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UFT: My union and war

February 19, 2007 am28 9:03 am

I may need help with details. Feel free to jump in if facts or timeline need correction.

My union supported the war in Viet Nam. But that was before I was a teacher.

My union supported the invasion of Afghanistan 6 years ago. But today, the UFT opposes the war in Iraq, has paid for buses to a Washington anti-War march, and opposes allowing military recruiters into our schools.

In the wake of 9/11, my union passed a resolution supporting the war in Afghanistan. I remember that Delegate Assembly well. It was at Fashion Industries, and I sat in my usual spot, with the other Bronx high school chapter leaders and delegates, on the speakers’ left, in the far back seats, nosebleed section. I was opposed to US intervention in Afghanistan, and was quietly discussing it with some delegates. It was a tough sell, and emotions were running high, but I knew these people and it was possible to at least talk. Then Randi called on Abe Levine to speak.

more below the fold) —-> Levine, a retiree, delivered an impassioned pro-war text. He whipped up the crowd with what seemed to me to be xenophobia. It was scary. People who had been talking with me were now yelling at me. When it was time to vote against the pro-war resolution, I hesitated. They succeeded in making me think twice before doing what was right. My card did go up, along with a handful of others, in opposition. The intimidation didn’t stop me.

(Fast forward a couple of years later. I am pretty certain that one anti-Iraq War motion failed, but this Fall (or was it last Spring??) we adopted the AFL’s anti-Iraq War stance. What a change!

Then in December, David Gurowsky, chapter leader at Stevenson HS in the Bronx and a leader of New Action, introduced a resolution asking the UFT to support with a couple of buses an anti-War rally in Washington DC. Abe Levine rose, coward, not to oppose the resolution, but to claim that it was not of interest to UFTers, that it was out of bounds for a teachers union. The resolution won overwhelming support. Did the UFT buses actually go to the demonstration? I don’t know.

And now, in February, at the DA, ICE supporters brought students with signs against military recruiters on campus. The students were allowed to address the body, and offered fiery remarks. An ICE supporter moved a resolution – the exact language is not in front of me, but the sense follows: 1. The UFT opposes imperialist war. 2. The UFT has a resolution against the War in Iraq. 3. The UFT should oppose military recruiters in public schools for the duration of the current war. Jeff Zahler, a Unity leader, moved a motion eliminating point 1. He also spoke of extending the last point (3, the ‘whereas’ ) so that it referred to military recruiters at any time, and not just during the Iraq War. (either Jeff or a later speaker made that into a second amendment).

There was debate. An ICE speaker was so upset about the loss of inflammatory language, that he forgot to speak in favor of widening the scope of the opposition to recruiters in schools. Veterans who are delegates and chapter leaders spoke. One was upset by the tone of the discussion, didn’t want us to be against the troops, but agreed that students who want to sign up should go to a recruitment station rather than have the recruiters come to the schools.

Personally? I voted to keep the first statement, but it was removed. I voted for the second amendment with both hands, and it passed by a tremendous margin. And then the resolution itself passed by an even larger margin.

What a change from even six years ago.

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