Opening Remarks at Founding of USLAW

by Michael Eisenscher, Coordinator, Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice

Compared to opposition to any other war in the last 50 years, labor opposition has emerged faster, with more clarity and greater influence than to any other war.

The first labor opposition emerged within weeks of the horrific events of 9/11.  Various organizations moved on different issues: civil liberties, economic impacts, class discrimination in the bailouts, immigrant rights, racial profiling, anti-militarization, budget priorities and more.  Over time opposition shifted as the focus of attention moved from Al Qaeda to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq, with some also taking on the US role in the Philippines, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.  What began as a labor response to the administration response to 9/11 shifted to a labor response to U.S. foreign and domestic war strategies that were seen by increasing numbers to be class-interested and class-biased.

The Patriot Act, roundup and detention of immigrants, firing of screeners, profiling of Muslims, Middle-Easterners and So. Asians, imposition of Taft-Hartley on ILWU, raid on the Social Security Trust Fund, tax giveaways to investors and the wealthy, corporate bailouts, dismantling of vital domestic programs and human services, privatization of public jobs, banning public employee unions in restructuring federal government programs and departments, shifting budget burdens to states and local government, increasing federal deficit, turning a blind eye to corporate corruption, appointing corporate cronies and recycled reactionaries to key government posts, emergence of dissent among top military and policy brass, refusal to offer claimed evidence to support government actions, contempt for international law and international multilateral institutions, using foreign policy and threats of military action for partisan political electoral gains, threats of preemptive military attack, talk of first-use of nuclear weapons even against small states that offer no nuclear threat, and now the double standard regarding Korea compared to Iraq has exposed the Bush administration for what it is to a growing number of working people in general and union members in particular.

Working people and the labor movement are seeing 75 years of progress being unraveled, eroded and reversed.  Put that on top of the recollection that this administration was not elected by the people; it was selected by the Supreme Court; and that it came to power on the basis of stolen votes and manipulated balloting - and you have plenty of reasons for lots of people from all walks of life to feel everything from discomfort and doubt to open outrage.

Growing numbers have begun to see that when the government talks about its capacity to conduct a multi-front war, what it has in mind is both a war on the world and a war on workers.

There are different political currents within labor opposition.

Our task is to erect a tent that is large enough to include all of them and the tens of thousands more who have yet to openly oppose the war but who can be won to do so without asking anyone to abandon their principles in order to come inside.  What we seek is principled unity. Rather than focus on our differences, lets concentrate on finding the common ground we can all occupy as we build popular resistance to this madness. 

Last revised on February 02, 2003 by the Webmaster.