Labor and War
Last year, in an article entitled Why No Festive Mood On This Labor Day? I wrote, "Workers in uniform are under the gun in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan—sent there under false pretenses. They are used not to defend our national security but to promote the profits of Big Business. Good people—Americans, Brits, Iraqis, Afghans, and others—are being killed and wounded. Family lives are being disrupted. The costs of war and occupation are devouring our taxes. And ‘Homeland Security’ exploits fear of terrorism to undermine our democratic rights, including worker rights to organize and bargain."
Unfortunately, the same could be written again today. If anything, the situation in those countries occupied by U.S. forces is more out of control than ever. Hundreds more Americans, and thousands more Iraqis and Afghans have been killed since last Labor Day. Even more National Guards and Reservists are being torn away from families and jobs to be sent in harm’s way.
Iraqi working people are still suffering massive unemployment. They live in far worse conditions than even under Saddam Hussein with no reliable electricity or running water, with health care and education in a state of collapse. The country’s one source of substantial wealth—oil—has been diverted to pay the costs of the foreign occupiers they have come not to welcome but to hate.
We’ve learned a bit more to confirm things we suspected from the beginning. Investigations by the U.S. congress and British parliament proved that all the claims about WMDs and Iraqi connections to bin Laden were bald faced lies. Auditors have proven how Cheney’s Halliburton ripped off the tax payers for meals never served and mail never delivered to our GIs. We now know the man picked to be the prime minister of the new "sovereign"Iraqi government was employed by both British MI6 and the American CIA. The arrogant war makers assumed that the victors would write history. But they failed to quickly win and their exposed deceit turns more and more Americans against this illegal, unjust war.
Also over this past year we have seen growth of labor opposition to the war/occupation both in Iraq and here at home. Despite the efforts of the U.S. occupation authorities to continue to enforce Saddam Hussein’s labor codes outlawing unions the proud tradition of Iraqi trade unionism is reasserting itself once more. Particularly encouraging has been the development of the Union of Unemployed in Iraq (UUI) and the Federation of Trade Unions and Worker Councils of Iraq (FTUWCI). This movement is one of the few bright spots on the scene in Iraq today.
At home we have seen significant work carried out by US Labor Against the War (USLAW). Due to tireless efforts by USLAW a wide range of important union bodies have gone on record against the war: the California, Washington, and Maryland state feds, national conventions of SEIU, AFSCME, CWA, APWU, as well as numerous local unions.
USLAW has also helped sponsor public meetings about the war in the community, and assisted in putting an antiwar proposition on the November ballot in San Francisco.
And, in an inspiring example of international workers solidarity USLAW has raised funds for the Iraqi trade unions and helped them press their case for justice with the International Labor Organization and other world bodies.
This work will remain important no matter which prowar candidate wins the November election. If on next Labor Day we want to be celebrating peace, rather than marking another year of war, the labor movement must step up efforts to mobilize American working people in antiwar actions.
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