Forum on the road to peace

CHICAGO - There have been 433,000 layoffs since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, Jaime Daniel said as she opened a forum on the war in Afghanistan here Oct. 15

Daniel is co-chair of the Committee for New Priorities, which sponsored the forum, 'The Road to Peace and Justice.' CNP is a committee of Chicago Jobs with Justice.

The first of five panelists, Dave Ranney, from the Alliance for Responsible Trade, urged members of the audience to call their representatives in Congress and tell them to vote against the 'fast track' legislation on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) that could be voted up or down as early as Oct. 19. 'You can't separate the peace agenda from the trade agenda,' Ranney said.

The FTAA provides no labor protection for the workers, he said, and will increase the chance of escalating the war.

Jennifer Bing Canar, from the American Friends Service Committee spoke about discrimination and harassment towards Arab Americans.

'Garbage was being dumped in the yards of the homes of Arab Americans,' she said, as well as incidents of increased job discrimination and other forms of harassment.

One way to cool off these attacks is to challenge the concept of a 'clean' war, Canar said, and to let the American people see the death and destruction occurring in Afghanistan.

Kevin Martin of Peace Action, the largest peace organization in the country, said, 'Justice not vengeance is on the minds of many Americans.' He offered three suggestions to help stop terrorism: an independent Palestinian state side by side a secure Israeli state; stop the bombing in Iraq as well as Afghanistan and stop supporting military regimes in oil rich countries.

Cynthia Rodriguez, vice-president of Service Employees International Union Local 73, representing 22,000 public sector workers, was the only labor leader on the panel.

'This war was a gift for the Bush administration,' she said. 'They came in with an agenda to attack Social Security and workers' rights and they are on a roll.'

Rodriguez said that, although the majority of the labor movement supports the Bush administration's war right now, that will soon change as the rank and file puts more and more pressure on their leaders after their democratic rights are taken away along with the right to organize and the right to strike.

The last panelist was Lenore Palladino representing Students Against Sweatshops. She appealed to the panel to include youth and student organizations in their alliances for peace and justice. She also spoke about the growing protests on the college campuses all over the country asking for peace not war.