The Guardian December 1, 1999


USA: Unions march against WTO

As The Guardian goes to press and Trade Ministers from around the 
world gather in Seattle, massive protest actions are expected against the 
domination of the global economy by the powerful transnational corporations 
behind the World Trade Organisation (WTO). FRED GABOURY of the People's 
Weekly World reports.

In a letter urging participation in the November 30 protest, Parry, 
President of the Washington State Council of Senior Citizens, called it "a 
day like no other in our time". It marks the beginning of a four-day 
meeting in Seattle of Trade Ministers of the 134-member World Trade 
Organisation (WTO).

Parry said the protest, expected to bring thousands of labour, 
environmental, peace and other activists to Seattle, would be watched by 
people all over the world.

He attributed the growing concern about the WTO by so many people from all 
walks of life to the fact that the underlying truth about the WTO is being 
exposed.

"People are coming to understand that it is ruled for the benefit of 
powerful transnational corporations, that trample upon the fundamental 
rights of working people in all countries and the global environment upon 
which all life depends", Parry said.

"The Seattle WTO meeting is an historic opportunity to reshape the global 
market place to protect the future of the human race and the planet which 
is our home."

Stuart Acuff, President of the Atlanta Central Labour Council, said the WTO 
is not just about trade. "It's more than that, it's about who makes the 
decisions that affect our lives, not just here in the US but everywhere.

"It all boils down to whether these decisions will be made by capital about 
what is best for capital or whether human beings will make decisions about 
what is best for human beings in a democratic way."

Acuff said the people have to "bridle the unrestricted power of capital. We 
can't allow the transnational corporations, which already have too much, to 
get even more at the expense of those who have little or nothing at all."

Jerry Meszaro, coordinator of the Religion and Labour Council of Kansas 
City, Missouri, a trade unionist from the Kansas City area, said, "We 
always thought that because we are located in the middle of the country we 
were protected from the worst features of irresponsible global economics.

"But we found out we weren't when General Motors closed an assembly plant 
here instead of modernising it and bought 30 percent ownership in a 
Japanese car-maker almost the next day."

Meszano said the shutdown cost 4,400 jobs and contributed to 1,000 divorces 
and at least 200 suicides among members of Auto Workers Local 93.

The Steelworkers union, has been a long-time critic of US trade policies. 
"We concentrated our efforts on bringing members of our union to Seattle 
who have been victimised by our country's failed trade polices", Gary 
Hubbard, who is coordinating the union's thousand-strong contingent, said 
in a brief interview from Washington.

"Our delegation includes people who have travelled to Mexico where they saw 
the sub-human conditions under which workers in the maquiladora factories 
work and live."

The AFL-CIO is playing the leading role in organising the November 30 march 
and rally, and is so well organised that it has even anticipated the late 
November Seattle drizzle.

"The rain has arrived in Seattle and so have 20,000 ponchos for marchers", 
an AFL-CIO bulletin reported.

Other groups organised activities ranging from teach-ins to civil 
disobedience.

Victoria Carter, one of the two full-time staff people working in the 
Washington office of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 
(WILPF), said she saw the week-long series of activities as an opportunity 
to challenge the "faceless, unelected and unaccountable" experts whose word 
is law.

"They are an affront to human dignity and the rights of people everywhere", 
she said.

Tarek Rizak, Assistant Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility 
(PSR), told the People's Weekly World that most of their members 
would be marching with other groups.

"We've encouraged our members to participate because of our interest in 
environmental issues and the question of war and peace.

Rizak said the WTO is the ultimate example of hypocrisy on a world scale.

"At Seattle they will talk about removing borders between countries as 
barriers to trade while, on the other hand, they hide behind these same 
borders as an excuse to continue an arms race."

Anci Koppel, a tireless fighter for peace and long-time Seattle resident, 
was filled with pride when she spoke of the effort that has gone into 
building the Seattle protest.

"We built a grand coalition that spans the movement for peace, equality and 
economic justice, one that is powerful enough to make our voices heard by 
the WTO officials.

"Now", she said, "we have to keep things together and make our elected 
officials stop and listen. They are the ones that have to make the changes. 
Our work isn't finished."

* * *
People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party, USA

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