US unionists organise against Iraq war


US Labor Against War "has organised large labour contingents at every major anti-Iraq war rally over the past five years", Kathy Black, USLAW co-convener, told a public meeting of 60 people in the CEPU Auditorium in South Brisbane on March 1. The meeting, part of an Australia-wide speaking tour by Black, was organised by the Stop the War Collective and endorsed by the Electrical Trades Union and Rally for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament.

Black explained that USLAW has almost 200 affiliates, including state and city-wide labour councils as well as local union branches. In 2005, it succeeded in getting the convention of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, the peak US union federation, to adopt a policy of rapid withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

"Labour movement support for the anti-war movement in the US is absolutely unprecedented", Black said. "Unlike the Australian labour movement, the US unions have no history of organising against the US government's wars, including the Vietnam War.

"USLAW emphasises building solidarity with the independent Iraqi unions. Members of USLAW initially toured Iraq to study the situation, and then we have toured Iraqi union leaders throughout the US to explain the role of the Iraqi unions to American workers. The overwhelming view of Iraqi unionists is to call for an end to the US occupation of their country, and to oppose the US imposition of laws privatising the Iraqi oil industry."

The main aim of USLAW in this US presidential election year will be to keep the issue of the Iraq war up front, and to campaign for candidates to pledge to withdraw US forces as soon as possible, Black said. In particular, USLAW is calling for Congress to block extension of war credits.

Black also addressed 20 unionists at a reception sponsored by the Queensland Council of Unions, and a meeting of 20 students at the University of Queensland.

Duncan Meerding reports from Launceston that Black addressed a Tasmania-wide meeting of union officials on March 12. She was guest speaker at the Unions Tasmania conference dinner, attended by 80 people.

Black spoke about the suppression of Iraqi unionists under Saddam Hussein's regime, and the continuation of that suppression under the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, as well as under the current US-backed Iraqi government.

She said that through the US-led invasion and occupation, Western oil corporations will get ownership of Iraq's vast and largely untapped — and currently nationalised — oil resources. She told the meeting that Iraqi oil revenues "should be for the Iraqi people".