Teachers union endorses antiwar rally

Workers’ Correspondence

Over 1,000 union representatives and delegates attending the United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly on Jan. 10 gave a rousing response to President George Bush even before he gave his speech calling for an escalation of the war in Iraq. Several speakers rose to condemn the presence of military recruiters in schools throughout New York City. One delegate made a resolution to put this issue before the body at the February delegates meeting. This was passed resoundingly.

The UFT is Local 2 of the American Federation of Teachers in NYC.

But the highlight of the afternoon was when a union rep from one of the large high schools in the Bronx took the floor to call for the UFT to support the national antiwar demonstration on Jan. 27, in Washington, D.C. The speaker, a representative of the UFT’s New Action Caucus, cited the union’s stance several months ago endorsing the AFL-CIO resolution on the war in Iraq, which called for a rapid withdrawal of troops. He also asked that the union provide buses to go to Washington.

One speaker, a longtime union stalwart, made an impassioned speech to reject support for the demonstration. He argued that it was a divisive issue and would divert us from other important fights.

By not opposing the resolution, UFT President Randi Weingarten basically lent her support to it. The call to endorse the national demonstration was met with resounding approval when the 1,000-plus delegates in a near unanimous vote supported it.

Dozens of delegates approached the New Action/UFT member after the meeting to thank him for raising the issue from the floor.

This was a historic turn for the UFT. It went beyond passing progressive resolutions and put the union on record supporting a major national antiwar demonstration. This follows on the heels of Weingarten calling on delegates to join her at a protest rally and march last month to protest the police killing of Sean Bell in Queens, N.Y.

— David Samson, New York City