parents, siblings and spouses of soldiers, sailors and Marines occupying Iraq. They drew energy from each other, from the exciting discovery that there were so many in the same situation. They traded stories of extended deployments and shaky morale. They carried poster-size pictures of their loved ones standing proudly in dress uniforms, and they raised a banner that said: `Bush Says Bring `Em On, We Say Bring `Em Home Now!'”
According to the Associated Press, “[i]n Washington, the protest drew a diverse crowd — young, old, veterans, relatives with loved ones in the armed forces and American Muslims,” and Mother Jones took note of “other, less predictable marchers: soldiers, sailors, and airmen.”
Labor, too, was there, represented by hundreds of New York City trade unionists who came on buses provided by 1199SEIU, AFSCME DC 1707 and PSC-CUNY/AFT Local 2334, and by numerous other union members from other cities. The rally was addressed by Brenda Stokely, Co-Convener of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) and President of AFSCME DC 1707.
As IPS reported, “many labour and religious groups were in attendance Saturday. Terri Compton came from Brooklyn, New York on a bus sponsored by her union, District Council 1707. `How dare Dick Cheney say there have to be a few casualties,’ she said. There’s so much poverty here in this country, people don’t have enough to eat, they can’t find a place to live.'”
In these ways, notwithstanding backlash and even red-baiting from some quarters, the demonstration strongly vindicated UFPJ’s decision to cosponsor with ANSWER.
**Video of Rally Speakers (C-Span, October 25, 2003) rtsp://video.c-span.org/archive/iraq/iraq102503_rally.rm?mode=compact
**A New Battle Front: Pro-Warrior but Antiwar (Washington Post, October 26, 2003) http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A18085\-2003Oct25?Found=true
**October 25 Antiwar Demonstration Report (Veterans for Peace)
**Occupation Is Not Liberation, Protesters Say (IPS, October 26, 2003)
**”We Have to Speak Out!” Marching with the Military Families (Counterpunch, October 30, 2003)
**The Future of the Anti-War Movement, Opposing the Occupation (Counterpunch, October 23, 2003)
**’Bring ’em Home’ (Mother Jones, October 27, 2003)
**Bring Them Home Now
**Military Families Speak Out
**United for Peace and Justice
US Labor Against the War’s conference on October 24-25 further consolidated efforts that began immediately after September 11, 2001 with such local committees as New York City Labor Against the War, and that further coalesced when USLAW was founded in January 2003 to oppose the impending war on Iraq.
A new mission statement, collaboratively drafted by USLAW’s leadership body and democratically amended on the floor, embraces “Bring the Troops Home Now.” Fortunately, it did not seek to impose agreement about UN occupation, which NYCLAW and others regard as a front for colonialism. In addition, the statement broadens USLAW’s scope beyond Iraq by condemning Bush’s “permanent war” and demanding “an end to U.S. occupation of foreign countries.”
The conference also underscored opposition to US war of empire, both abroad and at home, by deciding to retain its unambiguous name. It stumbled, however, in defeating a proposal to condemn the domestic prison-industrial complex; this, in turn, helped convince delegates of color of the need for a caucus. Nor did the conference discuss Palestine, a cardinal US-backed occupation that USLAW must address.
Delegates agreed to raise the war in the presidential elections, but did not attempt to reach agreement on whether or not to endorse a particular candidate or party. The amended mission straddled such differences by citing Congressional, but not Democratic, complicity in the war.
The conference launched a drive for Iraqi labor rights and an immediate end to the occupation; developed various action proposals, including work with G.I.s, veterans and immigrants; and adopted an organizational structure.
Delegates from New York City represented 1199SEIU, AFSCME Local 1930, AFSCME Local 2627, CWA Local 1180, NYCLAW, Postal Workers Against the War, PSC-CUNY/AFT Local 2334 and UUP-SUNY. They will discuss the conference at a public forum on November 19, 6-8 p.m., at Stony Brook Manhattan, 401 Park Avenue South (28 St.), 2d floor. Information about this forum is available from: firstname.lastname@example.org.
**Official Report on the Assembly, including photos & credentials report (in PDF version)
**Structure, Leadership & Finances of USLAW
**Sample Resolution for Affiliation with USLAW
**Application for Individual Associate Membership in USLAW
**Model Resolution on Occupation & Labor Rights in Iraq
**Petition for Labor Rights in Iraq
**When does silence become complicity? When does ignorance become culpability? Keynote address by Bill Fletcher, President, TransAfrica Forum
**Why Is Labor Against the War? Speech by Joslyn Williams, President, DC Metro Labor Council
**National Labor Assembly and Workers of Color
**Delegation of US unionists report back; Rise of Iraq’s new labor movement (Socialist Worker, October 31, 2003)
**OWC Report on USLAW Labor Assembly for Peace (1)
**US Labor Against the War (Socialist Worker, November 7, 2003)
**US Labor Against the War (ZNet, October 28, 2003)
**US Labor Against the War (ZNet, October 31, 2003)
Michael Letwin is Co-Convener of New York City Labor Against the War; is on the leadership bodies of USLAW and UFPJ; and is former President of UAW Local 2325/Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (1989-2002).