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