Journal des Alternatives

U.S. Cities and Unions Oppose a New War

7 February 2003

Peace movement veterans and historians have never seen anything like it - a huge U.S. antiwar movement to stop a war before it starts. The big demonstrations, of course, constitute the most obvious example of this unprecedented phenomenon. But there are many other evidences as well.

For example, 52 cities and towns — including Chicago and San Francisco (as well the Mid-Hudson’s New Paltz and Woodstock, N.Y.) — have gone on official record opposing President Bush’s intention to launch a war. Another 70 cities are considering antiwar resolutions and more are getting involved every day.

And at what other time since it was formed over a half century ago — particularly in contrast to the AFL-CIO leadership’s deplorable stance during the Vietnam War — has the U.S. labor federation raised so many questions and doubts about supporting a new war? On Jan. 30, for example, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, and John Monks, general-secretary of the Trades Union Congress of Great Britain, jointly appealed to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to take every possible step to achieve the legitimate ends of disarming Iraq without recourse to war.

As of Feb. 1, according to USLAW (U.S. Labor Against the War), labor organizations representing 4.5 million organized workers (some 30% of the union members in the U.S.), have taken a stance in opposition to invading Iraq. Among them are 10 national unions, such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union and the United Farmworkers of America.

In addition, two AFL-CIO state federations oppose a new war (Hawaii and Washington state). They are joined by 21 central labor bodies (including Albany, Troy, and Rochester in New York State), 16 district and regional organizations, and 66 specific union locals. Finally, 23 labor groups and ad hoc committees of union workers likewise have taken a stand for peace.

Following are excerpts from the latest examples of city and union reluctance to invade Iraq. First, from the City Council of Chicago (the nation’s third largest city with a population of about 3 million), which on Jan. 16 passed an antiwar resolution by a vote of 46-1. Second, an exceptionally strong resolution against both war and the USA Patriot Act, passed Jan. 27 by the Los Angeles County Federal of Labor.

The City of Chicago resolution:

".... Whereas, U.S. military actions would risk the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians without guaranteeing the safety and security of U.S. citizens; and... a pre-emptive and unilateral U.S. military attack would violate international law and our commitments under the UN Charter and further isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world; and... the Congressional Budget Office estimates a military action against Iraq will cost our nation between $9 and $13 billion a month, likely resulting in further cuts in federally funded projects and programs that benefit our city and its residents; and... the Bush administration has failed to articulate a clear strategic objective or outcome of a military attack against Iraq, and such an attack fails to enjoy the support of many of our important allies.... "Now, therefore be it resolved, that we, the members of the City Council of the City of Chicago, oppose a preemptive U.S. military attack on Iraq unless it is demonstrated that Iraq poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States; and... that we support a return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq, enhanced by sufficient police support to guarantee unfettered access to all targeted sites; and... that we urge the U.S. to work through the UN Security Council and reaffirm our nation’s commitment to the rule of law in all international relationships...."

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor resolution:

"Whereas, the billions of dollars spent to stage and execute this war are being taken away from our schools, hospitals, housing, and Social Security and services for the poor in the midst of the greatest economic crisis in recent memory, even as the Bush Administration simultaneously plans even more giveaways and welfare for their rich supporters; and... the Bush administration has spearheaded a renewed assault on organized labor; and... the war is a pretext for attacks on labor, civil, immigrant and human rights; and... the Bush administration and Congress’ USA Patriot Act serves to undermine labor’s right to organize and fight anti-immigrant attacks by expanding the government’s ability to detain non-citizens, to conduct telephone and internet surveillance, and to carry out secret searches....

"Therefore be it resolved, that the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), stands firmly against the Bush administration’s drive to war and calls for a re-ordering of our national priorities which must include allocation of resources to provide jobs, education, health care, a clean environment, and social justice; and... that the Los Angeles County Federation... will work so that organized labor, the national AFL-CIO, and the many allies of working men and women take a stand against the USA Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act; and... that the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor joins other labor organizations, and community allies to actively promote and participate in activities opposing the Bush administration’s drive to war."

For up-to-date listings of cities adopting peace resolutions, see

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