Many of America’s unions’ central leaders issued press releases after the Sept. 11 bombings. All the statements deplored the loss of life and some urged their members to donate to union funds created to help victims and survivors. In general the press releases indicated, at least by implication, that the union officials would line up behind the bipartisan support for Bush’s declaration of war.
Statements from the International Association of Machinists (IAM) (Sept.12) and the United Electrical Workers (UE) (Sept.14) stand out from the rest, but for very different reasons.
Machinists’ President R. Thomas Buffenbarger, took a most aggressive and belligerent position. After noting that his members “were forced to endure the unimaginable nightmare” and that it “was our members who were among the murdered,” Buffenbarger said, “Today, IAM members return to work. They will be prepping the planes that can just as easily carry troops to the farthest reaches of the earth. … For it is not simply justice we seek. It is vengeance, pure and complete.”
The UE statement didn’t directly take issue with Bush’s warmongering, but still was sharply at odds with the Machinists: “As we mourn and we rage, we also declare our resistance to efforts to use this tragedy to curtail our civil liberties or to engage in military adventures that can only lead to more carnage and senseless loss of life.”
A New York SEIU affiliate with 220,000 members, Local 1199, took a somewhat stronger position than UE, saying (Sept. 21) the union opposes “launching a war against any nation because of the actions of a few.”
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeny phoned Bush to “express the AFL-CIO’s full support for him in this time of crisis.” Sweeney said the “AFL-CIO will fully support the appropriate American response.” The call shouldn’t have surprised Bush, since the labor federation has never distanced itself from a ruling-class “military adventure,” be it the Bay of Pigs or the Vietnam holocaust. -CHARLES WALKER