Mideast and even Ukraine ceasefire demands growing in the labor movement
Crying women hug as victims are being pulled from the rubble of a building which collapsed after an airstrike in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. CLUW points out in its resolution that women are the major target in this and in all wars. | AP

MINNEAPOLIS—The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) has become the latest large labor group to demand a ceasefire and a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Gaza war.

At its mid-November convention in Minneapolis, the AFL-CIO constituency group added the anti-Mideast war language, co-authored by its Philadelphia chapter and board member Kathy Black and former CLUW Executive Director Carol Rosenblatt, to a demand for a negotiated solution to the Russia-Ukraine war. Its resolution then also laid blame on the U.S.-NATO encirclement of Russia as a cause of the latter conflict.

In addition, current CLUW President Elise Bryant discussed the organization’s decision at a recent press conference held in front of the White House by pro-peace groups.

“When armed conflict erupts, it is women and girls who pay the highest price,” Bryant, like Rosenblatt, a News Guild member, declared.

“We in CLUW and the entire labor movement are relieved to see Israeli civilian hostages and Palestinian political prisoners returning home to their families. We are fighting for a world in which all families can be together.

“The only way to actually achieve that—to stop this violence—is through a permanent ceasefire now.” A second AFL-CIO constituency group, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, represented by Virginia Rodino—who is also CLUW’s executive director–agreed.

“All Israelis and Palestinians deserve freedom from violence,” said Rodino. “They deserve mobility, safety, sovereignty, and the opportunity to thrive.  APALA deeply mourns the devastating loss of life in Palestine and Israel and utterly condemns attacks on civilians. We stand against antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, terrorism, and racially motivated violence in the United States and around the world.

“APALA calls for an immediate permanent ceasefire and an end to the bombing of civilian infrastructure in Gaza, the release of all hostages, and unimpeded humanitarian aid to all families affected by the violence.”

CLUW’s combined resolution didn’t just cover the two wars, though. It demanded the AFL-CIO rethink its policy on both wars. It’s not the first time that labor began to move against a major U.S. war policy. U.S. Labor Against War and later larger unions broke with the AFL-CIO’s long-standing support of U.S. militarism and imperialism when GOP President George W. Bush invaded Iraq.

The CLUW convention also threw its weight in the resolution to massive re-ordering of U.S. priorities and policies, away from war spending and towards domestic needs.

“True national security is better obtained through broad support for a healthy democracy and meeting the needs of the people, rather than resorting to mass violence with ever more deadly, destructive weapons,” CLUW said.

Major contributors to the climate crisis

“Military operations are huge contributors to the climate crisis, and working people around the world must unite to rein in the power of their militaries and redirect their vast resources toward human needs and the climate emergency.”

The resolution also supports legislation to cut the Pentagon budget—except for service members’ pay and benefits.

HR1134, the People Over the Pentagon Act, by Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., a Painter, “meets these criteria” by reducing Pentagon spending by approximately one-eighth.

That measure “is something chapters can now lobby their elected officials about as a way of acting on the spirit of this resolution,” it says.

CLUW clearly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian atrocities Russian troops have committed. It “stands in solidarity with” both Russian and Ukrainian workers.

But CLUW also blames the U.S.-NATO “provocative role” of military encirclement of Russia as a cause of the war.

“The U.S. has a destructive history of a militarized foreign policy driven by the interests of corporations, including but not limited to the oil and arms sectors, a policy that siphons resources away from programs that serve public needs,” it declares.

“The time has come again for the labor movement to speak up and act out against the atrocities of war. We cannot become inured to the barbarism our species still resorts to when conflicts arise. As women, workers, veterans, and citizens of the world, we must continue to demand a peaceful world, and work to create it.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.