‘US Labor Against the War’ Formed

Unions Move to Oppose Iraq War

Unprecedented numbers of unions have passed anti-war resolutions. Before a war on Iraq has even started, resolutions against it have been passed by hundreds of union locals, central labor bodies, and national unions. This represents 4.5 million workers or more than a quarter of all union members in the US.

Under the cover of the war drive, corporations and the politicians are stepping up their assault on working people here in the US. The federal budget has been pillaged for defense and security spending and corporate handouts. Unions and their members are being hit with layoffs, downsizing, and federal and state budget cuts.

Regressive legislation like the “Patriot” Act and TIPS (Terrorism Information and Protection System) have laid the basis for broader attacks by the ruling class on unions and immigrants.

The creation of a new homeland security agency allowed for privatizing 850,000 federal jobs that were protected by the American Federation of Government Employees. During the recent ILWU lockout, Bush invoked the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act for the first time in decades to send a message to the labor movement that he had declared war on the working class at home.

US Labor Against the War

In Chicago on January 11, more than 100 labor leaders and activists from across the country came together to establish a national anti-war organization, US Labor Against the War (USLAW), representing more than 2 million members.

A large part of the meeting centered around a debate over two resolutions. A resolution put forward by the 10 conveners of the meeting was introduced by Gene Bruskin, secretary-treasurer of the Food and Allied Services Trades. The resolution focused on opposing a unilateral war and on using the UN as the main way to blunt the war drive.

This resolution reflects the conservatism of union leaders like Sweeney, who have been forced to question aspects of Bush’s “unilateral” war drive without clearly opposing it. This creates the illusion that the UN can stop the war.

Michael Letwin of New York City Labor Against The War introduced an alternative resolution, based on a resolution passed by Teamster Local 705 in Chicago. The resolution expressed solidarity with the Iraqi working class and clearly stated that, “Bush’s drive for war serves as a cover and distraction for the sinking economy, corporate corruption, and layoffs.” This resolution won with additions from the floor.

Both the establishment of a labor anti-war organization and the passage of a resolution that clearly opposes war and its impact on the working class, rather than accepting the official vacillations of the AFL-CIO, are important steps for the working class, their unions, and the anti-war movement. USLAW has used the resolution to reach out to other labor organizations about building for the January 18 and February 15 demonstrations and to build USLAW.

An anti-war movement that is built from below in unions can be a vehicle to challenge the leadership of the labor movement to defend the class interests of their members in the face of corporate warfare.

Anti-war committees should be built in every union local, and they should link up with organizations of students, immigrants, unemployed and community groups. Activists should move resolutions based on the one passed by USLAW (to get the resolution, contact USLAW at: www.uslaboragainstwar.org).

Demonstrations, student and labor strikes, and job actions are tactics that the working class and young people can use to take the anti-war movement forward. We should demand that the $200 billion estimated cost of a war on Iraq be spent on job creation, living wages, welfare, unemployment benefits, universal health care, new schools, affordable housing, free public education, and day care.

British Unions Threaten Strike Action Against the War

The leaders of Britain’s five biggest unions have threatened to organize mass workplace walkouts across the country when a war on Iraq begins. Already, on January 8, two train drivers refused to transport ammunition going to the Glen Douglas base, Europe’s largest storage of weapons, on Scotland’s west coast. The ammunition was thought to be on its way to the Gulf for use by the British forces already stationed there.

This industrial action in protest of war with Iraq was the first such action in decades, and is a magnificent example to trade unionists and anti-war activists around the world. Massive, well-organized, and sustained civil disobedience – walkouts, protests, blockades, and industrial action – can paralyze the war machine. USLAW and other anti-war activists in the US labor movement need to begin preparing the way for unions to take such steps here.

Justice #33, February 2003