by Traven Leyshon, VWC Member
On April 29th, Vermont union members joined the largest labor antiwar contingent ever in New York City. The spirited 15,000-20,000 trade union contingent came from across the country. Altogether, 350,000 people joined the March for Peace, Justice and Democracy.
Why Is Labor Speaking Out?
The war in Iraq is the single most important fact of life in the U.S. today. Some still ask why is labor against the war? That’s easy: health care, education, housing, jobs, heating assistance, our schools, you name it – on every front where community needs are not being met are directly linked to the resources are being squandered on this war.
Our family members and co-workers that have been sent to fight are paying the highest price for this war. We have an obligation to them, and to the Iraqi people, to end this war now. Unions representing millions of working people point to:
- National Guard and Reserve members taken from their jobs, families and communities for indefinite service (essentially a backdoor draft);
- Veterans’ benefits and services cut at the very time their need is growing;
- A war costing hundreds of billions of dollars has siphoned funds from programs to meet human needs – for jobs, health care, housing, education, infrastructure, care for victims of disasters, rebuilding the storm-ravaged Gulf area, protecting our environment and more;
- Millions of our tax dollars funneled to corporate cronies of the Bush administration and growing corruption in government;
- A war that has served as a smokescreen for a corporate assault on working people and our unions: pensions canceled, jobs outsourced & privatized, plants shuttered, immigrants scapegoated, and the safety net we fought to create in tatters;
- Tax breaks for the rich, subsidies for corporations, and the shaft for the rest of us.
The official opposition of our unions to the war opens space for rank and file activists to educate and organize among our co-workers against the war. We are building a movement that links the war abroad to the war at home against working people and our unions.
The working class is the social force with the self-interest and power to end this endless war and injustice. At present, our labor movement’s consciousness, activity, and organization are far below the levels we needs to fulfill our urgent tasks. Intensive labor antiwar organizing can, and will, change that.
What We’re Doing About It
To that end Vermont Labor Against the War has been:
- Working closely with Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War to bring speakers into union meetings and have discussions about the reality of what it means to be against the war in the military and to support our troops by bringing them home.
- Organizing labor contingents in anti-war demonstrations.
- Using flyers as tools to initiate respectful discussions with coworkers who believe “you can’t do anything” to end the war, or that supporting our troops means supporting the “war on terror.”
- Educating about the real, democratic, and secular opposition to the U.S. in Iraq, especially Iraq’s growing labor movement. Organizing discussions around the documentary “Meeting Face to Face: The Iraq-U.S. Labor Solidarity Tour” at union and public meetings.
- Organizing material aid for Iraqi unions, pressuring the government to allow Iraqi speakers into the U.S., pressuring the occupation authorities/Iraqi government to give the Iraqi labor movement space to organize, sponsoring a forum with a speaker from the Iraqi Freedom Congress, and an Iraq labor leader tour.
- Affiliating Vermont unions to US Labor Against the War, a national organization of over 125 labor organizations
We need to do much more! We’re talking about showing up at events to demand that politicians take a position for withdrawal and to hold them accountable. What are your ideas? Vermont Labor Against the War needs your input and energy. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not One More Dollar, Not One More Day!
Bring Our Troops Home Now!
Take Care Of Them When They Return!