Labor and peace in Seattle

by Paul Bigman

Sent: Sunday, March 20, 2005 2:31 PM
Subject: Labor and peace in Seattle

Dear Sisters and Brothers,
    Since you're not in Washington State, I wanted to give you a brief report on yesterday's peace rally in Seattle, and the role that JwJ and labor played in that rally.
    Overall, for a variety of reasons I felt that the outreach and publicity for the rally wasn't what it should have been.  On February 15th two years ago, prior to the invasion, Seattle had a rally and march of 50,000.  (I'm using the march organizers' estimates on all of these, so that the exaggeration is consistent.)  Last year we had about 10,000.  This year, we only had 5000.  Certainly a chilly rain and the NCAA playoffs hurt attendance; but I think there were major failings in the work to get folks out.
    But the JwJ-initiated labor contingent was, I think, a real success.  The contingent was cosponsored by JwJ and the King County Labor Council (KCLC).  It wasn't huge - only about 200 people - but this was the first time since the 1970s that Seattle has had a visible, organized labor contingent. 
    We met separately at a nearby SEIU hall (we could have used the Teamster hall, but they had meetings that day and their parking lot would have been full of cars).  We focused on the attacks on the civilian DoD employees, and put out 3000 leaflets in the name of AFGE, a small IFPTE Local and JwJ, to distribute at the larger rally(attached).  At our small rally for the contingent, we had an invocation by the President-elect of the Church Council of Greater Seatle; a speech by the President of AFGE 3197, the second largest AFGE Local in the State; and a JwJ pledge card pitch by the President of SEIU Local 6, the janitors' local, who's also Vice President of the King County Labor Council.  Barbara Phinney, the AFGE 3197 President, spoke not only about the attacks on federal workers' rights, but also about the impact on veterans' health, cuts in veterans' health care, and attacks on her personally alleging that she's violated the Hatch Act by criticizing the health care cuts.  (Barbara is an RN at the VA Hospital - the local is the VA Hospital local.)  Early that morning, Barbara and I did a radio talk show, focusing on the impact of the war on workers and labor.
    We had participation from quite a number of unions, and the Washington State Labor Council publicized our contingent in advance on their website.  Among the banners there were ones from not only JwJ and KCLC, but also AFT, ILWU, SUP, UAW, MM&P, CLUW, SPEEA (the Boeing engineers, represented by IFPTE - this was, needless to say, a coup, and based entirely on our focusing the contingent on workers' rights), USWA - and I'm sure some others.  The tv coverage included shots of labor banners; this morning's Sunday paper mentioned labor as one of the constituencies involved.
    One of the six speakers at the main rally was the head of the King County Labor Council; in addition, I did the fund pitch, and a young African-American longshoremen from Tacoma did spoken word.  JwJ Co-Chair Lynne Dodson was one of the media spokespeople; Lynne is also President of the Seattle Community Colleges Federation of Teachers and a Vice-President of American Federation of Teachers-Washington.  In recognition of our efforts and importance, the coalition asked that the labor contingent lead the main march, so that JwJ and KCLC banners were in the front.
    All in all, a modest beginning - but I think a real success, and one that speaks to our ability as a movement to deal with the relationship between war and working class struggle.
In solidarity,