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Growing Union Opposition to War

In fluid dynamics, every added drop of water swells the wave until it reaches a critical point where the wave breaks and rushes down toward the shore. The same is true for social movements, where beyond a critical point, all are pulled in until the status quo is overwhelmed by the shear number of protestors.

The growing anti-war movement is but a ripple. Yet each drop added gives rise to a wave. Today American labor unions are adding their voices to the wave of anti-war sentiments and protests.

Across the United States, unions are speaking out against another invasion of Iraq.

At its August 19-22 convention, the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC), representing 600 local unions with over 450,000 members across Washington State, adopted an “Antiwar, Anti-PATRIOT Act” resolution. The resolution calls for the repeal of the USA-PATRIOT Act and other state ‘anti-terrorism’ measures; non-cooperation with FBI and INS officials who spy on and harass politically involved citizens, minorities, and immigrants; the immediate release of hundreds of unnamed 9/11 suspects who are US residents; and for the US government to stop the ‘war on terrorism.’

On August 26, the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO, adopted a resolution calling for ‘No New War Against Iraq.’ The resolution cites, among other reasons to oppose war, the misuse of billions of dollars on the build-up to war that would result in domestic cutbacks such as “…education, healthcare, social security and housing, and threatening the rights of labor to strike and organize…” The resolution also accuses the government of using concerns of ‘Homeland Security’ to further weaken unions.

On September 19, the delegates to the 67th United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers union (UE) convention, representing 35,000 members, passed a resolution to “Oppose US Invasion of Iraq.” The resolution cites that “an invasion of Iraq is not in the interest of workers,” but rather designed to benefit the military-industrial complex, the oil industry, and President Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign. It notes that workers pay for war through their taxes, while budget cuts threaten working people and the poor. Rather than invading Iraq, the UE convention urges a “genuinely multilateral diplomatic approach to the Iraq situation, sanctioned and directed by the United Nations.”

Other factions within various unions have issued statements against the war. For instance, the Detroit Labor Committee for Peace & Justice issued a statement in August opposing the war, corporate welfare, racism, and the USA-PATRIOT Act.

All of these voices from America’s organized labor signal the impending birth of a broad coalition of anti-war activists. These labor groups, along with others sure to follow, will be joining liberals and radical political groups, religious groups, and minority groups in opposition to the Bush administration’s ‘foreign policy’ of pre-eminent strikes and an open-ended war.

Yet along with the rapidly growing union opposition to war comes a disconcerting non-position to war. The AFL-CIO Executive Council is refusing to take a stand on the topic of Iraq. Their silence on the ‘war on terrorism’ leaves a gaping whole that local unions are starting to fill. The national labor leadership’s silence represents a lack of opposition to Bush’s war plans. They might as well be shouting labor’s approval of the Bush Administration. Yet all is not lost. Perhaps now that local unions are speaking out against a possible war on Iraq, the national leaders will be brave enough to add their voices to the anti-war movement by following their rank and file members.

Union opposition to war is swelling, and the ripples of an anti-war movement just got a little bigger. Let’s all add our drops of water to the wave, and soon the Bush Administration won’t have any choice but to listen to the people of the United States, and the World, in calling for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the threat of terrorism worldwide.

KRYSTAL KYER is an activist writer, a member of the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, and has a Master of Environmental Studies degree. She can be reached at klynn@nocharge.zzn.com

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