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US Labor Against the War National Assembly 2016


US Labor Against the War (USLAW) held its 2016 National Assembly at ATU’s Tommy Douglas Center in Silver Spring, MD from April 15-17.

In addition to being gathered at a time of large scale protest against big money in our political system (Democracy Spring), April 17 was the anniversary of the day in 1965 when the student activist group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held its first anti-Vietnam War protest rally in Washington, DC. It was co-sponsored by Women’s Strike for Peace. 25,000 attended, including Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Phil Ochs.

History brought us together in more ways than one. USLAW led the campaign to get the AFL-CIO to take a stand against the Iraq war in 2005 (renewed in 2009). It sent the first labor delegation to Iraq and brought Iraqi union leaders to the U.S. in 2005, 2007 and 2009, when it also sent another delegation to Iraq to participate in the first international labor conference ever held there.

The labor movement may have shed its Cold War policies but it has not yet shed the organizational and political culture that accompanied those policies. Unlike the labor movements of most countries in the world, with the exception of trade and immigration, most of the American labor leadership still is uncomfortable or has yet to see the importance of talking about foreign policy and the need for international labor solidarity in practice rather than just in rhetoric. This shift in thinking remained a major theme of the weekend and played out in each of the speakers and workshops arranged.