Labor Advocate Online

Trade Unionists Launch ‘U.S. Labor Against the War’
by Bill Onasch

More than a hundred trade union leaders and activists gathered at the Teamsters Local 705 hall in Chicago January 11 to discuss labor's response to the imminent danger of war on Iraq. At the end of the day they launched a new organization to mobilize antiwar sentiment within the union movement—U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW).

Teamsters Local 705, the second largest Teamsters Local in the country, offered to host the gathering shortly after their members overwhelmingly passed an antiwar resolution at a well-attended (over 400) meeting. Two veteran organizers, Gene Bruskin and Bob Muehlenkamp, did a good job of assembling this impressive gathering on short notice. The initial invitation letter was signed by:

Alan Benchich, President, UAW 909
Jerry Brown, President, 1199NE/SEIU, Hartford
Bill Hennings, VP, CWA Local 1180, NYC
Bruce J. Kipple, General Sec.-Treas., UE
Richard Mead, President, ILWU Local 10
Bob Muehlenkamp
Alan Netland, President, Duluth CLC, President AFSCME Local 96
Sal Roselli, President, L. 250/SEIU, Oakland
Brenda Stokely, President, AFSCME Council 1707, Co-chair, NYCLAW
Gerry Zero, Sec-Tr., IBT L. 705, Chicago

After hearing presentations from David Cortright, Fourth Freedom Forum, and Bill Fletcher, director of TransAfrica and a former special assistant to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, the delegates went on to a vigorous debate over a resolution to establish basic principles. The most contentious issue was that of the United Nations. A few wanted to denounce the UN as a tool of the U.S. while a few others wanted to praise the UN for preventing war on Iraq to this point. In the end the delegates decided we could live without saying anything about the UN. The final language of the resolution is reproduced below.

The gathering had a practical discussion of how to take our positions into the rest of the labor movement. The first priority is to get as many union bodies as possible in the next few weeks to adopt resolutions and contribute money to the new organization. A continuations committee, made up of representatives selected by unions with sizeable delegations, was established to set up structures to carry on USLAW's work.

In the Kansas City area there will be a meeting to discuss building USLAW Saturday, January 18, 1PM at 2113 Erie in North Kansas City. For more information call 816-753-1672 or 816-221-3638 or send an e-mail to laboradvocate@kclabor.org.

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We Establish U.S. Labor Against the War

WHEREAS, over 100 trade unionists from unions, Central Labor Councils and other labor organizations representing over 2 million members gathered in Chicago for an unprecedented meeting to discuss our concerns about the Bush administrations threat of war; and

WHEREAS, union members and leaders have the responsibility to inform all working people about issues that affect their lives, jobs and families, and to be heard in the national debate on these issues; and

WHEREAS, the principal victims of any military action in Iraq will be the Sons and daughters of working class families serving in the military who will be put in harms way, and innocent Iraqi civilians who have already suffered so much; and

Whereas, we have no quarrel wit!, the ordinary working class men, women and children of Iraq, or any other country; andWhereas, the billions of dollars spent to stage and execute this war are being taken away from our schools, hospitals, housing and Social Security; and

Whereas, the war is a pretext for attacks on labor, civil, immigrant and human rights at home; and

Whereas, Bush’s drive for war serves as a cover and distraction for the sinking economy, corporate corruption and layoffs; and

Whereas, such military action is predicted actually to increase the likelihood of retaliatory terrorist acts; and

Whereas, there is no convincing link between Iraq and Al Qaeda or the attacks on Sept. 11, and neither the Bush administration nor the UN inspections have demonstrated that Iraq poses a real threat to Americans; and

Whereas, U.S. military action against Iraq threatens the peaceful resolution of disputes among states, jeopardizing the safety and security of the entire world, including Americans; and

Whereas, labor has had an historic role in fighting for justice; therefore

We hereby establish the "U.S. Labor Against the War’ (USLAW); and

Resolve that U.S. Labor Against the War stands firmly against Bush’s war drive; and

Further resolve that U.S. Labor Against the War will publicize this statement, and promote union, labor and community antiwar activity.

Adopted January 11, 2003 in Chicago, IL.

For more information contact:

Bob Muehlenkamp              Gene Bruskin

Kabob240@aol.com             G8751@erols.com

301-346-3665                 202-833-8525

Bill Onasch is a member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1287, webmaster of kclabor.org, and a member of the Interim National Council of the Labor Party.