Monthly Archives: April 2003

2003.04.20: Support Our Troops–Bring Them Home Right Now! (NYCLAW Flyer)

Support Our Troops–Bring Them Home Right Now!
New York City Labor Against the War

Bush’s war on Iraq isn’t about “weapons of mass destruction”—the U.S. can’t even prove that Iraq has any.  And who has more WMD than the U.S.?

It isn’t for “self-defense”—Iraq hasn’t attacked us.

It isn’t to support the U.N.—the U.S. pays Israel billions of dollars each year to violate U.N. resolutions that guarantee Palestinian rights.  And Israel already has nuclear weapons.

It isn’t for “democracy”—for years, the U.S. armed Hussein (and Osama bin Laden).  U.S. allies include numerous dictatorships, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Colombia.

In reality, Bush’s war is a “weapon of mass distraction”—from oil profit, from U.S. empire, from corporate thievery and from a crumbling economy at home.

As Nelson Mandela puts it, Bush and his cronies “just want the oil.”

This war can’t be made right.  Not by Bush.  Not by the U.N.

We need to ask ourselves some hard questions:

What have the Iraqi people ever done to us?

Fifty-eight thousand G.I.s—most of them working class and people of color—were killed in Vietnam.  Are we
ready to pay for this war with the blood of our sons and daughters in uniform?

With destruction of our social services?

With zero-wage increases?

With Bush’s attack on labor, civil and immigrant rights?

With more blowback like 9/11?

In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. refused to remain silent about the Vietnam war and “the greatest purveyor
of violence in the world today—my own government.”

We have the same obligation.  Regime change begins at home.

We also have the power to stop this war.

When G.I.s refused to fight in Vietnam, the U.S. war machine ground to a halt.

In January, British railway workers refused to drive trains loaded with weapons for war against Iraq, and last
week, millions of workers in Europe held an antiwar strike for 15 minutes.

In this country, millions of people have protested the war, even before it began.

And on February 27, 2003, the AFL-CIO came out against the war–its first antiwar statement ever.

Now it’s up to us to mobilize our co-workers and our unions to do whatever it takes to stop this war.

If you believe that labor must stand up against the war, contact: nyclaw01@excite.com, or at NYCLAW,
Prince Street Station, PO Box 233, New York, NY 10012-3900.

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2003.04.14: ALAA Antiwar Vote

M E M OTO:      ALAA Members

FR:       Michael Letwin, Former President (1989-2002)

RE:       ALAA Antiwar Vote

DA:      April 14, 2003

IntroductionThis week, we vote on whether ALAA will officially join hundreds of other labor bodies—including our regional parent union—who have adopted resolutions against the war.  In essence, the proposed resolution reaffirms that, rather than a distraction from “legitimate” union business, opposition to this war of empire is an inextricable part of that business.

The War Is (Still) Wrong

What the media seeks to portray as a glorious act of “liberation” is in reality an illegal and immoral  crime against peace, the most serious charge for which Nazi leaders were convicted at Nuremberg.[1]

The entire world accurately perceives this war as undisguised conquest, envisioned long before 9/11 by the likes of such Vietnam Chicken-Hawks as Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle.  The Reagan and Bush/I administrations, of which they were part, were only too happy to provide biological and other weapons to Hussein’s brutal regime.

Ironically, although the supposed existence of such weapons was the main pretext for the war, none have yet been found; thus, the first act of U.S. and British invaders was to secure not “weapons of mass destruction,” but 600 oil wells.  U.S. “re-destruction” has ensured massive “reconstruction” contracts for Bechtel, Halliburton and other companies closely linked to the administration.

Thus, the war will not create a democracy accountable to the Iraqi people, but an open-ended, bloody occupation run by the U.S. military government and/or its appointed puppets.  And even before the fighting is over, the administration has declared its intention to continue similar wars on Afghanistan, the Palestinians, Colombia, the Philippines, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and /or any number of other targets.

For this imperial crusade, ordinary people are paying a terrible price:  numerous U.S. and British casualties amongst troops disproportionately of color and nearly all working class; untold Iraqi deaths and injuries; mass deprivation of food, water, sanitation and health care; destruction of the national infrastructure; and widespread looting and chaos.

At home, the war’s incalculable economic cost—combined with new tax cuts for the wealthy—is already coming directly out of education, fire protection, sanitation, veterans’ benefits, social security, health care, and virtually every other essential government service.  These policies will further devastate our clients’ communities, and bode poorly for funding such programs as indigent legal representation.

The war also continues to serve as a pretext for ever-greater attacks on civil liberties, labor and immigrant rights.  And it virtually ensures retaliatory—and largely unstoppable—terrorism.

In April 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed the Vietnam war in the recognition that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today . . . [is] my own government.”[2]  This fact, and the moral obligation it imposes on us, remains no less true today.

 

The War in ALAA

Most U.S. labor organizations initially gave unqualified support to the Bush administration’s post-9/11 “war on terror.”[3]  In response, scores of metro-area trade unionists immediately endorsed New York City Labor Against the War’s statement of September 27, 2001, which condemned both the World Trade Center attack and Bush’s war.[4]  These included many ALAA officers and members,[5] who made explicit their individual trade union affiliations and positions, which were listed “for identification only.”  As one of eight original local union founding presidents of NYCLAW,[6] I became one of the organization’s co-conveners and spokespersons.

It was no secret that this antiwar stance would expose NYCLAW endorsers to political attack.  Nonetheless, we felt bound by the principle with which Dr. King defended his public opposition to the Vietnam war: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”[7]

Though once a small minority, such early efforts have played a critical role in turning labor against the war.  Eighteen months later, antiwar resolutions have been adopted by bodies representing more than a third of all union members in the U.S., including our own UAW Region 9A.  In January 2003, this was reflected in establishment of U.S. Labor Against the War, and by late February, even the invariably prowar AFL-CIO opposed this war.

Within ALAA, however, the response to these antiwar efforts has been more varied.  A growing number of ALAA members have participated in antiwar activities.  Other members have reasonably and civilly expressed prowar views, while defending the speech rights of antiwar members.

Some, however, have enlisted in the broader post-9/11 crusade against dissent by using the war as a club with which to punish and silence antiwar voices.  This witch-hunt, carried out largely over the ALAA e-list, has included relentless personal attacks, red-baiting, baseless accusations of antisemitism, efforts to block the Union from even adopting a statement in defense of civil liberties,[8] demands that management discipline members for posting messages on the ALAA e-list, and/or racial harassment.  It has been accompanied by false charges—explicitly rejected by the International UAW—that Union affiliation and resources had been improperly used to promote NYCLAW,[9] and factually-inaccurate allegations that antiwar work had interfered with bread and butter union issues.[10]

 

While this campaign has not silenced many of ALAA’s antiwar voices, it has helped drive most members out of the public discussion and undermined the Union’s traditional commitment to social justice.[11]  It has also created an atmosphere in which some members, including several who purport to hold antiwar views, have found it politically advantageous to remain silent about such attacks, or even to align themselves with the witch-hunters.[12]

 

Conclusion

For the reasons discussed above, adoption of the proposed antiwar resolution is more critical now than ever.  Bush’s wars of empire and colonial occupation have a profoundly destructive impact on our Union, Legal Aid Society funding, our clients, their communities, and the world in which we live.

This resolution is also an opportunity to reaffirm ALAA’s historic commitment to social justice; to honest, open, mutually-respectful internal discussion; to principle over opportunism; and to a more effective union.

 


[2]King, Beyond Vietnam, Address delivered to the Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, at Riverside Church (April 4, 1967), at http://www.africanamericans.com/MLKjrBeyondVietnam.htm .

[3]See, Letwin, Growth of Labor Anti-War Action Tied to Bush’s Anti-Worker Moves, Labor Notes, April 2003, at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/files/ ; Year One of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW, Oct. 25, 2002), at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/1270 .

[4]NYC Labor Against the War (Sept. 27, 2001), at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/files/ .

[5]The fifty-five NYCLAW signers as of June 24, 2002 included (with then-current titles listed “for ID only”):  George Albro Secretary‑Treasurer; Elizabeth Anderson (CDD­Manhattan), Daniel Ashworth, Delegate (CDD­Brooklyn); Harold Bahr, Chair, GLTGC (CDD­Manhattan); Simone Berman‑Rossi (CDD­Brooklyn); Tracey Bing‑Hampson, Vice President (CLO); Peter Blum, Alternate Vice President (CAB); Ricky Blum (Civil­Appeals); Katie Brennan (Civil­BNO); Anne Cammett, Civil­BNO; Maria Chiu, JRD­Queens; Antonia Codling, Chair, ACLA (CLO); Brooke Davis (Civil­BNO); Lisa Edwards (CLO); Craig Fielding (Civil­Queens); Kate Fitzer (CDD­Brooklyn); Josephine Flores (Civil­Queens); Oda Friedheim (Civil­Queens); Josh Goldfein (Civil­HRP); Winston Gordon (CDD­Brooklyn); Elon Harpaz, Vice President (CAB); Carol Hochberg, Vice President­JRD (JRD­Queens); Adriene Holder, Vice President­Civil (Civil­Appeals); Tania Horton (CDD­Brooklyn); Daniella Korotzer, Alternate Vice President (CDD­Brooklyn); Nanette Kripke (CDD­Brooklyn); Michael Letwin, President; Simone Levine (CDD­Manhattan); Milande Louima (Civil­BNO); Beth Lyons, CAB; Eileen McCann, Alternate Delegate (Civil­SI); Kevin McManus (CDD­Brooklyn); Eric Meggett (CDD­Brooklyn); Aaron Micheau (CAB); Marie Mombrun (Civil­Queens); Florence Morgan (CDD­Queens); Susan Morris, Delegate (CDD­Brooklyn); Catherine Newton, Alternate Delegate (CDD­Brooklyn); Elizabeth Newton, Alternate Delegate (Civil­Queens); Gloria E. Quiñones, Fmr. member (CLO); Karena Rahall, Alternate Delegate (CDD­Brooklyn); Kyla Ratliff (Civil­Queens); Eve Rosahn (PRDU); Mimi Rosenberg, Delegate (Civil­BNO); Andrew Rowe (CDD­Brooklyn); Lisa Sbrana (Civil­BNO); Hasan Shafiqullah (CLO); Steve Terry, Alternate Delegate (CDD­Brooklyn); Azalia Torres, Alternate Vice President (CDD­Brooklyn); Edlyn Willer, Delegate (CAB); Cheryl Williams (CAB); Kelley Wind, Delegate (Civil­BNO); Christopher Wright (CDD­Brooklyn); Milton Zelermyer, Delegate (PRP); and Robert Zuss, Vice President (CDD­Brooklyn).

[6]Since September 27, 2001, the NYCLAW statement had been endorsed by some 1500 trade unionists, including the following sixteen NYC-area current or former principal officers:  Larry Adams, Pres., National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 300; Barbara Bowen, Pres., Professional Staff Congress‑CUNY/AFT Local 2334; Arthur Cheliotes, Pres., CWA Local 1180; Raglan George Sr., Exec. Dir., AFSCME Local 215, DC 1707; Glenn Huff Jr., Pres., AFSCME Local 205, DC 1707; Uma Kutwal, Fmr. Pres., AFSCME Local 375, DC 37; Michael Letwin, Pres., Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; Jill Levy, Pres., Council of Supervisors & Administrators, NYSFSA, AFSA Local 1; Kim V. Medina, Pres., AFSCME Local 253; Fmr. Pres., DC 1707; Victoria Mitchell, Pres., AFSCME Local 107; VP, DC 1707; Maida Rosenstein, Pres., UAW Local 2110; Viji Sargis, Pres., AFT Local 6025, Montclair State U.; Joel Schwartz, Pres., AFSCME, Civil Service Employees Assn. Local 446; Judy Sheridan‑Gonzalez, RN, Chair., State DeLocal  Assembly, NY State Nurses Assn.; Brenda Stokely, Pres., AFSCME DC 1707; and Jonathan Tasini, Pres., National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981.

[7]King, at n.1, supra.

[8]As a result, it took five months for ALAA to adopt a resolution opposed to the wave of post-9/11 government assaults on civil liberties.  In Defense of Civil Liberties (ALAA, Feb. 21, 2002), at http://www.nlada.org/News/News_From_The_Field/Items/2002041556242899 .

[9]On October 26, 2001, then‑ALAA Vice‑President Allen Popper (CDD­Qns.) asked the International UAW to “remove and suspend” me from office for having allegedly misused my position, organizational affiliation, and local union resources to support NYCLAW.  Just three days later, the UAW rejected that request since, “[i]in expressing his opinions, absent a special membership direction otherwise, Brother Letwin has not violated the UAW Constitution.”  Letter of Oct. 29, 2001 from Sue Goulding (Intl. UAW) to Allen S. Popper.  (Soon thereafter, Popper successfully demanded that management punish members who posted messages on the ALAA e-mail system).

The above allegations are more thoroughly addressed in Memo of Oct. 28, 2001from Michael Letwin, George Albro and Charlotte Hitchcock to ALAA Members Re: Labor Against the War Statement (Oct. 28, 2001); and in Memo of June 11, 2002 from Peter Blum to ALAA Members Re: NYCLAW (June 11, 2002).

[10]In fact, between 1998-2002, ALAA contracts increased compensation by an annual average of six percent—a higher rate than contracts for NYC teachers, police, or firefighters; when combined with salary steps, the increases are far greater.  Summary of ALAA Contract Changes:  1998‑2002 (ALAA, Sept. 30, 2002).  Moreover, while virtually all city-funded agencies have suffered massive budget cuts and even layoffs, ALAA’s 2002 electoral lobbying and federal litigation strategies were largely responsible not only for preventing the loss of $5.6 million (or 100 attorney jobs) in city criminal funds, but for an $8.6 million net increase that enabled the Society to hire scores of new lawyers in Fall 2002.  See, Wise, Legal Aid Society’s Contract Increases Trial‑Level Funding, NYLJ, Dec. 18, 2002, at http://www6.law.com/ny‑shl/displayid.cfm?state=ny&statename=NY&id=108821&table=news&flag=full .

[11]See, Letwin, History of The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325 (Rev. Aug. 1999), at http://alaa.org/frames/history.html .

[12]Jim Rogers won election in November by repeating much of the above disinformation and by promising not to be an antiwar trade union leader.  Thus, while my election statement reaffirmed that, “in my personal capacity, I have expressed the views of many ALAA members, and a growing number of other trade unionists, by speaking out strongly against the war,” the current President claimed that, “union leaders ought to avoid attaching the union’s name to political causes not voted on by the general membership even if the name is used for information purposes only.”

Today, ALAA is the only NYC‑area UAW local whose principal officer consistently declines to support adoption of labor antiwar resolutions.

2003.04.14: Support for UAW Local 2325 Antiwar Resolution

[On April 14-15, the membership of UAW Local 2325/Association of Legal Aid Attorneys voted 306-154 (66.5%-33.5%) to reject a resolution against the war in Iraq.

Immediately prior to the vote, the following was written to union members by former local president Michael Letwin (1989-2002). In November, Letwin was defeated for reelection, due primarily to his prominent opposition to the war.]

——————————

INTRODUCTION

This week, we vote on whether ALAA will officially join hundreds of other labor bodies–including our regional parent union–who have adopted resolutions against the war. In essence, the proposed resolution reaffirms that, rather than a distraction from “legitimate” union business, opposition to this war of empire is an inextricable part of that business.

THE WAR IS (STILL) WRONG

What the media seeks to portray as a glorious act of “liberation” is in reality an illegal and immoral crime against peace, the most serious charge for which Nazi leaders were convicted at Nuremberg.[1]

The entire world accurately perceives this war as undisguised conquest, envisioned long before 9/11 by the likes of such Vietnam Chicken-Hawks as Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle. The Reagan and Bush/I administrations, of which they were part, were only too happy to provide biological and other weapons to Hussein’s brutal regime.

Ironically, although the supposed existence of such weapons was the main pretext for the war, none have yet been found; thus, the first act of U.S. and British invaders was to secure not “weapons of mass destruction,” but 600 oil wells. U.S. “re-destruction” has ensured massive “reconstruction” contracts for Bechtel, Halliburton and other companies closely linked to the administration.

Thus, the war will not create a democracy accountable to the Iraqi people, but an open-ended, bloody occupation run by the U.S. military government and/or its appointed puppets. And even before the fighting is over, the administration has declared its intention to continue similar wars on Afghanistan, the Palestinians, Colombia, the Philippines, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and /or any number of other targets.

For this imperial crusade, ordinary people are paying a terrible price: numerous U.S. and British casualties amongst troops disproportionately of color and nearly all working class; untold Iraqi deaths and injuries; mass deprivation of food, water, sanitation and health care; destruction of the national infrastructure; and widespread looting and chaos.
At home, the war’s incalculable economic cost–combined with new tax cuts for the wealthy–is already coming directly out of education, fire protection, sanitation, veterans’ benefits, social security, health care, and virtually every other essential government service. These policies will further devastate our clients’ communities, and bode poorly for funding such programs as indigent legal representation.

The war also continues to serve as a pretext for ever-greater attacks on civil liberties, labor and immigrant rights. And it virtually ensures retaliatory–and largely unstoppable–terrorism.

In April 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed the Vietnam war in the recognition that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today . . . [is] my own government.”[2] This fact, and the moral obligation it imposes on us, remains no less true today.

THE WAR IN ALAA

Most U.S. labor organizations initially gave unqualified support to the Bush administration’s post-9/11 “war on terror.”[3] In response, scores of metro-area trade unionists immediately endorsed New York City Labor Against the War’s statement of September 27, 2001, which condemned both the World Trade Center attack and Bush’s war.[4] These included many ALAA officers and members,[5] who made explicit their individual trade union affiliations and positions, which were listed “for identification only.” As one of eight original local union founding presidents of NYCLAW,[6] I became one of the organization’s co-conveners and spokespersons.

It was no secret that this antiwar stance would expose NYCLAW endorsers to political attack. Nonetheless, we felt bound by the principle with which Dr. King defended his public opposition to the Vietnam war: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”[7]

Though once a small minority, such early efforts have played a critical role in turning labor against the war. Eighteen months later, antiwar resolutions have been adopted by bodies representing more than a third of all union members in the U.S., including our own UAW Region 9A. In January 2003, this was reflected in establishment of U.S. Labor Against the War, and by late February, even the invariably prowar AFL-CIO opposed this war.

Within ALAA, however, the response to these antiwar efforts has been more varied. A growing number of ALAA members have participated in antiwar activities. Other members have reasonably and civilly expressed prowar views, while defending the speech rights of antiwar members.

Some, however, have enlisted in the broader post-9/11 crusade against dissent by using the war as a club with which to punish and silence antiwar voices. This witch-hunt, carried out largely over the ALAA e-list, has included relentless personal attacks, red-baiting, baseless accusations of antisemitism, efforts to block the Union from even adopting a statement in defense of civil liberties,[8] demands that management discipline members for posting messages on the ALAA e-list, and/or racial harassment. It has been accompanied by false charges–explicitly rejected by the International UAW–that Union affiliation and resources had been improperly used to promote NYCLAW,[9] and factually-inaccurate allegations that antiwar work had interfered with bread and butter union issues.[10]

While this campaign has not silenced many of ALAA’s antiwar voices, it has helped drive most members out of the public discussion and undermined the Union’s traditional commitment to social justice.[11] It has also created an atmosphere in which some members, including several who purport to hold antiwar views, have found it politically advantageous to remain silent about such attacks, or even to align themselves with the witch-hunters.[12]

CONCLUSION

For the reasons discussed above, adoption of the proposed antiwar resolution is more critical now than ever. Bush’s wars of empire and colonial occupation have a profoundly destructive impact on our Union, Legal Aid Society funding, our clients, their communities, and the world in which we live.

This resolution is also an opportunity to reaffirm ALAA’s historic commitment to social justice; to honest, open, mutually-respectful internal discussion; to principle over opportunism; and to a more effective union.

NOTES

1. See, e.g., The Nuremberg Indictments, A Summary (Court TV), at http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.court\tv.com%2Fcasefiles%2Fnuremberg%2Findictments.html .

2. King, Beyond Vietnam, Address delivered to the Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, at Riverside Church (April 4, 1967), at http://www.africanamericans.com/MLKjrBeyondVietnam.htm .

3. See, Letwin, Growth of Labor Anti-War Action Tied to Bush’s Anti-Worker Moves, Labor Notes, April 2003, at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/files/ ; Year One of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW, Oct. 25, 2002), at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/1270 .

4. NYC Labor Against the War (Sept. 27, 2001), at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/files/ .

5. The fifty-five NYCLAW signers as of June 24, 2002 included (with then-current titles listed “for ID only”): George Albro Secretary-Treasurer; Elizabeth Anderson (CDD Manhattan), Daniel Ashworth, Delegate (CDD Brooklyn); Harold Bahr, Chair, GLTGC (CDD Manhattan); Simone Berman-Rossi (CDD Brooklyn); Tracey Bing-Hampson, Vice President (CLO); Peter Blum, Alternate Vice President (CAB); Ricky Blum (Civil Appeals); Katie Brennan (Civil BNO); Anne Cammett (Civil BNO); Maria Chiu (JRD Queens); Antonia Codling, Chair, ACLA (CLO); Brooke Davis (Civil BNO); Lisa Edwards (CLO); Craig Fielding (Civil Queens); Kate Fitzer (CDD Brooklyn); Josephine Flores (Civil Queens); Oda Friedheim (Civil Queens); Josh Goldfein (Civil HRP); Winston Gordon (CDD Brooklyn); Elon Harpaz, Vice President (CAB); Carol Hochberg, Vice President JRD (JRD Queens); Adriene Holder, Vice President Civil (Civil Appeals); Tania Horton (CDD Brooklyn); Daniella Korotzer, Alternate Vice President (CDD Brooklyn); Nanette Kripke (CDD Brooklyn); Michael Letwin, President; Simone Levine (CDD Manhattan); Milande Louima (Civil BNO); Beth Lyons (CAB); Eileen McCann, Alternate Delegate (Civil SI); Kevin McManus (CDD Brooklyn); Eric Meggett (CDD Brooklyn); Aaron Micheau (CAB); Marie Mombrun (Civil Queens); Florence Morgan (CDD Queens); Susan Morris, Delegate (CDD Brooklyn); Catherine Newton, Alternate Delegate (CDD Brooklyn); Elizabeth Newton, Alternate Delegate (Civil Queens); Gloria E. Quiñones, Fmr. member (CLO); Karena Rahall, Alternate Delegate (CDD Brooklyn); Kyla Ratliff (Civil Queens); Eve Rosahn (PRDU); Mimi Rosenberg, Delegate (Civil BNO); Andrew Rowe (CDD Brooklyn); Lisa Sbrana (Civil BNO); Hasan Shafiqullah (CLO); Steve Terry, Alternate Delegate (CDD Brooklyn); Azalia Torres, Alternate Vice President (CDD Brooklyn); Edlyn Willer, Delegate (CAB); Cheryl Williams (CAB); Kelley Wind, Delegate (Civil BNO); Christopher Wright (CDD Brooklyn); Milton Zelermyer, Delegate (PRP); and Robert Zuss, Vice President (CDD Brooklyn).

6. Since September 27, 2001, the NYCLAW statement had been endorsed by some 1500 trade unionists, including the following sixteen NYC-area current or former principal officers: Larry Adams, Pres., National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 300; Barbara Bowen, Pres., Professional Staff Congress-CUNY/AFT Local 2334; Arthur Cheliotes, Pres., CWA Local 1180; Raglan George Sr., Exec. Dir., AFSCME Local 215, DC 1707; Glenn Huff Jr., Pres., AFSCME Local 205, DC 1707; Uma Kutwal, Fmr. Pres., AFSCME Local 375, DC 37; Michael Letwin, Pres., Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; Jill Levy, Pres., Council of Supervisors & Administrators, NYSFSA, AFSA Local 1; Kim V. Medina, Pres., AFSCME Local 253; Fmr. Pres., DC 1707; Victoria Mitchell, Pres., AFSCME Local 107; VP, DC 1707; Maida Rosenstein, Pres., UAW Local 2110; Viji Sargis, Pres., AFT Local 6025, Montclair State U.; Joel Schwartz, Pres., AFSCME, Civil Service Employees Assn. Local 446; Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, Chair., State DeLocal Assembly, NY State Nurses Assn.; Brenda Stokely, Pres., AFSCME DC 1707; and Jonathan Tasini, Pres., National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981.

7. King, at n.1, supra.

8. As a result, it took five months for ALAA to adopt a resolution opposed to the wave of post-9/11 government assaults on civil liberties. In Defense of Civil Liberties (ALAA, Feb. 21, 2002), at http://www.nlada.org/News/News_From_The_Field/Items/2002041556242899 .

9. The above allegations are more thoroughly addressed in Memo of Oct. 28, 2001 from Michael Letwin, George Albro and Charlotte Hitchcock to ALAA Members Re: Labor Against the War Statement (Oct. 28, 2001); and in Memo of June 11, 2002 from Peter Blum to ALAA Members Re: NYCLAW (June 11, 2002).

10. In fact, between 1998-2002, ALAA contracts increased compensation by an annual average of six percent–a higher rate than contracts for NYC teachers, police, or firefighters; when combined with salary steps, the increases are far greater. Summary of ALAA Contract Changes: 1998-2002 (ALAA, Sept. 30, 2002). Moreover, while virtually all city-funded agencies have suffered massive budget cuts and even layoffs, ALAA’s 2002 electoral lobbying and federal litigation strategies were largely responsible not only for preventing the loss of $5.6 million (or 100 attorney jobs) in city criminal funds, but for an $8.6 million net increase that enabled the Society to hire scores of new lawyers in Fall 2002. See, Wise, Legal Aid Society’s Contract Increases Trial-Level Funding, NYLJ, Dec. 18, 2002, at http://www6.law.com/ny-shl/displayid.cfm?state=ny&statename=NY&id=108821&table=n\ ews&flag=full .

11. See, Letwin, History of The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325 (Rev. Aug. 1999), at http://alaa.org/frames/history.html .

12. Jim Rogers won election in November by repeating much of the above disinformation and by promising not to be an antiwar trade union leader. Thus, while my election statement reaffirmed that, “in my personal capacity, I have expressed the views of many ALAA members, and a growing number of other trade unionists, by speaking out strongly against the war,” the current President claimed that, “union leaders ought to avoid attaching the union’s name to political causes not voted on by the general membership even if the name is used for information purposes only.”

[Following defeat of this antiwar resolution, Rogers affirmed this stance on the grounds that: “I promised this membership when I asked for your vote, that I would respect its wishes and leave matters of intense political sensitivity alone unless directed otherwise by resolution or referendum.” E-mail Message of April 17, 2003 from James Rogers to ALAA Members.]

Today, ALAA is the only NYC-area UAW local whose principal officer consistently declines to support adoption of labor antiwar resolutions.

2003.04.01: Presentation to the Hackney Stop the War Coalition

Presentation to the Hackney Stop the War Coalition
April 1, 2003
by Michael Letwin, NYCLAW Co-Convener

The antiwar movement in the United States took a huge leap forward on February 15, when hundreds of thousands joined protests across the country.

At least half a million participated in New York City, the largest such protest in the U.S. since a Central Park disarmament rally in 1982. Participants represented an unprecedented diversity of race, ethnicity, nationality and age, many of whom had never protested before; the labor contingent, for example, was the most trade such presence in living memory.

The huge turnout in NYC was despite the federal government’s attempt to dampen attendance through issuance of a high-level terrorist alert, and the city’s parallel refusal to grant a march permit. Tens of thousands took the streets anyway; police responded by viciously beating and/or arresting over three hundred peaceful protesters. Hundreds of thousands also marched in San Francisco, and in scores of other cities and towns.

This massive outpouring has not stopped the Bush administration’s rush to war. But it offered dramatic proof that, just 17 months after 9/11, U.S. public opinion has become increasingly antiwar. For example, the AFL-CIO consistently supported U.S. Cold War policy, including the Vietnam war, as a result of which critics called it the “AFL-CIA.” Today, in sharp contrast, one-third of U.S. union members belong to labor bodies opposed to war on Iraq–and the number grows every day.

Even the media, which has generally sought to marginalize the movement, has been forced to give extensive, positive coverage to February 15 protests. As the New York Times noted on February 17, “[t]he fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.” Such acknowledgments caused Bush to make the widely-ridiculed comment that protesters are a mere “focus group.”

February 15 also gave the U.S. movement a huge boost of self-confidence and momentum, which activists are now seeking to escalate. Upcoming protests include a February 26 mass e-mail campaign to Bush and Congress, a March 5 moratorium and student strike, a March 15 convergence on the White House, and March 29 Palestine protests. As in other parts of the world, plans are in place for emergency response protests against all-out war.

To effectively stop the war, however, the U.S. movement faces many difficult challenges.

For example, unlike the U.K.’s Stop the War Coalition umbrella, there are at least four different national U.S. antiwar coalitions:

**International ANSWER, which has organized three very large Washington demonstrations since April 20, 2002, and which has been the target of relentless red-baiting–even by some within the antiwar movement.

**Not in Our Name, which is most widely known for having published a statement by the same name in major newspapers.

**United for Peace and Justice, the newest and broadest coalition, which was the main sponsor of the February 15 protests.

**Win Without War, which has focused primarily on lobbying efforts, such as that scheduled for February 26.

In addition to these organizations are scores, if not hundreds of others, including the recently-formed U.S. Labor Against the War.

This plethora of organizations is a two-edged sword. Diverse efforts can help build a dynamic movement. But too often, competing coalitions work at cross-purposes–an unaffordable indulgence at this critical moment. Moreover, none of these coalitions are sufficiently democratic or representative of communities of color and labor.

Such shortcomings are not easily overcome. For example, despite unprecedented trade union participation, U.S. labor is far weaker than that of any industrialized country. Unions are, at best, barely able to defend their members’ most immediate interests, let alone contemplate the antiwar strikes now threatened in the U.K., Italy or Australia.

Notwithstanding these difficult challenges, the U.S. antiwar movement has made tremendous strides that were hard to imagine in the immediate wake of 9/11, and holds out badly-needed promise to oppose what Martin Luther King, Jr. accurately identified as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today–my own government.”

2003.04.01: Growth of Labor Anti-War Action Tied to Bush’s Anti-Worker Moves

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Labor Notes, April 2003

Growth of Labor Anti-War Action Tied to Bush’s Anti-Worker Moves

by Michael Letwin

On February 28 a CNN headline reported that the AFL-CIO Executive Council had unanimously voted to “oppose . . . war with Iraq.”

At first glance, the federation’s February 27 resolution looks more pro-war than anti-war. It lauds the 1991 Gulf War, when “the United States organized a broad coalition of our allies to stand united against this aggression” and “call[s] upon the administration to pursue a broad global consensus to apply the maximum pressure on Iraq, ensuring that war [will be] supported by both our allies and nations united.”

Given official labor’s unbroken support for U.S. wars prior to, during, and since Vietnam, this language is not surprising. What is surprising is the resolution’s acknowledgment that “people are taking to the streets to speak out against a war in Iraq” and its conclusion that “the president has not fulfilled his responsibility to make a compelling and coherent explanation to the American people and the world about the need for military action against Iraq at this time.”

Though the resolution fails to note that hundreds of labor bodies are among those who have protested the war, in dissenting from Bush’s war plans it marks a landmark break with the administration and from the federation’s own past.

This break reflects both anti-war efforts that began within the labor movement immediately after 9/11 and the administration’s increasingly obvious use of 9/11 as a pretext for both war abroad and attacks on labor at home.

EARLY EFFORTS

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the AFL-CIO and virtually all of its member unions endorsed the Bush administration’s war on terror, including the invasion and bombing of Afghanistan. On October 8, President John Sweeney announced, “We support the aggressive, considered military action ordered by President Bush” in Afghanistan. At best, international unions remained silent about the war abroad, while expressing concern about civil liberties and labor and immigrant rights. Only a handful of regular labor bodies opposed the war in Afghanistan: San Francisco’s Labor Council, Washington State Jobs with Justice, and New York City’s AFSCME DC 1707 and
1199SEIU.

In response to official labor’s overwhelming support for the war, unionists in several cities established ad hoc, local, cross-union antiwar groups. On September 27, 2001, one such group, New York City Labor Against the War
(NYCLAW), issued a statement, initially signed by eight local union presidents and 130 other unionists, that condemned the World Trade Center attack as a “crime against humanity” and condemned the war both abroad and at home. Within a few weeks, “Labor Committees for Peace and Justice” were established in the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, D.C., and Albany, New York.

These committees and those that followed elsewhere were relatively small and were virtually ignored by the media. But during the time when nearly all of official labor was either prowar or silent, these groups served as both anti-war poles within labor and as representatives of labor within the broader anti-war movement.

Meanwhile, the administration launched a fierce attack on immigrant rights and civil liberties. It withdrew collective bargaining rights from thousands of Department of Homeland Security workers, made plans to privatize half the federal workforce, and imposed Taft-Hartley against the longshore workers.

The administration also responded to Enron-type scandals by enacting new tax cuts for the rich. And they found the hundreds of billions to attack Iraq by callously slashing domestic programs and demanding austerity of public employees.

In these circumstances, more labor activists began to find it easier to oppose Bush’s war plans and to convince other union members that war abroad could not be separated from the war on labor at home. In fall 2002, this growing sentiment resulted in a spate of anti-war resolutions passed by locals, central labor councils, and larger bodies and in the founding, on January 11, 2003, of U.S. Labor Against the War.

By the time of the huge worldwide antiwar protests on February 15, USLAW’s efforts had helped generate anti-war resolutions from labor bodies representing five million union members–one-third of organized labor in the U.S.–among them the international unions of AFSCME, APWU, CWA, SEIU, UE, UFW, and UNITE. Less than two weeks later, the AFL-CIO adopted its resolution against immediate war on Iraq.

WHAT NOW?

By the time this article appears, the United States may well have launched an all-out war, with or without UN approval. Railway workers in Scotland and Italy have already refused to move materials for war on Iraq, and unions in Britain, France, Italy, Australia, and elsewhere have vowed massive anti-war strikes.

If such strikes were to happen on a big scale in this country, could they bring the war–at home and abroad–to a halt? Such strikes are unlikely any time soon, but USLAW called for more modest activity–a March 12 day of action at the workplace. Much more leadership and action are needed from the labor movement, linked to the immediate battles against the war at home.

[Michael Letwin is a co-convenor of NYC Labor Against the War and on the Continuations Committee of USLAW.]