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Carlos Montes, targets of FBI repression gain more union support

Unions representing over 1 million workers take a stand
By Joe Iosbaker |
January 17, 2012
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Joe Iosbaker
Joe Iosbaker (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Chicago, IL - In the fall of 2010, 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists across the Midwest were subpoenaed by the FBI to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. Ten of us are trade unionists, and most of us had our homes raided by the FBI. Almost all of us had been leaders in the anti-war protest at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in September, 2008 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The raids were investigating an alleged conspiracy to provide “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations in Palestine and Colombia.

Immediately, our unions and unions across the country began to speak out in protest of the FBI attacks on civil liberties. Resolutions adopted by unions, including the Minnesota state council of AFSCME, the San Francisco Labor Council, the United Electrical workers and the Illinois State Council of SEIU, recognized that the trade union movement must be at the forefront of defending the right to dissent.

It has been clear from the start that we are being targeted because we oppose U.S. wars, from Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as our government’s involvement in the counter insurgency war in Colombia and U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. One after another, unions across the country recognized the pattern: from the persecution of the Industrial Workers of the World during World War I, to the McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s, the bosses have gone after some of the best labor organizers, using the excuses of sedition or communism. Now the excuse is “material support” for terrorism.

On Jan. 4, the president of the California Teachers Association (CTA) wrote a solidarity letter for another victim of the FBI - Carlos Montes. Montes, a veteran Chicano movement activist, leader in the immigrant rights movement, and former organizer for SEIU, was the 24th activist targeted by the FBI in this fishing expedition. Montes faces 18 years in prison on trumped up charges of firearm violations. In truth, his home was raided in May 2011 as a continuation of the political repression of the anti-war and international solidarity work of those of us in the Midwest. Montes was a speaker and leader of the same march on the RNC in Saint Paul and when the FBI raided the office of the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis on Sept. 24, 2010, they left a warrant with some of the names of who they were investigating. Carlos Montes’ name was prominent among them.

CTA has 325,000 members. With this letter by their president, unions representing over 1.1 million workers have taken a stand opposed to FBI repression. Class struggle and civil liberties are not isolated from each other. There is a growing section of organized labor that understands this, and it’s a source of strength for those of us living through this modern day McCarthyism.

Joe Iosbaker is a clerical worker at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he is chief steward for SEIU Local 73, and a member of Local 73’s executive board. He and his wife, Stephanie Weiner, a member of AFSCME Local 3506, had their home raided by 25 FBI agents on Sept. 24, 2010.