At the April 16 Mobilization for Global Justice
UE Members Say,
‘Close the IMF,
FOR THE FUTURE
Sec-Treas. Bob Clark (left) was among the rally speakers. At
right, he leads a UE contingent along with UE District 11 Pres.
Nesbitt, president of UE Local 714, and his wife made the long
ride from Sandusky, Ohio (below, right); behind them is Jim Lemke,
recording secretary of UE Local 1111 in Milwaukee.
heavy police presence (above, left) was designed to ensure that
there would not be a repetition of last falls' 'Battle of
Seattle,' in which protestors succeeded in preventing meetings of
the World Trade Organization. There were many reports of
violations of civil liberties; even tourists found themselves
jailed for hours.
puppets and colorful floats figured prominently in the march and
rally on April 16th.
Nader denounced taxpayer-subsidized bailouts and the IMF's
opposition to trade union rights. The consumer advocate is
Presidential Candidate of the Green Party (center). At right, IUE
President Ed Fire denounced GE's movement of jobs abroad. Fire
chairs the Coordinated Bargaining Committee of GE unions, which
For many of the dozens of UE members who traveled long hours
and miles to be in Washington, D.C. on April 16, the slogan on the placard
proudly carried by Mike Schwertz, UE Local 690 recording secretary,
summarized why they were there: "Close the IMF Not
Union members joined the Mobilization for Global Justice to
take a stand for jobs and decent wages and conditions for workers the world
over, and to protest a global economy in which the rules are made by a few
behind closed doors.
UE had the largest and most visible union contingent among the
10,000 or more gathered in Washington to protest the International Monetary
Fund and World Bank. The protestors, many of them young, came to together to
condemn destructive environmental policies, global poverty, unfair trade,
sweatshops and human rights abuses that can be linked to the policies of the
two powerful financial agencies.
The IMF, a secretive organization without accountability,
imposes NAFTA-like conditions on developing nations, with an emphasis on
driving down wages. The IMF forces governments to rewrite laws to benefit
foreign investors and imposes austerity programs, which can include cuts in
social spending and privatization.
The World Bank is the largest lender in the world to poor
countries, often funding huge development projects. When countries can’t
meet their payments on the World Bank loans, they borrow from the IMF — and
as a condition of those loans, the agency gains the power to make major
economic decisions instead of national governments.
"The World Bank and IMF make it easier for corporations
to ship our jobs overseas and around the world," said UE in encouraging
membership participation in the April 16 protest. "These are the
international financial organizations that force developing nations to yield
to multinational corporations, to trample on people’s rights and allow their
natural resources to be ravaged."
UE was the second union to endorse the event; the first union
was the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), like UE a Labor
But if UE was near the front of the line in endorsements —
as it was in the line of march — others in the labor movement also got
At the rally in The Ellipse, the park between the White House
and the Washington Monument, AFL-CIO Sec.-Treas. Rich Trumka brought
the greetings and endorsement of the federation’s Executive Council.
"The IMF is not working for working families," declared Trumka, who
said the protestors were "stirring the souls of our nation."
Also speaking for labor were Steelworkers Pres. George
Becker, AFSMCE Pres. Gerry McEntee, AFGE Pres. Bobby Harnage,
IUE Pres. Ed Fire, chair of the Coordinated Bargaining Committee of GE
Unions, and UE’s Bob Clark.
The UE general secretary-treasurer called for an end to all
U.S. support for the World Bank and IMF in a hard-hitting speech that pulled
no punches about the nature of the economic system.
Other speakers include outspoken consumer advocate Ralph
Nader, presidential candidate of the Green Party, U.S. Rep. Denis
Kucinich (D., Ohio), and Cheri Honkala of the Kensington Welfare
Emcee for part of the rally was film-maker and political
satirist Michael Moore, who introduced the crowd to a potted Ficus
plant he plans to run against an incumbent Republican Congressman in New
Jersey, in conjunction with his "Awful Truth" series on Bravo.
A massive police presence guaranteed that finance minsters and
other officials from many nations were able to attend the IMF meetings. Police
in riot gear sealed off several blocks around the buildings housing the World
Bank and IMF. Key stops on the Washington Metro were closed as well, causing
problems for UE members who tried to rendezvous prior to the rally.
Only a handful of protestors (none of them UE members) were
arrested that Sunday. On the previous day police arrested more than 600,
sweeping an entire block. Police arrested peaceful protestors, tourists and
bystanders, including two employees of the World Bank. "I had been there
for less than five minutes when the police closed both sides of the street and
did not allow anyone to pass even though nothing except a peaceful march was
taking place," wrote Leon Galindo, World Bank consultant. "No
warning was given. No explanation was made."
"For all practical purposes, the police proved to be the
greatest allies of the protesters in this demonstration because they perfectly
proved the point that the protesters were trying make in this march: poverty
and suppression of liberty go hand in hand and lead to further social
injustice," Galindo wrote. He was held for 23 hours, along with hundreds
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