Monthly Archives: November 2004

Labor for Palestine Introduction

Al-Awda NY (the Palestine Right to Return Coalition) and New York City Labor Against the War are pleased to introduce Labor for Palestine, a new, labor-driven campaign for justice in the Middle East.

Israel’s oppression and exploitation of Palestine’s indigenous population – the Arabs – is based on maintaining a state with exclusive ethnic demographics. “The Jewish State” is the euphemism for this scheme, and it is fueled by the political ideology of Zionism. For all practical and historical purposes, Zionist Israel has been a 56-year colonial project. Zionism has always been opposed by the indigenous Middle Eastern majority, because it threatens the cultural and physical existence of that population.

Arab expulsion, displacement and population transfer have been the fundamentals of Zionism since Israel’s inception. That agenda has continued and accelerated to this day, and labor exploitation is just one its manifestations.

The best word that describes Israel’s economic and political situation is apartheid. This unfortunate term was coined in South Africa, where European colonizers subjected the indigenous African population to large-scale captivity and ghetto-ization. The essential difference between South African and Israeli apartheid is that South Africa’s goal was to exploit native labor for mass industrialization and mineral extraction, while Zionism’s goal is to cleanse Palestine of its Arab majority. (For hard-line Zionists, that goal is to cleanse Palestine of all Arabs.) In occupied Palestine, labor exploitation not only serves Israel’s short-term economic objectives, but also serves their long term goal of frustrating Palestinian labor, thus discouraging them from remaining on their home land.

The physical manifestations of Israeli apartheid – from racist laws and governmental policy to collective punishment and arbitrary checkpoints – are, according to South African liberation leaders, an exaggeration of apartheid.

In the 1980s, US labor played a critical role in dismantling the economic base of South African Apartheid. US labor drafted petitions, lobbied politicians, blocked ports, pressured corporations to abstain from financial and political decisions that supported apartheid. By the end of that decade it had become a public embarrassment for corporations and investment banks to have any financial relationship with South Africa. The basic principles that bolstered this movement were international justice and labor solidarity.

Labor for Palestine is a campaign to restore this virtue to international and US labor. The gruesome face of apartheid has no place in a progressive world where workers deserve justice and equality. Labor for Palestine is a non-hierarchical, global network of individual workers and labor organizations who are united under common principles that pertain to Palestine. This notion should not be limited to Palestine, but Palestine is the logical starting point: Few places hold more significance in terms of human and labor rights, global security and international law. Peace in the Middle East would set an immeasurable precedent for the world, yet peace is unachievable without justice.

Contrary to the claims of fervent Zionist supporters, campaigns against Israeli apartheid are not synonymous with anti-Jewish persecution, or the destruction and expulsion of a people and culture. This campaign, like those of its founders, calls for the dismantlement of a system of oppression and inequality. If South Africa could make such a noble transition in 1994, there is no reason Israel cannot do the same.

Becoming a part of Labor for Palestine is as simple as endorsing the Labor for Palestine Open Letter. Signatories fall into two categories, each with three subcategories (more categories can be added, if necessary):

1. Labor Organizations and Trade Unions. Labor for Palestine’s success relies on the wholesale support of trade unions and formal associations that are willing to lend their political and organizational influence.
a. US-based Labor Organizations. This subcategory is crucial given that the US is the world leader in financing Israeli apartheid. These signatories will provide a base for US-based political campaigns.

b. Palestinian Labor Organizations. No social, political or economic campaign is a success without a local, grass roots labor movement. This subcategory represents just that.

c. International Labor Organizations. Justice in our modern global economy is unattainable without international labor solidarity. Each signatory in this category represents a critical and unique element of that narrative. This section also applies to current non-Palestinian residents of historic (pre-1948) Palestine.
2. Individual signatories. This is for anyone who is a worker or is looking for work. If you belong to a trade union or labor organization that has not already endorsed this letter, then please include the name of your association (e.g. Victor Siphumelele, South African Municipal Workers’ Union; Joseline Rosen, DC 1707, Illinois). Your courageous endorsement will inspire other people in your group, and will hopefully lead the entire organization to endorse.

a. US-based Individuals.

b. Palestinian Individuals.

c. International Individuals.

Labor for Palestine will leverage its profile of endorsers as a unified political front. Initially, all organizational matters will be conducted on an e-mail listserve, which you can join by writing to lfp@al-awdany.org. All announcements and future initiatives will be posted to this Web site. An exclusive, independent Web site devoted solely to Labor for Palestine will be established soon after endorsements are received.

1-Day Labor Antiwar Organizing Conference: Resistance to Empire

1120-organizing-conference-flyer2

1-Day Labor Antiwar Organizing Conference
Resistance to Empire

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Topics Include
NYCLAW Since 9/11
Occupation in Iraq and Beyond
G.I. Revolt
War After November 2
Million Worker March Follow-Up
Labor for Palestine Project
USLAW December Meeting
Union-Specific Reports and Organizing Workshops

Location
AFSCME DC 1707
75 Varick St., 14th Floor, NYC ( to Canal St.)
Registration Starts 9 a.m. — $10 Fee (No one turned away for inability to pay)

Union Labor Donated – 10.28.04

Sponsored By
New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
For details & to RSVP Attendance:
nyclaw@comcast.net, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/, 917-282-0139

Two Oceans of Solidarity

Two Oceans of Solidarity

In two simultaneous events on Saturday, November 20, 2004, the Labor for Palestine (LFP) campaign found roots on opposite sides of a divided country: The first, sponsored by New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), was themed, “Resistance to Empire,” and held at New York’s AFSCME District Council 1707. Meanwhile, the University of California at San Diego State hosted Al-Awda’s West Coast Regional Conference, where LFP was given center stage as one of Al-Awda’s most critical campaigns for international justice.

NEW YORK

The NYCLAW conference came on the heels of the Million Worker March, the US presidential elections and the dual onslaughts against Fallujah and labor groups in the U.S. The opening plenary session presented the labor and anti-war movements as progressive, interacting social forces, and suggested ways of harmonizing their leadership and dynamics.

Following a summary of US/NYCLAW’s past achievements, provided by LFP endorser Michael Letwin, the panel, chaired by New York labor leaders Brenda Stokely and Larry Adams, addressed areas targeted by US imperialism, both local and abroad, and the need for labor to play a leading role in social justice movements. Speakers acknowledged the unique role of military families, as well as that of US soldiers and veterans who actively oppose the occupation of Iraq. They also focused on the war on immigrant workers and the importance of oppressed communities’ organization and leadership. The panel concluded with a call for labor solidarity throughout countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Charlotte Kates from Al-Awda New York, representing the LFP campaign, then addressed the Palestinian struggle as a working-class struggle, noting its local and international character. Conference participants responded enthusiastically to LFP’s call for labor to divest from Israeli Bonds, and recognized the Palestinian liberation movement as central to resistance against imperialism and corporate globalization.

Many conference participants eagerly took LFP literature and purchased campaign buttons. During an open discussion, several participants asked how to raise the Palestine issue in their union halls. Kates responded that the key to broaching this issue successfully is to raise it progressively: with forward-looking initiatives. International labor delegations, such as that between the Workers Advice Center and European labor (April 20041. are among LFP’s primary objectives. In short, labor must rely on its own conclusions, and not those of the bourgeois media or mainstream misrepresentations.

To illustrate this point, Kates discussed past US labor campaigns with Salvadoran and South African workers, and emphasized the importance of Palestinian national rights, and the centrality of the right of return in Palestine’s liberation narrative. NYCLAW’s Letwin then emphasized the need to distribute the LFP open letter, and hasten the call for divestment throughout all labor entities.

SAN DIEGO

The day-long San Diego conference was attended by an audience of approximately 100 Al-Awda members, university students and other solidarity activists. Over a dozen workshops were held to prepare for Al-Awda’s Third International Convention, slated for Los Angeles in Spring 2005, and to coordinate inter-regional grassroots activism. LFP was presented during the conference’s two-part Divestment workshop, hosted by ANSWER’S Richard Becker and Zachary Wales, a member of Al-Awda New York and the National Writers Union.

Becker opened the workshop with an historical testimony of US labor’s role in divesting from South African Apartheid. His analysis of that struggle entailed the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s (ILWU) unprecedented action in 1984, when longshore workers at Pier 80 in San Francisco refused to handle cargo from South Africa on the Nedlloyd Kimberly in a protest against apartheid repression. Becker also highlighted the role that local resistance played in the Soweto rent strikes of 1986, when civilians and liberation militants fought against South Africa’s apartheid rent laws, which are not unlike Israel’s current policies.

The segment presented by Wales opened with an anecdote on the current state of South Africa’s economic apartheid, which replaced racial apartheid over the past eight years. This situation, Wales said, would not be the case had South Africa enforced mechanisms to secure economic empowerment (e.g. land and industry ownership) and labor rights. Before presenting details on LFP, Wales concluded that the Palestinian right of return is one such mechanism to insure a genuine transition from apartheid to democracy in Palestine.

As the Divestment workshop opened to general discussion, the following items were proposed:

  • A labor divestment strategy should include a clear set of objectives, based on self-determination and anti-apartheid principles. These objectives should be articulated at the outset of any given LFP initiative.
  • Industrial zones in Palestine and global “free trade” agreements should be researched at length for their connections to Israeli apartheid. Labor can use this research to leverage its role in lobbying against apartheid trade policies.
  • State and municipal labor organizations should play a role in helping US cities divest from Israeli bonds and corporate agreements.
  • To better leverage the progressive virtue of divestment, labor should take up initiatives against companies that are symbolic of repression. Assisting with campaigns against Caterpillar is one such example.
  • US labor delegations should organize visits to Palestine to explore the apartheid exploitation of migrant workers in 1948 Palestine.
  • LFP must become part of the December 3, 2004 divestment anniversary event in San Francisco sponsored by the IIWU.

In summary, Wales reiterated that the partnership between labor and Al-Awda was essential, since it represents the link between progressive social action and the cultural, grassroots character inherent in every successful movement.

NYCLAW Organizing Conference: Resistance to Empire

[Download formatted version at:              ]

1-Day Labor Antiwar Organizing Conference:
RESISTANCE TO EMPIRE

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Topics Include:
**NYCLAW Since 9/11
**ccupation in Iraq and Beyond
**G.I. Revolt
**War After November 2
**Million Worker March Follow-Up
**Labor for Palestine Project
**USLAW December Meeting
**Union-Specific Reports and Organizing Workshops

Location:
AFSCME DC 1707
75 Varick St., 14th Floor, NYC (1/A/C/E to Canal St.)
Registration Starts 9 a.m. — $10 Fee (No one turned away
for inability to pay)

Sponsored By:
New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)

For details & to RSVP Attendance:
nyclaw@comcast.net
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/
917-282-0139

NYCLAW Conference Introduction

NYCLAW Conference – November 20, 2004
Introductory Comments by Michael Letwin

Many of us were in this room two years ago, for NYCLAW’s first organizing conference on October 19, 2002.

In those two years, the Bush administration — with full support from the Democratic Party — has inflicted terrible suffering, including the deaths of more than 100,000 thousand Afghans, Iraqis and U.S. G.Is. U.S. money and weapons have killed and maimed thousands of Palestinians. At home, the government has waged war on immigrant, civil and labor rights.

In conventional politics, few have spoken out in opposition. Indeed, George W. Bush and John Kerry each tried to show that he was the most pro-war candidate. So it’s no surprise that Bush was reelected, or that he celebrated with a murderous attack on Fallujah, which is nothing less than a war crime that rivals those at Guernica, the Warsaw Ghetto, My Lai or Jenin.

These realities often make it hard to be optimistic. Yet, we can draw hope from the fact that these same crimes have generated a growing “Resistance to Empire.”

Thus, the brutal devastation of Fallujah has clearly failed to break the Iraqi resistance. In fact, according to the New York Times, a secret Marine Corps intelligence report written last weekend warns that “if American troop levels in the Falluja area are significantly reduced during reconstruction there, as has been planned, insurgents in the region will rebound from their defeat. . . . They have further advised that despite taking heavy casualties in the weeklong battle, the insurgents will continue to grow in number, wage guerrilla attacks and try to foment unrest among Falluja’s returning residents, emphasizing that expectations for improved conditions have not been met.”

In the same way, The Israeli destruction of Jenin, Ramallah, Jabaliya and other cities — which is the model for brutal U.S. occupation of Iraq — hasn’t stopped the Intifada against Israeli apartheid and for the right to return to all of historic Palestine. Instead, Palestinian David’s armed with rocks and small arms still battle an Israeli Goliath armed with tanks, Apache helicopters and F‑16s – provided through U.S. tax dollars and U.S. union pension funds.

Moreover, despite the claims of media pundits, the presidential election was not a “mandate” for war.

Resistance has grown among veterans, military families, and G.I.s themselves have begun to resist, as reflected in the critical work of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Just a month ago, an entire platoon of the 343rd Quartermaster Company from Rock Hill, South Carolina, refused to carry out orders for a suicidal convoy in Iraq – an act that foreshadows the kind of G.I. revolt which crippled the U.S. war machine in Vietnam. And at home, more than 2,000 of former soldiers have resisted call-up orders, including 733 who were ordered to report by Nov. 7.

In June of this year, the Washington Post reported that 52% of those surveyed said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, and an incredible 42% wanted to bring the troops home immediately. These numbers – even before the U.S. war in Iraq looked as futile as it does today – say that Bush’s reelection represents not a pro-war mandate, but rather the utter futility of an equally pro-war John Kerry.

The labor antiwar movement is part of this worldwide resistance. And it’s come a long way since our last conference. Two years ago, there was no national labor antiwar coalition, and no international union had taken a stand against the war. Yet at that time we said that NYCLAW’s modest experience showed that, despite the obstacles, it was possible to organize workers against the war.

Within just a few months, work by groups like NYCLAW — and the war itself– laid the foundation for creation of USLAW in January 2003. This past summer, antiwar resolutions were adopted at the international conventions of AFSCME, APWU, CWA, NPMHU, and SEIU. Labor contingents have become a visible, vocal presence at mass protests like those on February 15, 2003 and August 29, 2004.

At the same time, we clearly have a long way to go. NYCLAW, USLAW, official union resolutions, and the Million Worker March are all critical. But with a few exceptions – such as in PSC-CUNY – the labor antiwar movement hasn’t been able to mobilize a significant number of workers — whether organized or unorganized. That’s why this is primarily an organizing conference. We’re not here to preach to the choir, but to grapple together with the challenge of reaching our fellow union members, our co-workers, our families and our communities.

And if the elections proved anything, it’s that there’s no shortcuts, but only the hard work of sending a clear and consistent message in ways that connect with the concerns of working people.

1. Bring the Troops Home Now! Not only from Iraq, but from Afghanistan, from the Philippines, from Colombia.

2. End U.S. government and trade union support for Israel, and support the Palestinian right to return. That’s the message of a new project jointly initiated by NYCLAW and Al-Awda: Labor for Palestine.

3. Defend immigrants, civil liberties and labor rights.

2004.11.20: New York City Labor Against the War Organizing Conference

New York City Labor Against the War Organizing Conference – November 20, 2004
Michael Letwin 

Many of us were in this room two years ago, for NYCLAW’s first organizing conference on October 19, 2002.

In those two years, the Bush administration — with full support from the Democratic Party — has inflicted terrible suffering, including the deaths of more than 100,000 thousand Afghans, Iraqis and U.S. G.Is.  U.S. money and weapons have killed and maimed thousands of Palestinians.  At home, the government has waged war on immigrant, civil and labor rights.

In conventional politics, few have spoken out in opposition.  Indeed, George W. Bush and John Kerry each tried to show that he was the most pro-war candidate.  So it’s no surprise that Bush was reelected, or that he celebrated with a murderous attack on Fallujah, which is nothing less than a war crime that rivals those at Guernica, the Warsaw Ghetto, My Lai or Jenin.

These realities often make it hard to be optimistic.  Yet, we can draw hope from the fact that these same crimes have generated a growing “Resistance to Empire.”

Thus, the brutal devastation of Fallujah has clearly failed to break the Iraqi resistance.  In fact, according to the New York Times, a secret Marine Corps intelligence report written last weekend warns that “if American troop levels in the Falluja area are significantly reduced during reconstruction there, as has been planned, insurgents in the region will rebound from their defeat. . . . They have further advised that despite taking heavy casualties in the weeklong battle, the insurgents will continue to grow in number, wage guerrilla attacks and try to foment unrest among Falluja’s returning residents, emphasizing that expectations for improved conditions have not been met.”

In the same way, The Israeli destruction of Jenin, Ramallah, Jabaliya and other cities — which is the model for brutal U.S. occupation of Iraq — hasn’t stopped the Intifada against Israeli apartheid and for the right to return to all of historic Palestine.  Instead, Palestinian David’s armed with rocks and small arms still battle an Israeli Goliath armed with tanks, Apache helicopters and F‑16s – provided through U.S. tax dollars and U.S. union pension funds.

Moreover, despite the claims of media pundits, the presidential election was not a “mandate” for war.

Resistance has grown among veterans, military families, and G.I.s themselves have begun to resist, as reflected in the critical work of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Iraq Veterans Against the War.  Just a month ago, an entire platoon of the 343rd Quartermaster Company from Rock Hill, South Carolina, refused to carry out orders for a suicidal convoy in Iraq – an act that foreshadows the kind of G.I. revolt which crippled the U.S. war machine in Vietnam.  And at home, more than 2,000 of former soldiers have resisted call-up orders, including 733 who were ordered to report by Nov. 7.

In June of this year, the Washington Post reported that 52% of those surveyed said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, and an incredible 42% wanted to bring the troops home immediately.   These numbers – even before the U.S. war in Iraq looked as futile as it does today – say that Bush’s reelection represents not a pro-war mandate, but rather the utter futility of an equally pro-war John Kerry.

The labor antiwar movement is part of this worldwide resistance.  And it’s come a long way since our last conference.  Two years ago, there was no national labor antiwar coalition, and no international union had taken a stand against the war.  Yet at that time we said that NYCLAW’s modest experience showed that, despite the obstacles, it was possible to organize workers against the war.

Within just a few months, work by groups like NYCLAW — and the war itself– laid the foundation for creation of USLAW in January 2003.  This past summer, antiwar resolutions were adopted at the international conventions of AFSCME, APWU, CWA, NPMHU, and SEIU.  Labor contingents have become a visible, vocal presence at mass protests like those on February 15, 2003 and August 29, 2004.

At the same time, we clearly have a long way to go.  NYCLAW, USLAW, official union resolutions, and the Million Worker March are all critical.  But with a few exceptions – such as in PSC-CUNY – the labor antiwar movement hasn’t been able to mobilize a significant number of workers — whether organized or unorganized.  That’s why this is primarily an organizing conference.  We’re not here to preach to the choir, but to grapple together with the challenge of reaching our fellow union members, our co-workers, our families and our communities.

And if the elections proved anything, it’s that there’s no shortcuts, but only the hard work of sending a clear and consistent message in ways that connect with the concerns of working people.

1.  Bring the Troops Home Now!  Not only from Iraq, but from Afghanistan, from the Philippines, from Colombia.

2.  End U.S. government and trade union support for Israel, and support the Palestinian right to return.  That’s the message of a new project jointly initiated by NYCLAW and Al-Awda: Labor for Palestine.

3.  Defend immigrants, civil liberties and labor rights.

Finally, we invite you to participate in NYCLAW itself. 

Mass Discussion/Organising Mtg.

From: NYCLAW <nyclaw@comcast.net>
Date: Sat, Nov 6, 2004 at 6:24 PM
Subject: [NYCLAW] NYC MOBILIZATION (11.11.04) : Mass Discussion/Organising Mtg.
To: LaborAgainstWar <laboragainstwar@yahoogroups.com>

***Please distribute widely***

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

MASS ORGANIZING/DISCUSSION/PLANNING MEETING

When: Thursday November 11 -6:30pm
Where: CUNY Grad Center -365 5th Ave & 34th St, Rm 5414
(Bring photo ID to enter)
Why: To help build an NYC anti-war network and to start planning actions beginning in late November.

We are a diverse network committed to resisting the war without end that the US government is waging on the world. We recognise that our struggle extends beyond one election, one candidate. And now with Bush’s re-election, it is ever more critical that we, the various sectors of the anti-war movement, stand together and firmly declare:

No MORE WAR FOR EMPIRE!
The U.S. is in over 100 countries around the world
U.S. out of the Middle East!
**Troops Home Now!
**End U.S. Aid to Israel
**Afghanistan Yesterday, Iraq Today, Who Tomorrow???

NO MORE PRISONS OF WAR!
No More Guantanomo, No More Abu Ghraib and No More Immigrant Detention Centers
**Stop the Attacks on Arabs, Muslims South Asians and all immigrants
**Free domestic victims of political repression
**Books Not Bombs, Jobs Not War

The Future Belongs to the People of the World, Not the Warmakers!
**self determination for the Iraqi people free of foreign intervention & domination
**we affirm the right of all people to resist

In the lead-up to the American elections, US forces have continued to murder Iraqis to “free” them. At the same time, the US government continues to provide the aid and political support necessary for Israel to bludgeon Palestinians in the Occupied Territories including Palestinian schoolchildren for “security reasons”. These are two brutal occupations in a long line of brutalities to build US empire empire. Political repression and attacks on labor, immigrants, and people of color are another face of that empire.

Join the New York Grassroots Anti-War Network to help decide the next steps for a movement that refuses the agenda of empire and comes together to write a new history.

For more info: nygrassroots@yahoo.com