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Labor speaks out against war

Speech by Phyllis Walker, AFSCME 3800 president
by staff |
November 15, 2002
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10,500 people demonstrate in St Paul, MN against the war with Iraq. The crowd included many trade unionists. (Fight Back! News/Christopher Loch)

St Paul, MN - An increasing number of local labor unions are speaking out against a possible war with Iraq. The following is a speech given by the president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3800, Phyllis Walker, at an anti-war rally Oct. 26, 2002 at the Minnesota State Capitol. More than 10,500 people attended that rally.

“I’d like to tell you right up front what I think this war is about. It’s about George Bush and his friends getting richer and richer and acquiring more and more of the world’s wealth through their control of the oil supply.

It takes a huge amount of fossil fuel to wage and win a war. That alone handsomely lines their pockets. We value the lives of our sons and daughters, of our sisters and brothers — NOT Bush’s control of Middle East oil profits.

It is estimated that a war with Iraq will cost $100 billion. Who will pay for that war? Working people, that’s who. The billions of dollars being spent to stage and execute this invasion means billions taken away from our schools, hospitals, housing, social security and livable wage public sector jobs. And if that isn’t enough, we will pay again when our sons and daughters and sisters and brothers are forced to give their lives so Bush and his friends can continue to line their pockets. That price is much too high.

Since Bush took office, he has had a devastating impact on working people. Unemployment has risen by 35% and two million jobs have been eliminated.

The stock market is down 34% since January of this year, putting at risk the pension funds of tens of millions of working Americans. And that’s not all. Citing the ‘war on terrorism,’ the government is also demanding the ability to end collective bargaining rights for employees of the new Department of Homeland Security.

Invoking the Taft-Hartley Act, the Bush administration threatened the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union with military takeover of the ports in case of strike. And that is just the beginning.

And what is it like for the Iraqi working people whose wage is five dollars a month? These are the people the bombs will fall on. Civilians will be the ones to continue to suffer under an attack on Iraq, not Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, the war against the Iraqi people did not end with the cessation of military attacks in 1991. It continues to this day with a suffocating blockade that has already claimed over one million civilian lives, the vast majority of whom are children and the elderly. Iraq now has a war-related mortality rate of over 200 people every day.

We have no quarrel with the ordinary working class men, women and children of Iraq who will suffer the most in any war.

AFSCME Local 3800 does not support the war with Iraq. Take a look at our banner: ‘This labor union is in solidarity with workers worldwide!’”