Monthly Archives: May 2005

Reconstructing Internationalism with Labor For Palestine (Electronic Intifada)

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3871.shtml

Reconstructing Internationalism with Labor For Palestine
Zachary Wales, The Electronic Intifada, 23 May 2005

Those who follow Palestinian activism, from the McCarthyist “Campus Watch,” to the intrepid Jews Against the Occupation, are aware that Labor For Palestine (LFP) has emerged over the past year as a new campaign in labor internationalism. Yet as LFP prepares for its first national conference in Chicago on July 23, 2005, few know how it began.

Officially, LFP was born in June 2004 when I met Michael Letwin in Manhattan’s Union Square to discuss drafting the Open Letter, LFP’s founding document. Letwin’s unrelenting pro-Palestinian advocacy had recently cost him his presidency of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325. It came down to a choice between title and conscience, he recalled, and “which one I would rather have when the day is over.” Across from where we sat, the Virgin Music Store stood like a garish backdrop for Union Square’s arena of musicians without record labels, dancers without agents, farmers without franchise supermarkets — we were off to a good start.

But the notions behind LFP were in the works long before this. They started in South Africa, where an international divestment movement in the 1980s threw a wrench in apartheid’s brutal turbines, yet where people still vanish in the night over political struggles like water privatization. Johannesburg is where academics are screened. Soweto is where Reagan-era “terrorists” form community crisis committees to defy corrupt authorities. It was where, two years ago, at a freezing August meeting in the Workers’ Library, people began speaking of a U.S.-based solidarity campaign for Palestinian workers.

The notions arrived in the U.S. in late 2003, and ruminated through the midnight hours in Al-Awda’s Brooklyn office for months to come. They were articulated at conference panels about apartheid and the AFL-CIO’s estimated $5 billion Israel Bond investments, or in the memory of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which blocked South African cargo from entering San Francisco’s docks in 1984. By the time it debuted at the Million Worker March in October 2004, LFP had a global following.

As the LFP Open Letter states, “international solidarity, the right of national self-determination and social justice are among the most basic trade union principles.” Those principles, also known as working-class internationalism, emerged as early as the 17th century and eventually heralded the anti-slavery movement.(i) By 1864, workers from Poland, Germany, Italy, France, Britain and Switzerland convened in London to found the First International, driven by Karl Marx’s dictum, “Proletarians of all countries unite!”(ii) This was the beginning of the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA), which was affirmed in two successive conventions, and which inspired other global labor collectives, such as the Wobblies — the Industrial Workers of the World — who established themselves in Chicago in 1905, and gave rise to the legendary labor martyr, Joe Hill.

The IWA, however, did not have an unblemished historical record, if its overtly masculine profile is anything to go by. Despite its noble worldliness, the movement was often tainted with bigotry and xenophobia. One well-known agent of this abuse was the American Federation of Labor’s (now the AFL-CIO) founder, Samuel Gompers, who told the 1898 Anti-Imperialist League, “How vital then is the importance of saving American labor from the evil influence of close and open competition of semi-barbaric laborers in the Philippine Islands?”(iii) Likewise, following World War I, white mine workers in South Africa formed armed commando units, one of which used the slogan, “Workers of the World Unite, and Fight for a White South Africa.”(iv)

These fallacies were familiar to Tony Cliff, who was born into a Zionist Jewish family in Palestine in 1917, and later founded the Socialist Workers Party. Internet-based biographies on Cliff note how early on he was puzzled by the way that Zionist activists smashed Arab farmer market stalls in the name of “Jewish produce only,” or how Zionist trade unionists promoted “Jewish labor only.” In this light, Israel’s kibbutz-style “socialism” was an existential farce, particularly because it was built on stolen Arab lands.

But as Lewis L. Lorwin writes, the real legacy of the IWA was inside peoples’ heads, and it spawned “the tradition to which the movements of a later day turned for inspiration and to which they were eager to trace their own ideas and doings.”(v) As a campaign, LFP is a part of that consciousness, that ongoing deliberative process of interrogating the principles of labor internationalism. Or, as Brenda Stokely, the president of New York’s AFSMCE DC-1707, said at LFP’s launch last year, “In the same vein that DC-1707 has stood, and still stands up for Jews as a persecuted minority in the U.S., so it is time to stand up for Palestinians, the persecuted minority of our world today.”

The very essence of LFP is to apply the critical, revolutionary lens of labor activism to the plight of Palestinians who endure the catastrophe of Israel’s division, dispossession and ethnic cleansing. It is these workers who raise children under the anarchy of sniper bullets and home demolition, who freeze or suffocate at meaningless “security” checkpoints, who endure the multi-fold indignities of occupation. They are women and men, Christian, Muslim and secular, and they are workers like any of us.

The day-long LFP First National Conference will take place at Truman College in Chicago, Ill., and will coincide with the AFL-CIO’s week-long quadrennial convention. The event will include speakers on topics ranging from academic persecution, to organizing labor delegations to Palestine. Finally, the conference will debut two new documentaries: The first is titled “Breaking Walls,” and was produced in 2004 by a delegation of European trade unionists. The second, titled, “Bonds of Disaffection,” examines the historic, contradictory relationship between U.S. labor and Israel.

More Information
# Labor for Palestine, Web: http://www.laborforpalestine.org, Email: lfp@al-awdany.org

Zachary Wales is a journalist and masters student in social policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

End Notes

i Linebaugh, Peter and Rediker, Marcus. The Multi-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.

ii Frank, Dana. “Where is the History of U.S. Labor and International Solidarity? Part I: A Moveable Feast.” Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas Volume 1, Issue 1, 2004: p. 100.

iii Scott, Jack. Yankee Unions, Go Home! How the AFL Helped the U.S. Build an Empire in Latin America. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1978: p. 93.

iv Thompson, Leonard. A History of South Africa. New Haven: Yale University, 2001: p. 160.

v Cited by Frank: p. 100. Referring to Lorwin, Lewis L. Labor and Internationalism. New York: Macmillian, 1929: p. 58.

Protests Across the U.S. Support War Resisters (Socialist Worker)

http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-1/544/544_12_WarOnTrial.shtml

Protests across the U.S. support war resisters
‘‘Pablo and Kevin put the war on trial’’
By Eric Ruder and Jocelyn Blake | May 20, 2005 | Page 12

THE U.S. military put war resisters Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman on trial last week. But at the same time, across the U.S., activists put the Iraq war itself on trial.

Paredes, a Naval petty officer, and Benderman, an Army sergeant, both faced military trials for answering their consciences and not deploying to Iraq. Paredes was found guilty at his court-martial in San Diego, but he received a light sentence compared to the year behind bars in a military prison that he faced as a maximum punishment. Meanwhile, at Fort Stewart in Georgia, Benderman’s defense team won a motion claiming that the military’s prosecutor wasn’t impartial, sending his case back to square one.

While Paredes’ trial was going on, outside the Navy base in San Diego, activists set up their own court and put the war on trial.

Aidan Delgado, who received conscientious objector status after serving nine months in Iraq, told the mock court of the atrocities he witnessed while working in Abu Ghraib prison–and affirmed the International Red Cross’ estimate that 70 to 90 percent of the prisoners are there by mistake. “At Abu Ghraib, we shot prisoners for protesting their conditions,” said Delgado. “Four were killed.”

Two members of Iraq Veterans Against the War–Tim Goodrich and Camilo Mejía–also spoke in Pablo’s defense. “In reality, it isn’t the only superpower in the world putting Pablo on trial,” said Mejía, who spent seven months in a military prison for refusing to return to Iraq for a second tour of duty. “It’s Pablo putting the only superpower in the world on trial.”

Meanwhile, at the trial itself, the Navy judge, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Klant, delivered a stunning indictment of the war.

After law professor Marjorie Cohn explained on the witness stand why the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal under U.S. and international law, government prosecutors began hounding her about her prior statements that the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Yugoslavia were also illegal. Cohn explained that both these wars–like the invasion of Iraq–were neither defensive, nor sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, and therefore were illegal.

At the end of the cross-examination, an exasperated Klant agreed with Cohn, declaring, “I think that the government has successfully proved that any service member has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal.”

In the end, Klant gave Pablo what amounts to a slap on the wrist–two months’ confinement to his base, three months’ hard labor and a reduction in rank. “This is…a stunning blow to the prosecutors who asked for nine months in the brig,” said Jeremy Warren, Pablo’s lawyer. “It’s a huge affirmation of every sailor and military personnel’s rights to speak out and follow their consciences.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Benderman faces a new hearing in his case, where the military will decide again what charges to bring and how stiff a sentence to seek. Seemingly in retaliation for the defense’s successful motion for a new hearing, the government added two charges of larceny because Kevin received combat pay since January, when his unit was deployed in Iraq without him–even though the Army initiated the payments and Kevin reported the extra pay.

“I just know that I want the truth to continue to come out,” Kevin told reporters after he received the new hearing. “And I think that’s what happened today. Some of the truth came out that they mishandled the Article 32 hearing.”

The mock trial outside the San Diego Navy base where Paredes’ trial was held was just one of many solidarity actions organized in some 20 cities across the U.S. last week.

A day before his trial, Pablo addressed an audience of about 50 people in Oakland, Calif., by telephone. “This fight is not over,” said Pablo. “This is the first battle, and we are winning it in the streets.” Other speakers included Father Louis Vitale and Oakland City Council candidate Aimee Allison.

The day after Pablo’s court-martial, more than 100 people in New York set up their own mock court to put the war on trial at an event organized by Citizens for Pablo, Veterans for Peace, the local chapter of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), United for Peace and Justice, International Action Center, Not in Our Name, the International Socialist Organization and others. Speakers included military resister Carl Webb, Linda Sarsour of the National Council of Arab Americans, Tod Ensign of Citizen Soldier and Iraq Under Siege editor Anthony Arnove.

During closing arguments, Michael Letwin of New York City Labor Against War summed up the choice that soldiers like Pablo and Kevin face, along with everyone trying to stop the U.S. war machine: “Resistance is not only a right, it is an obligation.”

At Hunter College in New York, Mike Stoll of the Campus Antiwar Network prosecuted the case against the war, while A’dam Farooqui of the College Republicans argued in its defense. Basing their testimony on real sources, students acted as witnesses, playing the parts of an Iraqi civilian, a Marine recruiter, a Halliburton CEO, a resisting U.S. soldier and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In the end, a jury made up of audience members voted 10 to 3 to find the war guilty as charged.

In Burlington, Vt., 70 people picketed the federal building with chants of “They’re our brothers, they’re our sisters, we support war resisters.”

“The importance of what we’re doing today can’t be overstated,” Jim Ramey, one of the organizers of the event and a member of Vermont MFSO, told the crowd. “The U.S. armed forces are attempting to make an example of Pablo and Kevin and so are we. By supporting them now, we can give confidence to the many soldiers who are questioning this war that they can speak out, and we’ll have their backs.”

In Springfield, Mass., about 20 people picketed for two hours in front of the federal building. American Friends Service Committee, Traprock Peace Center, the Antiwar Coalition at Holyoke Community College and the International Socialist Organization sponsored the event. During the picket, there was an almost unbroken sound of cars and trucks honking their horns in solidarity, and many drivers and passersby stopped to take fliers about the two cases.

In Providence, R.I., about 30 people rallied in front of the federal building. Passersby joined the rush-hour protest or signed petitions before boarding buses, and listened as speakers addressed the brutality of the U.S. occupation–and the hypocrisy of threatening GI resisters with prison while alleged murderers of Iraqi civilians go free.

In New Haven, Conn., a small but spirited crowd gathered in front of the federal building downtown to show their support for Pablo and Kevin. The demonstration was called by the Southern Connecticut State University Antiwar Coalition and the Middle East Crisis Committee and was supported by several local groups. Though some military recruiters decided to stand across the street with their “Army of One” banner, horn blasts from drivers and thumbs-up from pedestrians showed overwhelming support for the antiwar message.

Together, these events showed that a new movement to defend those who resist the U.S. military machine from the inside is being created.

“Resistance is the essence of democracy,” said Pablo at a press conference the day before his trial began. “We learn in our American history classes about a resistance to the empire outside. I have to be a part of the resistance to this empire.” Everyone should join this resistance–and help build a movement to stand with people like Kevin and Pablo.

Frank Couget, Tom Dillon, Andrew Jagunich, Rebecca Lewis, John Osmand, Steve Ramey and Annie Zirin contributed to this report.

NYCLAW Statement on IFTU Tour May 19, 2005

NYCLAW Statement on IFTU Tour May 19, 2005

New York City Labor Against the War cannot support the northeast tour organized by USLAW for the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.

As shown below, the IFTU — and its political affiliate, the Iraqi Communist Party — shares a position virtually indistinguishable from the Bush administration’s:  U.S. troops must remain in Iraq for as long as it takes to crush the resistance.

(Since July 2003, the ICP has been an ardent member of the occupation regime, which on January 28, 2004 designated the IFTU as “the legitimate and legal representatives of the labour movement in Iraq.[1])

*June-July 2003.  Former ICP general-secretary:  “If the [U.S.] were to withdraw from Iraq, there would be a civil war and democrats would have no chance.”[2]

*June 25, 2004.  IFTU general-secretary Majid Musa to British union UNISON: “[U]nilateral withdrawal of troops would be bad for Iraq, bad for the emerging progressive forces, a terrible blow for free trade unionism and would play into the hands of extremists and terrorists.”[3]

*September 28-29, 2004.  IFTU international representative Abdullah Muhsin successfully urges the British Labor Party conference to defeat a resolution calling for “early withdrawal” of British troops:  “[A]n early date for the unilateral withdrawal of troops . . . would be bad for my country, bad for the emerging progressive forces, a terrible blow for free trade unionism, and would play into the hands of extremists and terrorists,”[4] and would “lead at best to the Balkanisation of Iraq and or even worse a bitter civil war.”[5]

*November 23, 2004.  ICP general-secretary Majid Musa opposes a December 31, 2005 deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops:  “[T]he withdrawal of foreign forces . . . is an objective that all Iraqis without exception seek to achieve. . . . However, the problem is deciding when those troops could depart. We have not yet built sufficient military, police or security forces to protect the security of Iraq.”[6]

*December 19, 2004.  ICP general-secretary Majid Musa: “[H]ow can we [end the occupation] in view of the country’s complex situation, the current balances of power and the regional and international circumstances around us? . . . . [T]errorist and subversive acts will only prolong the presence of foreign forces and give an excuse to others to say the country is in danger and cannot endure the bad consequences and so the help of the foreign forces is needed.”[7]

*April 22, 2005.  Saady Edan, president of Mosul IFTU: “[I]f [the occupation] ends now, it will bring chaos. Once the Iraqi security forces are capable, then the occupation should leave. But they are not yet.”[8]

In sharp contrast, the Southern Oil Company Union demands an immediate end to the occupation:  “We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don’t want a timetable — this is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.”[9]

Notes

1. “Official recognition given to new union federation by Iraqi Governing Council,” February 9, 2004 <http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/000016.html>.

2.  “NDI Assessment Mission to Iraq, June 23 to July 6, 2003,” p. 4
<http://www.ndi.org/front_page/1625_iq_report_072503.pdf>.

3.  “UNISON Labour Link committee chair on Labour Party conference,” October 1, 2004
<http://www.labourfriendsofiraq.org.uk/archives/000006.html>.

4.  “Open letter from Abdullah Muhsin, foreign representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, to trade union delegates at the Labour Party conference”
<http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/B1571.pdf>.

5.  Patrick Wintour and Kevin Maguire, “Deal with unions to keep Blair safe,” Guardian, September 30, 2004 <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour2004/story/0,14991,131
6070,00.html>.

6.  Juan Cole, “Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion,” Guardian, November 26, 2004 <http://www.juancole.com/2004_11_01_juancole_archive.html>.

7.  “Iraqi Communist Party leader views electoral program, obstacles to elections,” BBC International Reports (Middle East), December 21, 2004.

8.   John Lloyd, “United we understand,” Financial Times, April 22, 2005
<http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/000262.html>.

9.  Hassan Juma’a Awad, “Leave our country now,” Guardian, February 18, 2005
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1417222,00.html>.

NYCLAW Statement on IFTU Tour

NYCLAW Statement on IFTU Tour
May 19, 2005

New York City Labor Against the War cannot support the northeast tour organized by USLAW for the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.

As shown below, the IFTU — and its political affiliate, the Iraqi Communist Party — shares a position virtually indistinguishable from the Bush administration”s: U.S. troops must remain in Iraq for as long as it takes to crush the resistance.

(Since July 2003, the ICP has been an ardent member of the occupation regime, which on January 28, 2004 designated the IFTU as “the legitimate and legal representatives of the labour movement in Iraq.[1])

*June-July 2003. Former ICP general-secretary: “If the [U.S.] were to withdraw from Iraq, there would be a civil war and democrats would have no chance.”[2]

*June 25, 2004. IFTU general-secretary Majid Musa to British union UNISON: “[U]nilateral withdrawal of troops would be bad for Iraq, bad for the emerging progressive forces, a terrible blow for free trade unionism and would play into the hands of extremists and terrorists.”[3]

*September 28-29, 2004. IFTU international representative Abdullah Muhsin successfully urges the British Labor Party conference to defeat a resolution calling for “early withdrawal” of British troops: “[A]n early date for the unilateral withdrawal of troops . . . would be bad for my country, bad for the emerging progressive forces, a terrible blow for free trade unionism, and would play into the hands of extremists and terrorists,”[4] and would “lead at best to the Balkanisation of Iraq and or even worse a bitter civil war.”[5]

*November 23, 2004. ICP general-secretary Majid Musa opposes a December 31, 2005 deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops: “[T]he withdrawal of foreign forces . . . is an objective that all Iraqis without exception seek to achieve. . . . However, the problem is deciding when those troops could depart. We have not yet built sufficient military, police or security forces to protect the security of Iraq.” [6]

*December 19, 2004. ICP general-secretary Majid Musa: “[H]ow can we [end the occupation] in view of the country”s complex situation, the current balances of power and the regional and international circumstances around us” . . . . [T]errorist and subversive acts will only prolong the presence of foreign forces and give an excuse to others to say the country is in danger and cannot endure the bad consequences and so the help of the foreign forces is needed.”[7]

*April 22, 2005. Saady Edan, president of Mosul IFTU: “[I]f [the occupation] ends now, it will bring chaos. Once the Iraqi security forces are capable, then the occupation should leave. But they are not yet.”[8]

In sharp contrast, the Southern Oil Company Union demands an immediate end to the occupation: “We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don”t want a timetable — this is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.”[9]

Notes

1. “Official recognition given to new union federation by Iraqi Governing Council,” February 9, 2004 <http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/000016.html>.

2. “NDI Assessment Mission to Iraq, June 23 to July 6, 2003,” p. 4 <http://www.ndi.org/front_page/1625_iq_report_072503.pdf>.

3. “UNISON Labour Link committee chair on Labour Party conference,” October 1, 2004 <http://www.labourfriendsofiraq.org.uk/archives/000006.html>.

4. “Open letter from Abdullah Muhsin, foreign representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, to trade union delegates at the Labour Party conference” <http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/B1571.pdf>.

5. Patrick Wintour and Kevin Maguire, “Deal with unions to keep Blair safe,” Guardian, September 30, 2004 <http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour2004/story/0,14991,1316070,00.html>.

6. Juan Cole, “Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion,” Guardian, November 26, 2004 <http://www.juancole.com/2004_11_01_juancole_archive.html>.

7. “Iraqi Communist Party leader views electoral program, obstacles to elections,” BBC International Reports (Middle East), December 21, 2004.

8. John Lloyd, “United we understand,” Financial Times, April 22, 2005 <http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/000262.html>.

9. Hassan Juma’a Awad, “Leave our country now,” Guardian, February 18, 2005 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1417222,00.html>.

Put the War on Trial: Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman

Put the War on Trial: Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman
New York City – May 12, 2005

Closing Statement for the Defense
by Michael Letwin
Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Most people do not want to be sent to war to kill or maim – or be killed or maimed – to make the rich and powerful more rich and powerful. And like all empires, the United States has gotten around that problem by lying.

To steal Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico, it lied in 1845 about “Mexican aggression.” To conquer Cuba and the Philippines, it lied in 1898 about “Remembering the Maine.” To devastate Indochina, it lied in 1964 about being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. Today, to wage war in the Middle East for oil and empire, the Bush administration lies about “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” “Terrorism,” and “Building Democracy.”

But the U.S. has made life in Iraq far worse than under Saddam Hussein. It has killed one hundred thousand Iraqis and maimed thousands of others; wiped out the national infrastructure; poisoned with depleted uranium; destroyed Falluja, Najaf and Ramadi; set up a puppet regime of CIA operatives to bless the U.S. war,
promote ethnic strife, and “Salvadorianize” with death squads of Hussein’s former security forces; holds more than 11,000 political prisoners who are detained, tortured and murdered in hells like Abu Ghraib; and plundered and privitizatized Iraqi’s economy.

Working people in this country have also paid a terrible cost. As of this week, 1,600 GIs have been killed and thousands more wounded; hundreds of billions of dollars have been squandered, while jobs and services at home plummet. And also this week, the Senate voted – unanimously – for another $82 billion to fund this
obscenity.

This war and occupation is indefensible. Legally, they are the same criminal acts for which the Nazis were tried at Nuremberg: (1) Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War; (2) Waging Aggressive War, or Crimes Against Peace; (3) War Crimes; and (4) Crimes Against Humanity. They also violate Chapter VII of the UN Charter
and the Geneva Convention.

These crimes justify resistance – particularly since Bush’s crimes have been blessed, rather than challenged, by both Democratic Party politicians and the UN.

For those under attack, the right to resist is reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter, which guarantees “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence.” It is important to note that this right is not limited to people whose politics we may happen to approve. Today, with the vast majority of Iraqis demanding an immediate end to U.S. war and occupation, the Iraqi resistance is exercising this right by tying down the world’s most powerful military machine.

For soldiers in an aggressor’s army, resistance is not only a right – it is an obligation. The Nuremberg trials specifically rejected the defense of “following orders,” and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) requires military personnel to disobey unlawful orders.

But the resistance of PO Pablo Paredes and SGT. Kevin Benderman is not only morally and legally justified; it is also effective. The war and occupation in Iraq have given birth to a GI revolt reflected in a huge shortfall of enlistments and reenlistments – especially among people of color; widespread refusal to report for reserve and national guard activation; and nearly 6000 desertions. A mass GI mutiny ultimately ended the brutal and corrupt U.S. war in Vietnam; it can do so today in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pablo Paredes and Kevin Benderman are guilty only of great principle and courage. They, and all resisters, deserve our admiration and support.

Rebuilding Labor at the AFL-CIO Convention in Chicago

[Labor For Palestine is an independent, global solidarity campaign founded by: Al-Awda.org and New York City Labor Against the War]

Rebuilding Labor at the AFL-CIO Convention in Chicago, July 23, 2005

On July 23, 2005, LFP will hold a national educational conference in Chicago on the issue of Palestine, Labor and the AFL-CIO. At the same time that the National AFL-CIO supports the US war and occupation of Iraq, it also defends the “strangulation wall” and the institution of an apartheid state against the Palestinian workers and people. This conference will examine the history of the relationship of the AFL-CIO to Israel as well as the extensive investments of AFL-CIO pension funds into Israel Bonds.

We will also look at the active efforts of the AFL-CIO leadership and supporters of Israel to silence critics of Israel in the labor movement. This will also include the effort to purge professors and teachers who are supporters of Palestinian rights. The conference will also look at how and why the labor movement around the world has come to the defense of Palestinian workers and unions. We invite labor activists, trade unionists and union locals to endorse and participate in this critical conference.

The conference, hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine-DePaul, will be held at DePaul University and will go from 10am to 6pm. The event will include local and international speakers, and will debut two new documentaries on labor and Palestine.

———–

LFP’s Resolution on Israel Bonds To Be Presented at the Convention:

Whereas, the use of union pension money is a vehicle for bringing change against union busters in the US and around the world and,

Whereas, the purchase of Israel Bonds has helped the Israeli government pursue it’s continued construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and,

Whereas, these pension funds have been invested without the knowledge and vote of the membership of unions within the AFL-CIO and,

Whereas, the Israeli government has targeted trade unionists and their unions for repression and destruction and,

Whereas, the US labor movement opposed the apartheid regime in South Africa and opposes all regimes that discriminate against workers because of religion, race, or national origin and,

Whereas, US labor can no longer acquiesce with the polices of the AFL-CIO leadership including many internationals in continuing the financial support of this regime,

Whereas, US labor must divest from any regime or institution that violates international law, including the Palestinian right to return,

Therefore, be it resolved, the following trade unionists call on our affiliated unions and the AFL-CIO to divest of all Israeli bonds and to oppose the continued occupation and apartheid regime in Israel.

Details: http://www.laborforpalestine.org/pages/1/index.htm

Forum Charts Harlem’s Changes: From Black Mecca to Private Market (Amsterdam News)

http://www.indypressny.org/article.php3?ArticleID=2067

Forum charts Harlem’s changes: From Black Mecca to private market
By Karen Juanita Carrillo, Amsterdam News, 4 May 2005.

“This housing boom is creating a ripple effect,” political economist John Rynn said during last week’s Harlem Tenants Council forum ‘From Black Mecca to Private Market: Will Blacks still be able to live in Harlem?’ “As prices for rent increase on the Upper West Side, residents there are looking to rent in Harlem.”

Harlem, which has served as Black America’s cultural Mecca for more than a century, was once the place where Langston Hughes exalted in seeing nothing but the various shades of African faces. But these days, you’re as likely to see the faces of the neighborhoods’ white residents – as they venture out to do their weekend shopping or as they’re getting off the A train at 125th Street before heading to their Harlem homes.

White residents throughout the New York City area have been casting glances at traditionally Black and Latino neighborhoods like Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, Loisaida, Fort Greene and Crown Heights for a number of years now. And as they’ve expressed interest in moving into what were once landlord and public policy neglected areas, rental prices have gone up and developers have come flocking.

At the Harlem Tenants Council (HTC) forum that took place on Friday, April 22 at Harlem’s State Office Building, Rynn was part of a panel that included Prof. Robin D. G. Kelly, labor leader Brenda Stokely, housing activist Nellie Bailey, and Prof. Lionel McIntyre, moderated by “Like It Is” host Gil Noble. Panel members talked about the market force changes that are dramatically altering the cultural and societal appearance of Harlem. The Harlem Tenants Council has been holding forums and taking part in protests to keep the community aware of what it can do to stop the onslaught.

“We have always been in a situation where we are disposable people,” District Council 1707 President Brenda Stokely told forum attendees. “There was no effort by the City to beautify Harlem when only Blacks were living here. I’m angry not because I’m against development – that’s a silly argument! I’m angry because the City has only felt our neighborhoods worthy of development when we’re not here.”

When some 85 percent of Harlem’s brownstones and buildings were owned by New York City, the properties were left to rot and you often found trees growing through the center of brownstone shells. Former Mayor Ed Koch initiated a project with the aid of Columbia University to have the City sell those properties. But the terms of that initiative effectively excluded Harlem residents: area brownstones were auctioned to anyone with a minimum $60,000 salary, when most Harlem residents averaged $17,000 incomes.

Alongside the construction boom in what is now being termed “Upper Manhattan,” there is an orchestrated campaign to recast the traditionally Black Mecca. Once characterized as crime-ridden and dangerous, Harlem Tenants Council President Nellie Bailey says The New York Times is among the leaders in now portraying Harlem as “safe” and as a place to find the best buys at trendy new boutique stores.

“They want this community to be a Mecca in terms of tourism,” Bailey commented, as she talked about the increase in tour buses and local restaurants that cater to the idea of Harlem as a Black Mecca. So while traditional service providers to Harlem residents lose funding and begin decreasing and even eliminating their services – like Harlem Legal Services, which is due to close up shop in Harlem and move downtown – “public policy will have everything available for the white gentrification flowing into Harlem,” Bailey said.

“We have to figure this out – we’re in a trap, we’re in a jam,” Prof. Lionel McIntyre said. Pointing to the 1968 Kerner Commission report, which characterized the activists who protested urgently enough to change the situation of Black communities during the Civil Rights Movement as “underemployed, frustrated, militant, 16-year-olds,” McIntyre complained that today’s youth simply aren’t militant enough to create major changes. “We have to figure out a correct analysis of exactly what’s going on here,” he said, and “devise a strategy for an analysis of the issues.”

Any analysis of current trends can still look to the past for inspiration, Bailey told the forum: just as there was a tent protest to stop Columbia University’s attempts to takeover Morningside Park for construction of a gym in 1968, there was a one day tent protest on Columbia’s campus on April 27th. Termed “Bollingerville” after University President Lee Bollinger, the University’s Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification sponsored protest was an effort to show the University’s faculty and students some of the actual Harlem residents their school will be displacing, as it makes further expansionist inroads into Manhattanville.

“They don’t want us to have anything, they want to swallow us up,” an older woman in the crowd said as the forum drew to a close. “They did this to us downtown,” she continued, referring to the once-predominantly Black and Latino San Juan Hill neighborhood, which had residents displaced in the 1950s to make way for the building of what is today Lincoln Center. “Therefore, you have to know: your children will fight this, your grandchildren will fight this, and your great-grandchildren will fight this. It just won’t end!”

This article appeared in Edition 167 of Voices That Must Be Heard.