Iraqi Labor Leaders Visit Milwaukee They explain their opposition to the oil law and U.S. occupation
Iraq's oil is among the easiest to extract in the world and costs about $2 per barrel to extract. The country is believed to have the third-largest oil reserves in the world, behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. Only about 10% of the country has been explored for oil, leading many energy experts to conclude that the war-torn nation is home to a huge untapped market of cheap, easily accessible oil.
Opponents of the oil law want to keep the oil fields under national control, instead of allowing foreign corporations to profit from them.
Umara added that the unions are working with some members of parliament to stop the law from passing.
"We have friends in the Iraqi parliament who are very nationalistic," Umara said. "And with their help we were successful in postponing discussion of the measure until October 2007. Unfortunately, there are just a few of them. And we know the American pressure regarding this issue."
The law's opponents got support from five Nobel Peace Prize laureates, who released a statement in late June stating that the Iraqi people should determine the use of their oil reserves.
"The Iraq Oil Law could benefit foreign oil companies at the expense of the Iraqi people, deny the Iraqi people economic security, create greater instability and move the country further away from peace," the letter states. "The U.S. government should leave the matter of how Iraq will address the future of its oil system to the Iraqi people to be dealt with at a time when they are free from occupation and more able to engage in truly democratic decision-making."
Signed by Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Maathai, the letter concludes: "It is immoral and illegal to use war and invasion as mechanisms for robbing a people of their vital natural resources."
Successes of the Iraqi Unions
Hussein and Umara spoke at the Milwaukee County Labor Council as part of a national tour sponsored by U.S. Labor Against the War.
Hussein is the first woman to lead a national labor union in Iraq, and is also involved in women's organizations. Her union is affiliated with the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, which has 200,000 members. They are currently battling the use of private contractors in Iraq, who are replacing local workers who are trained to do the same jobs.
Umara has worked for the Southern Oil Company in Basra for 28 years, and, as an organizer, is working to maintain Iraqi control over its oil reserves. He was detained by Saddam's regime for his work on behalf of his fellow oil workers.
Hussein and Umara explained that Iraq's labor unions are secular and not formally aligned with any religion, sect or political party.
"The secret behind the success of labor unions in Iraq is that no party controls the labor unions," Umara said.
"That does not mean that there [is] no force to politicize the unions," Hussein said. "There are political parties that try to influence the unions, and even religious groups are trying to influence the unions. And after they gave up, they created their own unions?what's called unions."
Umara said that he hopes this American tour will help promote peace in the region.
"We love peace," Umara said. "I feel that the number of people who oppose the war is on the increase. This is what makes me happy."