Thursday, December 19, 2002
If the shopping bags can say "Paris London Carmel," maybe the anti-war bumper stickers should start saying "Berkeley Santa Cruz Monterey."
On Dec. 4, the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council passed a resolution opposing war in Iraq. And on Tuesday night, as of press time, the Monterey City Council was set to discuss putting resolution opposing a war in Iraq on a future meeting agenda.
Amy Newell, business manager for the labor council, says 60-100 representatives of 55 unions from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties passed the resolution unanimously. In so doing, they joined a number of progressive labor groups that have condemned the war: Chicago''s huge Teamsters Local 705; New York''s SEIU Local 1199 (which bought a full-page ad in the New York Times announcing its position); the 100,000-strong California Federation of Teachers; the San Francisco Labor Council; Seattle''s King County Labor Council, and others.
In early October, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney set the tone for labor''s position on the war with a mildly worded but much-noted statement urging the Bush administration to consider war as "the last option, not the first"-a reversal from his lock-step support of military action in Afghanistan in 2001. That development allowed local labor councils to take their own stands against the war.
"As a chartered subordinate body, we take our lead from the national AFL-CIO and the California Labor Federation," Newell says. "[Sweeney''s statement] sort of opened the door."
Unlike the national statement, however, the Monterey Bay Labor Council resolution packs a substantial punch, criticizing various aspects of the war effort.
"As trade unionists and working people," the resolution says, "we reject our government''s aggressive military policy and the attempt to use an atmosphere of war and fear to suppress our rights as working people."
It goes on to protest restrictions on civil liberties, attacks on workers'' rights, fiscal neglect of working families'' needs, and the fact that "[w]orking class youth, especially poor and people of color, are forced to risk death in war just to earn a living in the armed forces."
The city of Monterey is unlikely to adopt such a stringent resolution. In fact, it may adopt no resolution at all-but council member Ruth Vreeland, who is recommending that the council consider putting a resolution on the agenda, thinks it''s important to discuss the issue. Vreeland says two citizens spoke up during November council meetings requesting that Monterey join some 20 cities across the country in adopting anti-war resolutions. San Francisco, Detroit, Madison, Washington, DC, Seattle, Baltimore, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Oakland are among the cities that have done so; efforts are underway in Chicago and New York City.
Though Monterey has not historically taken positions on matters outside its jurisdiction, Vreeland says, "that doesn''t mean we don''t listen to our constituents who ask us to discuss something."
Vreeland herself says she has "strong feelings" about the subject: as a child of five, she and her medical missionary parents were in a bombing of the Chinese village where they lived. "I was knocked over and it just about killed me," says Vreeland. "So I know war is ugly, and I think it is something you have to think very hard about."