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Views in brief

May 13, 2005 | Page 4

Opposite of empowerment
What's wrong with CAFTA?

Debate over an Iraqi union

THERE IS a debate inside the Labor Committee for Peace and Justice in the Bay Area.

As an affiliate of US Labor Against War (USLAW), the Labor Committee is discussing plans to bring a delegation of Iraqi trade unionists to the Bay Area. USLAW intends to bring unionists from three Iraqi unions--the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, and the Southern Oil Company Union (SOCU).

The Labor Committee for Peace and Justice is organizing money and visa support to bring oil workers from SOCU to meet with trade unionists and oil workers on the West Coast. Union and antiwar activists should welcome this and work within the coalition to organize an event that will draw together all the forces of the antiwar movement.

However, it is a mistake for the Labor Committee and USLAW as a whole to continue to support the IFTU--the only legal union under the U.S.-dominated Iraqi government.

The IFTU has threatened independent workers seeking to organize in other unions and refuses to denounce the occupation. Last year, it helped block an "out now" resolution before the British Labour Party, and it remained silent while the U.S. destroyed Falluja. It is a union whose leadership is actively collaborating with the occupation.

The debate inside the Labor Committee is only beginning. Union members raising disagreements with USLAW support for the IFTU have been shouted down and called "arrogant" and "chauvinistic" for questioning the IFTU.

But it is arrogant and chauvinistic for the U.S. government to be able to decide how and when workers in Iraq can organize. We should not support a union that is helping the U.S. continue the occupation of Iraq.
Adrienne Johnstone, San Francisco

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Opposite of empowerment

I WANT to make a plea to everyone who identifies themselves as left wing and pro-women's liberation to get the word "bitch" out of their vocabulary.

This is a word used all too often with little regard to what it means and the effect it has towards women. The word not only literally means female dog, which is bad enough, but it refers negatively about any woman who speaks her mind confidently and firmly. Even the word "bitching" implies complaining and nagging in a feminine context.

This is a sexist word and only discredits women who are not afraid to take control and speak their mind.

On the other side of this argument are "power feminists," who see this word as something they can take back and make their own. One magazine called Bitch, for example, thinks that, "If we take it as a compliment, it loses its power to hurt us."

Nothing is empowering about identifying oneself with such a negative and oppressive word. That's like saying, "Yeah, I'm too pushy, yeah, I'm too loud and obnoxious." It's not defying the word--it's buying into it.

We cannot fight sexism by using a sexist word. We need to challenge it head-on by building a movement, much like the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and '70s that fought for women's control and equality. Like Queen Latifah said, "U-N-I-T-Y, we got to let them know we ain't a bitch or a hoe."
Sarah Levine, San Francisco

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What's wrong with CAFTA?

AT A demonstration in April, disgruntled workers from various labor unions around Montana showed their lack of support for the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Labor members from four cities--Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, and Billings--organized protests outside of several Montana field offices in the hopes of convincing Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that CAFTA would adversely effect U.S. factories and workers. Many of the protesters were armed with signs, voices, and literature denouncing the proposed policies of CAFTA.

Though the logistics of CAFTA have been discussed and accepted, the trade agreement must still receive a congressional vote in order to finalize its implementation. If passed, CAFTA would open trade with six Central American countries--worrying union leaders and workers that a significant loss of jobs here in the U.S. could be in the near future.

Free trade involving capitalistic systems of government will always undercut the rights of workers in order to meet the financial goals of privatized industry. The idea of free trade (as defined by the oppressive governments and private industries that run them) is not one of providing better jobs for those who live in impoverished countries. Instead, it is used as a propaganda tactic to enslave and exploit innocent individuals for the sake of cheap labor and production.
Michael Hudson, Missoula, Mont.

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