Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
June 22, 2008

Back to Cleveland
In 1966, the legendary AJ Muste convened three gatherings in Cleveland. The aim was to unify broadly divergent, sometimes antagonistic antiwar forces. Representing the Minnesota Committee to End the War in Vietnam, I attended two of them. The mission was a herculean task and the first two meetings did little other than agree to continue to talk.

But the third one got agreement to call a national mobilization the following Spring in New York and San Francisco. 400,000 turned out for the April 15, 1967 action in the Big Apple and about 75,000 in San Francisco. These were the first of several truly mass actions--some later ones much bigger--that eventually helped end that war.

In fact, that movement produced what was called “Vietnam Syndrome,”making the warmakers skittish about resuming direct military intervention for more than a decade. They developed instead a strategy for arming and providing advice and intelligence to pro-corporate dictatorships in countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala. And they illegally armed and directed the Nicaraguan contras to try to overthrow the pro-worker and peasant government established by the Sandinista revolution.

So, in 1984, I found myself on the road to Cleveland once again, part of a car load of Twin Cities activists who answered the call for an Emergency National Conference Against U.S. Military Intervention In Central America and the Caribbean. Out of that gathering of various solidarity committees, peace groups, and an impressive number of labor folks, came an ongoing organization known as the ENC. It rallied opposition to the overt and covert Washington policies. A demonstration in Washington in April, 1987 drew 100,000 participants.

I’m hopeful that yet another Cleveland conference next weekend can spark a similar drive toward antiwar unity in action. The catalyst for this meeting is Jerry Gordon, retired UFCW staffer and a central leader in both the Vietnam and Central America movements. More than 500 groups and individual activists have endorsed the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation and hundreds are expected to be on hand in Cleveland.

Among the speakers addressing the gathering will be Fred Mason, president of the Maryland/DC AFL-CIO and a co-convener of US Labor Against the War; Jonathan Hutto, Navy Petty Officer, author of Anti-War Soldier, and co-founder of Appeal for Redress; Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army; Donna Dewitt, president, South Carolina AFL-CIO; Cindy Sheehan; and others. Representatives from rival coalitions United For Peace & Justice and ANSWER have accepted invitations to speak their concerns to the conference as well.

The conference call says “The objective is to place on the agenda of the entire U.S. antiwar movement a proposal for the largest possible united mass mobilization(s) in the future to stop the war and end the occupation.” Most recognize that actions of such scale will not be feasible before the November election. It’s likely discussion will center on mass demonstrations on both coasts in the Spring of 2009.

My old friend and ATU sister Molly Madden and I will be heading to Cleveland to represent Kansas City Labor Against the War. I hope to see some of our readers there as well as we try to remake history in Cleveland one more time.

More Women Needed
For almost 30 years, union Women's Summer Schools have brought together women from all sectors of the labor movement to develop skills as activist union members and leaders, build sisterhood across unions and regions, make new friends and try out new ideas. The July 1 registration deadline for the Midwest School for Women Workers is fast approaching. This year’s school, sponsored by the United Association for Labor Education, is hosted at the University of Missouri St Louis July 10-13. A special attraction will be participation by women trade unionists from Iraq and Central America. And 75 St Louis area high school girls are registered for a special program at the school. You can get full details of the schedule and registration information by clicking

Needs New Thermostat
From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “Obama, who said in March he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement if he's elected, said he might have gone too far. ‘Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified,’ the Democratic nominee told Fortune magazine in an interview.”

Investigative Campaigning
The mainstream environmental group Sierra Club has a clear position on nuclear power plants: “The Sierra Club opposes the licensing, construction and operation of new nuclear reactors...” They know that even if Chernobyl-like disasters are avoided the challenges of disposing of waste that remains dangerous for centuries have not been solved and may be insoluble. They have also helped expose the enormous problems associated with the mining of uranium–a nonrenewable fuel source.

So it’s understandable SC is hostile to Republican nominee John McCain who has pledged to push for 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 if elected President. The 1.3 million member group last week endorsed Barrack Obama. By the end of the week Reuters was reporting,

“U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Friday nuclear power was ‘not a panacea’ for U.S. energy woes but it is worth investigating its further development.”

Nurses Out Front Again
Last Thursday in San Francisco, 3,000 responded to the call by the California Nurses Association to demonstrate in support of single-payer healthcare in front of a convention of the archenemies of healthcare--America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP.) There were simultaneous support rallies in more than twenty other cities around the country.

Also last week the lower house of the New York state legislature voted to endorse HR676, the single-payer bill introduced in congress by Rep John Conyers.

For more information on the campaign for Guaranteed Healthcare click here.

Rash Promises and Schedule Adjustments
Sin in haste, repent in leisure, have always been words to live by for me. Last week I promised to give you this week some of my ideas for a labor response to the fuel crisis. But it soon became clear that I couldn’t say much of substance motivating proposals within the space limits of this column. I am working on a stand alone article with the parental-like promise of publishing it soon.

Since I will be on the road later this week there will be some temporary disruptions in our Daily Labor News Digest. After this Wednesday’s posting the next update will be the following Wednesday–July 2. The next Week In Review will be a couple of days late as well.

In addition to this temporary suspension, the Weekend Edition of the Digest will be discontinued; updates will be Monday-Friday by 7AM Central. We get only half as many visits on Saturdays as during the week. When I began this project over eight years ago I allowed myself one day off a week. But, since I was convinced about five years ago to turn my occasional e-mail missives in to this column, with an aim of Sunday publication, I have found myself with no regular days off. I believe an RDO will make me healthier, happier, and ultimately more productive.

That’s all for this week.

National Assembly Antiwar Conference Video Flyer
Cleveland Conference June 28-29 Click Here For Details

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