The Employee Free Fire Zone Act

By David Swanson

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power; gain our freedom when we learn
That the Union makes us strong.

The House has just passed the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would effectively restore to Americans the internationally and domestically recognized but nonexistent right to form unions. The US labor movement has invested untold millions in lobbying for this victory, and plans to invest untold more in trying to achieve the same victory in the Senate in the coming months. Should that happen, the fate of the bill is already known. Cheney has promised to have Bush veto it.

But that’s not all Bush intends to veto. Here’s a recent Associated Press story:

“President Bush is ready to veto an anti-terror bill unless Congress kills a provision he doesn’t like. At issue is a plan to let airport screeners unionize. An administration spokesman says if that stays in the legislation, Bush’s senior advisers [also known as Cheney] will urge a veto. 36 Republicans in the Senate are vowing to back the president up, which means any override attempt by Democrats will fall short of the two-thirds needed. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff warns that airport screeners are as much on the front lines of the terror war as the military is. Chertoff says ‘Marines don’t collectively bargain’ over where they’re going, and when it comes to screeners, the government needs flexibility. He cites fast redeployment in past cases, like Hurricane Rita.”

So, terrorism is preferable to workers having any say in the workplace. But is the main goal fighting terrorism or militarizing the nation? If airport employees are the “front line” of a war, who isn’t? To whom will it not be important to deny the right to freedom of assembly – in the name of fighting for “freedom”?

Frightening talk. But the Cheney-Bush gang is doing more than talking. Here’s a recent report from U.S. Labor Against the War:

On 23 February 2007, US and Iraqi forces raided the head offices of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), the country’s national trade union center. They arrested one of the union’s security staff (later released unharmed), destroyed furniture, and confiscated a computer and fax machine. And then they did it again two days later, causing further damage to the union headquarters. The union is condemning the attacks as unprovoked. It is calling on the occupation forces to issue a written apology, to return all the seized property, and to pay compensation for damages caused. Please show your support by sending off the message below. You can help! Type in your name and email address, then click on ‘Send Message’ here to send a message to the Iraqi and U.S. governments.

Well, now workers ARE clearly on the front lines, but they don’t seem to be on the same side of the battle as the White House. It makes one stop and wonder. What if U.S. unions felt some solidarity for Iraqi unions? What would that matter? Would it possibly mean that U.S. unions would do more than waste their members’ money lobbying for a bill that will be vetoed? Would it possibly mean that U.S. unions would put some brain and muscle into the effort they formally but meaninglessly “support” of ending the war? Would it possibly mean recognition of and the will to act on the need for impeachment of Bush and Cheney?

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold;
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.
For the Union makes us strong.