As union workers continue to strike at Yale, some labor supporters turned their attention Wednesday night to a larger struggle.
Last night the Yale Coalition for Peace hosted an open forum titled “Labor. War. Connection?” in the Dwight Hall Library. About 40 people attended the event, including Yale undergraduates and graduate students, Southern Connecticut State University students, and New Haven residents.
Coalition member Saqib Bhatti ’04 said the forum was planned to open the discussion about connections between the labor and anti-war movements.
“The links are often overlooked,” Bhatti said.
Steve Thornton, a member of SEIU 1199 and CT Labor against the War, discussed an “unprecedented coalition of unions” that has formed, under the U.S. Labor Against the War. He called for an extremely broad peace movement, beginning with students and activists.
“We will win peace, we will stop the war, or God forbid if the war starts, we will shorten it, when we have the broadest possible peace movement,” Thornton said.
GESO chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said GESO does not have an official position on the war, but said she is against it. Seth drew the labor-anti-war connection from what she perceives as a lack of democratic control on both fronts.
Seth said too few people are making the important decisions at local and national levels, and she urged everyone to fight back.
“The labor movement is key to reclaiming our democracy,” Seth said.
Undergraduate Organizing Committee member Thomas Frampton ’06 described the racial dynamic that he said exists in both struggles. He cited statistics showing disproportionate numbers of blacks killed on battle lines, and then said a high percentage of Yale’s lowest-paying jobs belong to blacks and Hispanics.
Frampton also talked about a shift in popular discourse. He said it seems that many people address the issues of war and labor with a general acceptance, rather then truly questioning what is happening. Frampton also urged students to become active in their approach to issues of labor and war, saying he thinks many students feel “it isn’t their fight.” He said this attitude needs to change, and students must realize that they are a part of the larger issues of labor and war.
Sam Bernstein ’05, a member of the Yale Coalition for Peace, said financial priorities are mixed up in the cases of both labor and war. He said that although there is plenty of money for tax cuts for the rich and the “war machine,” there is not enough for much needed social services.
When the discussion was opened to the audience, a number of people spoke up in favor of the labor and anti-war movements.
Naveen Jaganathan, a junior at Southern Connecticut State University, said the link between the two issues is profit. He said that Yale, like militarism and corporate domination, is based on profit.
George Edwards, a former member of the New Haven Black Panther Party, urged labor unions to provide refuge and support for soldiers who rebel against the war effort. Edwards referred to Vietnam and said the government’s greatest fear is rebellion within the ranks of the U.S. military.
One person offered noticeably different views from the rest of the group. Eric Tung ’06 prefaced his comments by saying, “I’d like to give a little spark.”
Tung said he is torn on the question of war. He referred to a headline he recently read that said, “The Hawks Have My Mind, but the Doves Have My Heart.”
He said he believes everyone — on both sides of the labor and war issues — shares the goal of peace. He said the difficult choices are about how to achieve that peace, and sometimes it is difficult to ascertain which direction one should take.
Tung said he came to Tuesday’s forum to hear “the other side,” which for him, was the pro-union, anti-war side.
“I wanted to not only challenge what I say, but what they say,” Tung said.