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Why I'm not waving the flag

October 12, 2001 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,

Like in most workplaces after September 11, a wave of patriotism overtook the garage where I work as a Verizon technician.

I'm also a union steward. When the union leadership asked me to hand out American flags, I had to refuse.

While I understood why my union brothers and sisters wanted something to express the outrage and grief we all felt, the flag, I thought, was the wrong response.

Voicing opposition to the calls for bombing has been difficult, but I can't bury my convictions and pretend that the problem is abroad rather than at home.

"Wanted Dead or Alive" posters of Osama bin Laden are hanging in dozens of trucks. People joke about nuking the Middle East and beating up "towel heads."

No one should allow anti-Arab racism to go unchallenged, because every comment eats away at our union's solidarity and strengthens the hand of George Bush.

Verizon is already good at pitting people against each other--they don't need our help.

In deciding which workers would make repairs at "ground zero," they ignored seniority and picked their favorites, who stand to make loads of money in overtime. Only a handful of those picked was Black.

Last year, we stood united and won a strike because we understood that Verizon wanted to keep its wireless division union-free.

We know that corporations hate unions and anything that stands in the way of profits. So why do we rally to support these corporations and the politicians they buy when they call for bombing poverty-stricken countries?

Missing from most conversations at my garage is the question of how 19 men became so desperate that they would be willing to die and take thousands of people with them.

Would it have anything to do with how many lives have been lost during U.S. interventions in places like Vietnam, Iraq and Somalia?

That's my problem with patriotism and the flag--it unites us with the very people who put us in harm's way on September 11.

A steward, Communication Workers of America, Local 1109

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