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June 28,2004

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Dear Mr. Sweeney:

It has come to my attention that a letter dated June 23, 2004, from Marilyn G. Sneiderman, Director of Field Mobilization Department, AFL-CIO is being sent to all State Federations and Central Labor Councils advising them ³ NOT to sponsor or devote resources² toward the mass workers mobilization in Washington on October 17th to protest anti-labor policies of the federal government. The call for this ³Million Worker March² was initiated by Local 10 (San Francisco) of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). It has subsequently been endorsed by all ILWU longshore locals on the West Coast, some Central Labor Councils, a growing number of local unions and workers organizations across the country.  Why? Because it has struck a responsive cord amongst workers in this country who are becoming increasingly angry over policies in Washington directed against working people over which they have no say-- especially the Bush administration¹s bloody war and occupation in Iraq which is draining essential funding for social programs including veterans¹ benefits, shredding civil liberties and fanning the flames of terrrorism rather than eradicating terrorism in the Middle East and around the world. Protests against union-busting free trade agreements, brutally repressed by the police and military in Seattle, Miami, Genoa, Santos, Rotterdam, Barcelona and now Savannah, are a direct attack against workers¹ rights and civil liberties here and internationally. The so-called ³war on terrorism², the Iraq war and occupation  and ³free trade² agreements are supported by both political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. That is why there is a crying need for an independent mobilization for a workers agenda.

Furthermore, the ILWU, particularly Local 10 has a long and proud history of steadfastly supporting progressive social causes--opposing imperial wars from the Korean War to the Iraq War, initiating actions against repressive governments like the South African apartheid regime and Pinochet's military dictatorship in Chile. More recently ILWU was instrumental in organizing international labor solidarity actions to support struggles of union dockworkers in Liverpool,England and Australia.

Perhaps, you will recall that a few years ago it was we, San Francisco longshoremen, who went to the aid of the Charleston longshoremen who were brutally attacked by riot police at the behest of a nonunion employer in the "right to work" state of South Carolina. Understanding that timing is key to winning union struggles, we sent our representatives to join them on the picket line in the face of massive police intimidation. As you are aware the Charleston 5 campaign developed into a cause celebre of the entire AFL-CIO. Their struggle ended in a victory,  rare in this period of unbridled corporate greed and anti-union aggression.

Now more than ever the organized labor movement and unorganized workers need to push for a workers agenda in Washington.  That's why I'm appealing to you to have this letter retracted and request that you write a letter on behalf of the AFL-CIO endorsing the October 17th rank-and-file mobilization. As you know, the ILWU has officially endorsed John Kerry, as have many unions. That should not prevent workers from protesting the anti-labor policies codified into law (like Taft-Hartley and NAFTA) and advocated by the candidates of both parties.

The ILWU has always cherished the principle of union democracy as expressed in "bottom up" not "top down" control and in the idea of local autonomy. When the ILWU reaffiliated to the AFL-CIO in 1988, we did so with the firm conviction that union democracy would be upheld and that our progressive voice would continue to be heard in a united labor movement.

Hopefully you will agree to our request. I anxiously await your prompt reply. As always, time is of the essence in labor struggles.


Henry C. Graham
ILWU Local 10
International Longshore and Warehouse Union
400 North Point
San Francisco, CA 94133

Henry C. Graham
Vice President
Aaron Wright
John M. Castanho

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