Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
September 27, 2005

The Vocal Majority
Estimates of Saturday’s march and rally in Washington against the war vary from 100-500,000. In any case it was a hell of a lot of folks and one of the most diverse mass demonstrations in history. Thousands more never made it because an Amtrak power failure in New Jersey stranded trains from New York and Boston. Another thousand or so that would likely have marched were at the Jobs with Justice meeting in St Louis. There was a massive march in San Francisco and numerous other local support actions as well.

These demonstrators were not some fringe group. A September 13 CNN/Gallup Poll showed 52 percent want our GIs brought home "ASAP." Those that support Bush’s "as long as it takes," or’s "phased, responsible" withdrawal, are now clearly the minority.

The labor movement played an important role in last weekend’s mass actions. Had it not been for tenacious efforts by US Labor Against the War, we would likely have had two rival antiwar actions in Washington. USLAW activists helped mobilize substantial, official union participation–particularly along the East Coast. A labor contingent assembled at AFL-CIO headquarters before marching to join the main event. John Braxton, a central coordinator in the Philadelphia labor council’s mobilization, said,

"In the Vietnam war, a lot of organized labor was very slow at best to come out against the war, so this is a very exciting development, that major sectors of the labor movement have come against the war. This past summer the AFL-CIO nationally passed a resolution for a rapid withdrawal of troops. That wording was based in part on the Philadelphia AFL-CIO wording, so we all can take some credit in that."

JwJ Gathering
I was one of those thousand or more who would have been in Washington last Saturday had I not been at the Jobs with Justice meeting in St Louis. This scheduling conflict is a reminder that while labor is paying more attention to antiwar actions the self-proclaimed peace coalitions–UFPJ and ANSWER--are oblivious to the activities of their closest labor allies.

Certainly the war was an important topic at the conference. I attended a workshop where USLAW co-national coordinator Maria Guillen, and Mike Parker, a USLAW steering committee member, gave presentations on what that organization has accomplished. Participants also got to see a trailer for a film being put together on the recent tour of Iraqi trade unionists. At conference adjournment several hundred JwJ folks participated in an abbreviated march (shortened because of torrential rains launched by Rita) to an antiwar rally organized by St Louis Instead of War.

This was my first JwJ event and, overall, it was quite impressive. It too was quite diverse, and not just in reference to gender and skin color, as that term has come to be used. Many were student activists, part of various formations such as Students Against Sweatshops, Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), Student Worker Alliance, among others. A number were from community worker centers, some of them also involved in general immigrant rights. There was a fair sprinkling of clergy and other activists "of faith." And, of course, trade union activists and officials from all levels.

JwJ’s main claim to fame is its ability to mobilize numbers on short notice for a wide range of solidarity efforts. The primary membership requirement is the "I’ll be there" pledge to show up to support struggles of others at least five times a year. This network for solidarity is likely to become more important than ever since the split producing two rival union federations.

An adequate assessment of this conference requires a substantial article--which I promise soon. (I know, I’ve got other substantial articles already promised. After this weekend I expect to have time to pull together my notes and get everything cranked out in short order.)

As I was preparing to leave St Louis I encountered some of the advance guard of the Change to Win founding convention. This is the meeting called by those who split from the AFL-CIO to transform their "coalition" into an official federation. We’ll be posting timely reports on this gathering in the news digest and will have more to say in our next Week In Review.

I’m Well, Thank You, and Back in the Office–For A Few Days
Yesterday I received a message of anxiety from an old friend, and Sawbuck Club member, expressing concern because the Daily Labor News Digest had not been updated since last Thursday. Since I usually post an advance notice when there’s a departure from our Monday-Saturday update routine he was worried that I might be ill.

Actually I’m in pretty good shape for a man my age and condition. I had planned to continue updating the news while on the road, at the Jobs with Justice Annual Meeting. The hotel had promised a broadband connection in every room. What they in fact actually offered–for an additional ten bucks a day–was a version of high speed Web TV–completely worthless for uploading files to our server. I apologize to any of you who were disappointed after finding no new news. You will find a new update today.

I’ve been invited to speak at a Midwest Socialist Educational Conference in Minneapolis this weekend and I know my hotel there will not have a suitable connection for uploads. Our last news update before leaving will be Thursday; updates will resume once again next Tuesday.

And what’s this "Sawbuck Club" referred to, you may ask? It’s an elite group that pledges ten dollars a month to support the varied activities associated with the site–such as our recent trips to cover the UE convention, the Jobs with Justice conference, as well as the costs associated with hosting the site. The Club is currently accepting new members. You can sign up by clicking on the "subscribe" button, found on both the home page and news page. If you can’t make a monthly pledge but want to help out with a one time donation you can click on the "donate" button.

That’s all for this week.

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Past Weeks In Review