Dear Sisters and Brothers,
For many both in labor and among our allies, one of the highlights of the March 19th peace rally in Seattle was the speech by Steve Williamson, the head of the King County Labor Council. I've attached a copy of that speech. Unfortunately, Steve was running a little long - and the rally was running very long - as a consequence of which he wasn't able to issue his dramatic challenge to folks to join him at the federal building.
I should also tell you that after months of the feds harassing her, Barbara Phinney, the AFGE Local President and Veterans Administration RN that Steve refers to, had a major victory - they finally dropped their Hatch Act charges against her.
A Call to Resist by Steve Williamson, Head of Seattle Labor Council
If, as we say in the Labor Movement, that An Injury to One is
an Injury to Us All, then The War on Iraq Must be a War on Us All. On
behalf of the over 150,000 union members in over 165 unions in King County,
I assert not just the right to resist; I proclaim we have a moral imperative to resist this War on Iraq, this War on Us All, which is founded in lies, and prosecuted in our name.
In our name:
Iraqi children are being killed.
Poor and working class young American men and women, economic conscripts they are, are lured into a War that will diminish them forever. And the dead and the injured are of course disproportionately men and women of color.
Funds are being siphoned from what’s left of OUR social safety net, from OUR crumbling infrastructure, from OUR children’s education to pay for destroying the IRAQI social fabric, IRAQI roads and bridges, and IRAQI schools.
A Veteran Administration nurse, Barbara Phinney of Seattle, is scapegoated, in our name, for pointing out that our Vets Hospitals are woefully under funded.
Suspecting Immigrants without evidence has become the norm, detaining Immigrants without trial has become acceptable, and race and religion-based fear-mongering has reached a new art form that wrenches apart immigrant families and tragically instructs OUR children that Us Versus Them and Ends Justifying Means are the new legal principles of our nation.
Union-busting has reached a new diabolical low as civilian Department of Defense workers who have protected us since World War II lose their right to union representation by the tens of thousands at the stroke of you-know-whose pen for the absurd and now cliché excuse of “Homeland Security”.
Corporations like Halliburton and SSA rake in the spoils of war, sucking the vitality of the occupied lands, protected by the squashing of workers’ rights in Iraq, all while these same pillaging companies bust our unions here.
And of course, this war is most of all a gigantic sleight of hand trick meant to misdirect us from attempts to destroy Social Security, extend tax cuts for the rich, drill in pristine environments, extend NAFTA to Central America, and defang all the opponents of the right wing.
Am I angry? Yes, I am angry.
Are you angry? Yes, it sounds like you are.
Samuel Gompers, first President of the American Federation of Labor, was angry too when he had this to say when asked what the Labor Movement wants:
We want more school houses and less jails, more books and less guns, more learning and less vice, more leisure and less greed, more justice and less revenge…we want more opportunities to cultivate our better nature.
But he articulated more than anger; he articulated a vision, and there is welling up inside of me, out of a reservoir of strength I almost forgot I had, an old-friend-of-a-feeling that is more powerful, more useful, and more uniting than my anger.
This feeling I speak of is like the buds opening up on the trees, like the first day of Spring, suggesting a changing season.
Just as the birds literally bust out in song this wonderful time of year in spite of themselves, the feeling welling up inside of me is a calling to RESIST THIS UNJUST WAR ON US ALL.
I am busting out, beyond mere protest, toward collective resistance, and it feels good because by resisting we move past hand-wringing toward cultivating our better nature.
This being compelled to RESIST is not of my doing. I caught it, like Spring Fever, from others. I want to thank all the organizers of today’s event, particularly Jobs with Justice that has declared “Worker Organizing impacted by War” as their top priority for 2005. Please be sure to sign the Jobs with Justice Pledge Card because that is how we organize toward genuine change.
Now, I am ready for the next step. Next time we convene, let’s go to the Federal Building, with 1000 of us pre-pledging to get arrested for non-violent resistance. Mere gathering will not bring forth our better nature.
I tell you now, the Labor Movement will no longer tolerate this War on Us All in our name, and we are prepared to lead resistance with you. Mere protest is not going to be enough to turn around this ignorant but determined President.
The time has come to RESIST with passion, intelligence, and craftiness. The time has come to RESIST with non-violence and with a willingness to take arrest, to take personal risk, toward the Spring-like world of Peace and Promise that Iraqi and our children deserve.
Are you ready to RESIST?
Then let us join hands, and bow our heads first in silent remembrance of all the victims of this War on Us All followed by a raising of our heads and hearts in loud commitment to our obligation to RESIST:
Please join hands in silence as we calm our spirits and remember the Iraqi children, the American soldiers who joined up because there is so little opportunity for them here, the immigrants who are targeted daily and separated from their families, the workers abroad and at home deprived of their right to organize, and the loss of our national moral compass…let us remember as we hold hands in silence….
Now, still joining hands, please raise your hands, heads, and hearts and join me in pledging resistance, loudly like a Spring Robin:
U.S. Labor Against War (USLAW)
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1718 "M" Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Co-convenors: Gene Bruskin, Maria Guillen, Fred Mason,
Michael Eisenscher, National Organizer & Website Coordinator