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News and reports

December 10, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11

We say no to war and occupation

CHICAGO--More than 130 union members, officials and labor activists from across the country met here December 3-4 to continue the work of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW). The meeting, a national leadership conference, was aimed primarily at raising funds and creating a structure to continue antiwar organizing in the labor movement.

USLAW, like the rest of the antiwar and labor movements, had a low profile for much of 2004 as its key activists involved themselves in campaigning for the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, relatively little time on the agenda was given to assessment.

There were some important debates--such as whether to support the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, which is closely tied to the Iraqi Communist Party, a part of Washington's puppet Iraqi government. Workshop sessions focused on specific tasks, such as advancing the debate on foreign policy within the labor movement ahead of July's AFL-CIO convention, and work with military families.

The weekend began with a public meeting, sponsored by Chicago Labor Against the War, which featured speakers on the struggle to prevent the U.S. Navy from turning the city's Senn High School into a naval academy. More than 60 people turned out to hear speakers that included Senn teacher and Chicago Teachers Union activist Jesse Sharkey; Senn student Brian Meza; Chuck Hutchcraft of American Friends Service Committee; Dace Kezbers of Military Families Speak Out; and Bill Davis, president of International Association of Machinists Local 701 and a national coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

-- In Boston, more than 400 students from a dozen area schools converged on the Boston Common December 4 to demand that the Bush administration "Bring the Troops Home Now!" The rally featured historian and activist Howard Zinn, who reminded the crowd that even the anti-Vietnam War movement started small and eventually grew to "100 times this size."

The coalition, Boston Student Antiwar Mobilization, is shifting its focus towards protesting Bush's inauguration on January 20 in Washington, D.C.

Lee Sustar and Joe Knott contributed to this report.

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Stop racism in Madison, Wis.
By Kate Losey

MADISON, Wis.--About 70 people came out December 3 to protest the racist dress code at two bars, Brother's and Jonny 0's, near the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Another 25 came out for a similar protest the following day.

About a year ago, area bars began implementing a dress code that prohibits clothing supposedly associated with hip-hop and the African American community--feeding off of the racist assumption that hip-hop culture breeds violence.

Protesters aimed to hurt the bars' business financially and to pressure them to eliminate the dress codes. After several articles in campus papers and the local media, the protests, which included a picket and leafleting, turned many people away from the bars, towards bars without dress codes. Chants such as "Hip-hop is not a crime, please don't cross our picket line" and "Hey hey, ho ho, the racist dress codes have to go" kept the picket line loud and visible.

These dress codes are only an effect of the broader problems of racism in Madison. In this "progressive" city, only 50 percent of African Americans will graduate from high school. For Latinos, the percentage is even smaller. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has difficulty retaining its 2 percent of African American students and 10 percent of minority students because of racial incidents that are swept under the rug and kept quiet by the administration.

The effort to overturn the dress code is an effort to fight racism and bring broader issues of racism to light in Madison. Activists are gearing up for further actions that will take place before finals.

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