Labor Activists Condemn FBI Repression

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We deplore FBI raids on antiwar and Palestinian rights activists that took place in several cities on Friday, September 24, 2010.

The FBI claims it is investigating support for “terrorism.” But why are these activists really being targeted?

  • For organizing antiwar protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, at which hundreds were beaten and arrested.
  • For expressing solidarity with labor and popular movements in Colombia, where U.S.-funded government death squads have systematically assassinated hundreds of trade unionists.
  • For opposing U.S. support of Israeli apartheid, which faces growing international isolation following its brutal war against the people of Gaza.

One such activist is Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network in Chicago. While at the hospital where his mother is battling cancer, more than half a dozen FBI agents invaded his home and seized any document containing the word “Palestine.”

A remarkable number of the others are longtime labor activists:

*Joe Iosbaker, chief steward and executive board member of SEIU Local 73 in Chicago, where he has led struggles at the University of Illinois for employee rights and pay equity. He is a supporter of Labor for Palestine.

His wife, Stephanie Weiner, is a founding member and former executive board member and past member of the bargaining committee of AFSCME Local 3506 at Chicago City Colleges. She is a Palestine solidarity activist.

As Brother Iosbaker explained, FBI agents “systematically [went] through every room, our basement, our attic, our childrens’ rooms, and pored through not just all of our papers, but our music collection, our childrens’ artwork, my son’s poetry journal from high school — everything.”

*Tom Burke, former executive board member and union steward in SEIU Local 73 at the Oak Park River Forest public schools.

*Steff York and Jess Sundin, members of AFSCME Local 3800 and leaders of strikes at the University of Minnesota in 2004 and 2007.

*Tracy Molm, staff person for AFSCME Local 3800 in Minneapolis.

*Meredith Aby, member of Education Minnesota (NEA/AFT).

*Mick Kelly, member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Such political witch-hunts against social justice activists — under both Democrats and Republicans — are nothing new for the FBI.

In the 1950s, it spearheaded McCarthyism.

In the 1960s, its infamous COINTELPRO campaign targeted leaders of the civil rights and antiwar movements, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panther Party. It attacked the American Indian and Puerto Rican independence movements.

Until recently, even Nelson Mandela was on the U.S. government’s politically-determined “terrorism” list.

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration — with bipartisan Congressional support — launched a new attack on civil liberties and immigrant rights, thereby promoting war abroad and fueling a wave of racism and anti-Muslim bigotry at home.

Today, the Obama administration similarly exploits the pretext of “terrorism” in an effort to silence growing opposition to U.S. wars and apartheid Israel.

Indeed, these raids came only four days after the Department of Justice Inspector General criticized the FBI for targeting domestic groups such as Greenpeace and the pacifist Thomas Merton Center.

Like Dr. King before us, we will not be silenced. Instead, we ask all members of the labor movement to join us in demanding:

  1. Stop the repression against trade union, antiwar and international solidarity activists.
  2. Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, personal belongings, etc.
  3. End the Grand Jury proceedings and FBI raids against trade union, antiwar and international solidarity activists.

Further, we join with the San Francisco Labor Council, which on September 27 called on all labor bodies, including Change to Win and the AFL-CIO, to declare their support for these demands before, during and after the One Nation March in Washington, DC on October 2.

Initial Signers


Endorse this statement:

Larry Adams, Former President, NPMHU L. 300; Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War; People’s Organization for Progress
Michael Letwin, Former President, ALAA/UAW L. 2325; Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War; Labor for Palestine; Al-Awda NY; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network/Labor
Brenda Stokely, Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-Convener, New York City Labor Against the War; Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement
Monadel Herzallah, President, Arab American Union Members Council, California
Stanley Heller, AFT L. 1547, Delegate, CT Central Labor Council
Lee Sustar, NWU/UAW L. 1981
Anthony Arnove, NWU/UAW L. 1981, NYC
Andy Griggs, Retired Social Justice Teacher/Unionist
Emma Rosenthal, Retired Social Justice Teacher/Unionist; Cafe Intifada and LA-Palestine Labor Solidarity
Mike Gimbel, Retired Former Executive Board Member, AFSCME L. 375
Dave Welsh, Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council
Marty Goodman, Former Executive Bd. Member, TWU L. 100
Azalia Torres, Former Executive Bd. Member, ALAA/UAW L. 2325
Julie Fry, Vice-President, ALAA/UAW L. 2325
Steve Terry, ALAA/UAW L. 2325


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