The Guardian May 21, 2003


LWU convention calls for peace, not war

by Evelina Alarcon and Juan Lope

SAN FRANCISCO: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) 
called on the Bush administration and Congress to adopt policies of peace, 
as delegates to the 32nd International Convention overwhelmingly passed 
resolutions against the war in Iraq and in opposition to President Bush's 
foreign policy.

"The ILWU opposes the Bush administration's choice of war instead of 
diplomatic, economic, and other sanctions in dealing with the situation in 
Iraq and potential situations with Syria, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, 
China, and other countries," the main anti-war resolution stated.

"The U.S. is the only nation to have troops stationed in 144 countries 
around the world . and has repeatedly used this military power to extend 
and protect US corporate interests. . The United States should renounce its 
own use of weapons of mass destruction", the resolution continued.

"This debate is fundamental to the future of the ILWU", said Joe Wenzl, 
West Coast committeeman, who made an impassioned plea for adoption of the 
anti-war resolution submitted by Hawaii Local 142, which opened an intense 
discussion.

"The idea that we are to remain silent in the face of murder . is something 
we should say no to not only in this convention but in public", Wenzl 
continued in response to delegates who called for silence on the war as a 
sign of supporting the troops.

"You don't achieve peace by inflicting war on the workers of the world. We 
oppose war and yet we support the sons and daughters of the working class 
and poor that are sent into harm's way by an administration that tried to 
break the back of the longshore division just six months ago."

Terri Mast, National Secretary-Treasurer of the Inland Boatmen's Union 
(IBU), who also argued for passage of the peace resolution, said, "We have 
to stand up for what this union means. Folks around the world have 
supported us because the ILWU has always been there for them."

"George Bush is the most anti-labor, Anti-Working Family president ever. Is 
his war policy different?", asked a Local 5 delegate from Portland. "Bush 
wants working and poor folks to fight his war and then calls for cuts in 
veterans' benefits. We want them out of harm's way."

Clarence Thomas, a Bay-area Local 10 delegate, argued that it is corporate 
interest that motivates the Bush agenda in Iraq. "It is not coincidental 
that Stevedoring Services of America tried to break the ILWU during their 
contract negotiations and five days into the war with Iraq was rewarded 
with a $4.8 million contract to manage the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr", he 
said.

The debate also strongly addressed the cost to the American people of 
Bush's pre-emptive war agenda, calling for reduction in the military budget 
while redirecting resources for adequate pay and benefits to enlisted 
personnel and funding for veterans' programs, for social needs, and 
improving the nation's infrastructure.

The debate outcome was influenced by a moving presentation given that 
morning by Ah Quon McElrath, a Regent from the University of Hawaii and 
former volunteer and social worker for Hawaii Local 142.

"The ILWU has a long and proud history, and it has contributed to the 
tapestry of working people throughout the world," said McElrath. "Our 
immortality is preserved in the building of a union which continues to 
define who we are.."

"Only you can learn from those lessons", McElrath told delegates. "Only 
you, in concert with others, can prevent moving into the bowels of a police 
state."

The peace resolution passed overwhelmingly, and was followed by adoption of 
many related resolutions. One from Local 10 called for the immediate 
withdrawal of US occupation of Iraq and for recognition of the Arab 
peoples' right to self-determination.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), commended delegates for adopting the 
resolutions. "We have to continue to fight against war and US occupation of 
Iraq", she said. "The stakes are enormous. We must challenge the Bush 
administration on all their policies."

In a dramatic show of international labour solidarity, delegates made 
William Mendoza, the local union President at a Coca Cola plant in 
Colombia, an honourary member of the ILWU. Mendoza, whose life has been 
threatened by US-backed paramilitary forces who have assassinated over 4000 
unionists in Colombia in the last two years, made an emotional plea for 
support of a boycott of Coca Cola, which has been tied to the violence. The 
ILWU agreed and also gave $5000 to the campaign.

"I was overwhelmed with emotion", Mendoza told the People's Weekly World 
afterwards. "You cannot imagine the joy it gives me to see the people here 
express their solidarity so generously with me and our struggle, with my 
family and the families of my assassinated co-workers."

The convention also came out strongly against attacks on democratic rights 
and called on Congress "to repeal the Patriot Act, Homeland Security and 
other recent laws which infringe on the Bill of Rights and collective 
bargaining."

The Convention agreed to send a letter to Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown 
demanding a full investigation of the police attack on the peaceful anti-
war protest at the Oakland port on April 7 where nine longshoremen and 
numerous demonstrators were injured. The ILWU called for dropping all 
charges against those arrested by police.

The authors can be reached at evnalarcon@aol.comand ncalview@igc.org

* * *
This article is from http://www.pww.org/article/view/3401 People's Weekly World

Back to index page