OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - S.F. Labor Council, Open World Conference
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
At its regular delegates' meeting on June 9, the San Francisco Labor Council
heard an extensive report from a committee -- the Patriot Act II Committee
-- that was formed on March 24 of this year by the Labor Council for the
purpose of studying the proposed Patriot Act II legislation to enable the
Council to reach out to all affiliated locals, their officers and membership
to educate them about the proposed expansion of the existing Patriot Act.
Ten members of ten different affiliated locals, including eight delegates to
the San Francisco Labor Council and/or the San Francisco Building Trades
Council, participated in the study.
In addition to Denis Mosgofian -- past president of GCIU Local 4-N , who
chaired this committee -- the committee members were:
- Catherine Powell, California Faculty Association
- Louis Garcia, AFGE Local 3899 and civil rights attorney
- Brian McWilliams, ILWU Local 34
- Kristina Zinnen, SF Labor Council office Manager, OPEIU Local 3
- Jerry Path, Sign & Display Local 510
- Chuck Cannon, retired, Pile Drivers Local 34
- Stan Smith, retired head of the San Francisco Building Trades Council
- Bob Damron, retired American Postal Workers Union
- Tom Koppel, Sailors Union of the Pacific.
Denis Mosgofian, Stan Smith and Louis Garcia presented the report to the
Labor Council delegate body on June 9.
As part of its information-gathering, members of the Labor Council's Patriot
Act II committee met with the executive director and an attorney from the
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to gather information, and attended a
presentation from CCR. In addition, committee members attended a three-hour
speaker training session on the Patriot Act at the local office of the ACLU.
The committee's report -- which we are reprinting below -- outlines specific
ways in which labor and unions are vulnerable to attack under the Patriot
Act and the proposed Patriot II. At the ACLU workshop, the committee learned
how the Patriot Act and Homeland Security are making a fundamental and
dangerous change in our system of government, a change which the proposed
Patriot II would greatly expand. This change is seriously threating our
nation's constitutional democracy.
Specifically, these pieces of legislation greatly expand the authority of
the executive branch of our government at the expense of the legislative and
judicial branches of government. This is accomplished by eliminating the
oversight, the checks and balances, and by shifting authority from the
legislative and judicial branches of our government to the executive branch.
The Patriot Act and the proposed Patriot II not only give a huge expanse of
authority to the executive branch, but appropriate to the executive branch
the power to itself alter the very nature of our government. The government
through Homeland Security and the Patriot Act is able to issue edicts that
do not undergo any public debate, and take effect at once.
In his report to the Labor Council, Stan Smith, former head of the Building
Trades Council, noted that he was a patriot, but this Patriot Act II was
anything but patriotic. He pointed out how it represented one of the most
serious threats to our democracy in countless decades. He illustrated how
building trades unions working for Bechtel or trying to organize a Brown &
Root (Halliburton) project could easily by told by the government that these
unions were "threatening national security," and officers could be secretly
Mosgofian explained that the Patriot Act, which the proposed Patriot II
would extend, permits the administration to run the government in secret,
the very thing the founding fathers of our country sought to prevent in the
Constitution. Garcia, himself a government civil rights attorney, described
one new broad crime of "giving material aid to or providing resources" to
anybody the government labels "terrorist." This is intended to intimidate
unions from engaging in concerted actions to protect and defend their
members' interests. Garcia described how hard-bargaining, and normal
concerted activities like picketing, boycotts, strikes or civil disobedience
could subject unions or individual labor leaders or activists to being
charged as "terrorists" under the existing and proposed legislation. This
occurred in the 2002 ILWU Oakland dockworkers' negotiations.
Following the report and an extensive discussion in which dozens of Labor
Council delegates asked questions and expressed their deep concerns, the
Council delegates' meeting voted to adopt the report and to hold a public
forum at the immediately prior to the next Labor Council delegates' meeting
on Monday, June 23, 2003. The meeting will be held at the Plumbers' Hall on
Market St. (corner of Gough St.) at 6 p.m. All are invited!
The S.F. Labor Council meeting also voted to urge each affiliated union
local to invite a speaker from the Patriot Act II committee to address its
membership meetings or other gatherings of officers and members.
We urge you to pay close attention to the powerful information contained in
this report. As you read it, you will readily understand why it represents
such a dangerous and unprecedented attack on labor rights and democratic
rights in this country.
Patriot Act II Committee
San Francisco Labor Council
PATRIOT ACT II -
COMPLETING THE ARCHITECTURE FOR A POLICE STATE?
WHAT IS THE PATRIOT ACT II?
The Patriot Act II is a draft of proposed legislation leaked to the public
this past February 2003. It's official name is the Domestic Security
Enhancement Act of 2003. If enacted, it would:
- in unprecedented ways, expand law enforcement and intelligence gathering
authority for repression of Americans;
- reduce or eliminate judicial oversight over government surveillance;
- authorize secret arrests and detentions;
- create a secret DNA database of individuals who are suspected of
association with groups the government designates as "terrorist";
- create new death penalty provisions; and
- empower the government to strip citizenship from Americans who belong to
or support disfavored political or labor groups.
WHY SHOULD UNIONS BE CONCERNED?
The Patriot Act II works in conjunction with the expanded law enforcement
powers established by the first Patriot Act. Patriot I created the new
category of "domestic terrorism." When examining the measures that Patriot
Act II would authorize against "suspected terrorists," it's important to
note that the legal definition of domestic terrorism is now so broad that it
encompasses traditional forms of job actions and concerted activities by
unions, such as non-violent picket lines, civil disobedience or strikes.
Resistance to corporate and government domination becomes "terrorism.'
BACKGROUND TO THE PATRIOT ACT II
The Bush Administration is one of the most anti-labor presidencies in the
history of this country. The Administration has: 1) issued a directive to
federal agencies to privatize 850,00 jobs, 2) stripped union rights from
170,000 workers who were transferred to the newly created Homeland Security
Department, a trend that continues with the latest Transportation Security
Administration order that prevents airport screeners from organizing, 3)
effectively barred project labor agreements on federally funded construction
projects, 4) threatened the ILWU through the Office of Homeland Security
during recent contract negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association --
Tom Ridge told union leaders that a strike or slow down would be a threat to
"national security" and indicated the possible use of troops to keep the
port open, 5) seeks to pack the Circuit Courts with anti-labor judges such
as Priscilla Owens, and 6) appointed a Labor Secretary that acts more like
a Secretary of Commerce.
WHAT WILL THE PATRIOT ACT II DO AND HOW IT CAN BE USED AGAINST ORGANIZED
I. Patriot Act II Undermines Fundamental Constitutional Rights Of Americans
By Creating Extremely Broad Definitions Of "Terrorism"
The Patriot Act II has serious implications for labor. In one section it
creates a new crime of "providing material support or resources" for
carrying out an act of "terrorism." However, because the definition of
"providing material support or resources" is so vague, it could be used to
prosecute many actions legally available to labor unions as part of their
efforts to protect their collective bargaining rights. After greatly
expanding this definition, the Act provides enhanced penalties for
"providing material support or resources." The effect is that employers
would have enhanced tools to threaten, intimidate, and prevent labor unions
from asserting their rights and protect their members.
The Patriot Act at 18 U.S.C. § 2331 (5) defines "domestic terrorism" as
including acts that "appear" to be intended to influence the policy of a
government "by intimidation or coercion." This language is dangerously
vague and can be used to apply to labor union actions such as strikes,
slowdowns, boycotts informational picketing, organizing, or even engaging in
aggressive collective bargaining. Patriot II amends the Patriot I Act by
making it a crime to provide "material support or resources" or to disguise
the source or location of such resources to be used in carrying out an act
of international or domestic "terrorism." Any federal prosecutor could
decide that a labor union is engaging in these acts in an attempt to
"coerce" government policy.
During the ILWU collective bargaining in 2002, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld
all but made this very accusation of "terrorism" by stating that an ILWU
strike would not be in the interest of "national security." Further, under
this definition, labor organizers could be convicted of domestic terrorism
even if they don't have the intent of being intimidating or coercive. The
definition states they can be convicted even if it only "appears" that they
fit into this loose description. Appears to whom?
Patriot II defines "material support or resources" as including currency or
monetary instruments or financial securities, lodging, expert advice or
assistance, communications equipment, facilities, personnel, transportation,
and other physical assets. In other words, if a labor organizer provides
any of this type of support for job actions or other legal activities that a
federal prosecutor deems to be "intimidating or coercive," they could be
charged and convicted under the new law. This means that an action itself is
not "terrorist," but the individual who carries it out is -- as designated
by government officials. In other words, a "terrorist" act is defined as an
act against what the government defines as government policy or government
interest. The same acts done in another context are not "terrorist."
II. Patriot Act II Undermines Civil Liberties By Creating Draconian
Sentencing For So-Called "Terrorist" Activities
- Shifts the burden of proof from the government to defendants to obtain
bail for various crimes labeled as "terrorist," including providing
"material support or resources" for "terrorism." For almost all other
criminal allegations, the accused is entitled to bail unless the government
can prove at a hearing that the accused is a flight risk.
- Increases to 10 years the minimum period for parole for persons convicted
of offenses that are nonviolent, including providing "material support or
resources" for "terrorism". Most serious felonies require parole of no more
than five years. Lifetime parole could be required for offenses that do not
even involve serious injury or death.
Removes statute of limitation for offenses labeled "terrorist" that are
nonviolent, including providing "material support or resources" for
"terrorism". Prosecutors can go after unions, and even individual officers
or members, for nonviolent acts that took place several years previously.
- Extends death penalty for "terrorist" acts, including providing "material
support or resources" for "terrorism", that result in death, even where the
person providing the support did not cause the death. Under this act, if
labor unions are picketing and police use force to intervene resulting in
death, the prosecutor could charge the picketers under this law, even though
the police actions caused the death.
AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE PATRIOT ACT I AND II COULD BE USED AGAINST LABOR
The recent anti-war demonstrations at the Port Oakland were met with
excessive force by the police. Protestors and ILWU Local 10 members
standing nearby were shot in the face, neck and body with wooden dowel
bullets and concussion grenades. If someone had died in this melee, the
anti-war organizations could have been labeled as "terrorist" for causing
the death. If law enforcement agencies suspected that the union cooperated
or were involved in any capacity with these organizations, they too could be
labeled "terrorist," subjecting the leadership and members to surveillance,
arrest, and seizure of union assets.
- Denies federal benefits to persons convicted of "terrorist" offenses,
including providing "material support or resources" for "terrorism." Thus,
some labor activists could lose their pensions, unemployment benefits, and
veterans benefits because they attended a rally that a federal prosecutor
deemed to be "intimidating."
- Links Patriot Act II to RICO. RICO is a statute designed to go after
organized crime with very severe penalties and fines. When used against a
labor activist, RICO would prohibit a union from providing an attorney or
funds to support legal defense of that member. Even if found innocent, the
member cannot recoup legal costs from the union. Under Patriot II, labor
activists engaging in or providing support for legal job actions can also be
prosecuted under the organized crime laws if they are deemed "terrorist" by
- Allows the seizure of property of persons convicted of committing
"terrorist" acts, including providing "material support or resources" for
"terrorism." Prosecutors could seize the house, car, pension, etc. of a
labor organizer or seize the union hall, bank account, or pension fund of a
union, if convicted of even "material support..."
- Permits extradition of ANY American to all foreign countries -- including
those without Senate-approved extradition treaties. Treaties provide
specific conditions for prosecution, ensuring a fair trial and protecting
against unjust laws. Under this legislation, an American can be sent
abroad to face trial before courts of a foreign dictatorship, and an
American judge would have no ability under the statute to even inquire as to
the fairness of that country's court system or the reasons behind its
criminal accusations. This section expressly prohibits a judge from
considering any of the following: "humanitarian concerns," "the nature of
the judicial system of the requesting foreign government," and "whether the
foreign government is seeking extradition of a person for the purpose of
prosecuting or punishing the person because of race, nationality or
political opinions of that person." International organizing and solidarity
efforts will be severely weakened. For example, a US labor organizer on a
delegation investigating human rights abuses in factories in China could be
accused of working with a "terrorist" labor organization and extradited.
Or, a US union member fundraising on behalf of foreign liberation
organizations, such as the FMLN in El Salvador, or Nelson Mandela's ANC in
South Africa, could be extradited to those countries.
III. Patriot Act II Unfairly Targets Immigrants Under The Pretext Of
Given the high concentration of immigrant workers in many sectors of
organized labor, the targeting of immigrants via the Patriot Act II should
be of grave concern to the union movement. The provisions of this Act would
make vulnerable immigrant workers who attempt to organize or who are in
leadership positions in unionized work-sites.
- Undercuts trust between police departments and immigrant communities by
opening sensitive visa files to local police for the enforcement of complex
- Targets undocumented workers with extended jail terms for common
- Provides for summary deportations without evidence of crime, criminal
intent or "terrorism," even of lawful permanent residents, whom the Attorney
General says are a "threat to national security."
- Completely abolishes fair hearings for lawful permanent residents
convicted of even minor criminal offenses through a retroactive "expedited
removal" procedure, and prevents all courts from questioning the
government's unlawful actions by explicitly exempting these cases from
habeas corpus review. Congress has not exempted any person from habeas
corpus -- a protection guaranteed by the Constitution -- since the Civil
- Allows the Attorney General to deport an immigrant to any country in the
world, even if there is no effective government in such a country.
- Authorizes secret arrests in immigration and other cases, such as material
witness warrants, where the detained person is not criminally charged.
IV. Patriot Act II Diminishes Corporate Accountability Under The Pretext Of
- Grants immunity to businesses that provide information on customers or
employees in "terrorism" investigations, even if their actions are taken
without regard to privacy or show reckless disregard for the truth. Workers
attempting to organize or leaders in unionized worksites could be "turned
in" by companies, subjecting them to arrest, government harassment,
stigmatization by co-workers and their communities, etc.
- Threatens public health by severely restricting access to crucial
information about environmental health risks posed by facilities that use
dangerous chemicals. The Act would deprive communities, labor, and
environmental organizations of critical information concerning risks to the
community contained in "worst case scenarios" prepared under federal
environmental laws. Under section 112(r) the Clean Air Act, 47 U.S.C. §
7212(r), corporations that use potentially dangerous chemicals must prepare
an analysis of consequences of the release of such chemicals to surrounding
communities. This information is absolutely critical for organizations
seeking to protect public health and safety, and the environment, and by
ensuring compliance by private corporations with environmental and health
standards and alerting local residents to the hazards to which they may be
The proposed amendment limits access to such information to reading rooms in
which copies could not be made and notes could not be taken, and censors
from the reports such basic information as "the identity or location of any
facility or any information from which the identity or location of the
facility could be deduced." "Official users" are given greater access, but
these users only include government officials. Government whistleblowers
who reveal any information restricted under this section commit a criminal
offense, even if their motivation was to protect the public from corporate
wrongdoing or government neglect.
V. Patriot Act II Diminishes Personal Privacy by Removing Checks on
- Permits searches wiretap, and surveillance of US citizens on behalf of
foreign governments -- including dictatorships and human rights abusers.
Such spying, or the threat of such spying, would weaken international
solidarity efforts critical for effective bargaining and global organizing.
Foreign governments could obtain information on labor organizers from their
own countries by spying on US unions working with those organizers. In
countries such as Colombia, this could mean death. US labor members could
also be accused of "terrorist" crimes if they work with foreign
organizations deemed to be "terrorist."
- Allows for the sampling and cataloging of innocent American's genetic DNA
information without court order and without consent. Government could share
information regarding genetic predisposition to diseases of labor activists
to employers, giving a means to blacklist workers and union organizers.
Genetic discrimination is widespread among employers, and is perfectly legal
in most states.
- Permits, without any connection to anti-"terrorism" efforts, sensitive
personal information, such as consumer credit information, medical records,
educational records, to be shared with local and state law enforcement.
Personal information could be used to smear labor leaders or create profiles
based on personal issues that could be shared with business.
- Makes it easier for the government to initiate surveillance and
wiretapping of U.S. citizens under the authority of the shadowy, top-secret
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
- Permits the government, under certain circumstances, to bypass the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court altogether and conduct warrantless wiretaps
- Creates a new category of "domestic security surveillance" that permits
electronic eavesdropping of entirely domestic activity under looser
standards than are provided for ordinary criminal surveillance under Title
VI. Patriot II Removes Checks and Balances Between Judicial and Executive
The Act would abolish all court supervised consent decrees prohibiting state
and local law enforcement from illegal spying. When Senator Feingold asked
Attorney General Ashcroft repeatedly whether actual investigations had been
hampered by these safeguards, he could not cite any examples. In the name of
intelligence gathering, police departments in many cities spied on innocent
members of the public who were active in churches, community groups, and
political organizations. Federal courts, responding to civil lawsuits
urging an end to such spying, issued decrees prohibiting spying absent
probable cause of illegal activity. The San Francisco Police Department is
under a consent decree after being found guilty in the early 1990's of
maintaining massive illegal files on Bay Area activists and organizations.
Local police could create files on labor organizations - targeting members
who are leaders in important union campaigns or activists in other non-labor
The Act would shelter from prosecution any federal agents engaged in illegal
surveillance without a court order from criminal prosecution if they are
following orders of high Executive Branch officials. The criminals of
Watergate and the Iran-Contra Scandal would never have been prosecuted if
this Act were in effect.
The proposed Patriot Act II, coupled with the Patriot Act I and RICO,
creates the legal architecture for a police state in the United States. The
purpose of this legislation is to allow for US global expansion unhindered
by organized domestic opposition. These laws and proposed legislation are
clearly intended to prevent resistance to US corporate control and allow
preemptive attacks on those organizations and individuals the government
considers a threat.
We believe the context for this legislation is the various US authored
global trade agreements which have put US-based corporations in control of
much of the world's natural, intellectual and labor resources. America is
becoming the base of global corporate power managing much of the planet.
The federal government is attacking the wages of American workers and trying
to de-unionize huge sections of our work force. As American labor loses
employment to cheaper labor elsewhere, America's working families are left
to themselves to scramble and struggle for security amidst a declining
educational, healthcare, and physical public infrastructure robbed of taxes
diverted to global and domestic military operations.
In virtually every nation of the world, resistance to the effects of the
globalization of capital has evolved into broad social movements that are
linked together. Opposition to the privatization of public property and
services is a central part of this resistance. The recent US war on Iraq
saw the rapid growth of a global anti-war, anti-US empire movements with
real solidarity between Americans and people in other nations; within labor,
and between labor and other groups.
We believe Patriot Act and the proposed Patriot II are designed to suppress
this collective resistance. Labor needs to act now to defeat Patriot II and
to repeal Patriot I in its own interest and in the interest of the American
A major resource for the analysis of Patriot Act II utilized in this report
is from the ACLU's Interested Persons Memo:
Section-by-Section Analysis of Justice Department draft "Domestic Security
Enhancement Act of 2003," also known as "PATRIOT Act II" (2/14/03)