U.S. Labor Against the War, Iraqi Labor, and "inside/Outside" with the Ituc

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Michael ZWEIG, Center for Study of Working Class Life, USA
The ITUC operates at levels far removed from rank and file activities of local unions.  As a federation of national labor federations, the ITUC is insulated from the daily workings of its affiliates’ affiliates.  In the other direction, most union officers, to say nothing of members, have no idea what the ITUC is, or that it even exists.

Yet we know from rich experience that influencing nation-state labor policies requires an “inside-outside” strategy.  “Inside” players at high levels of policy access are necessary to move legislatures or regulatory agencies.  But “outside” players among ordinary people, organized in mass movements, are also necessary.

My presentation will focus on the experience of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) in building on-the-ground support for labor reform legislation in Iraq.  I propose to explore the inside-outside dynamics exemplified by USLAW’s work in the U.S. and with the Iraqi labor movement, as it has unfolded parallel with, but not in direct communication with, ITUC activity.  USLAW worked with the AFL-CIO’s international affairs department and Solidarity Center, which provided indirect coordination with the ILO and ITUC.  The presentation will offer insight into the dynamics of the “inside-outside” process when paired with ITUC efforts. 

USLAW, formed in 2003 to oppose the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq, includes 170 locals, central labor councils, state federations, and other U.S. labor organizations.  USLAW has established solidarity relations with the Iraqi labor movement.  USLAW has helped to mobilize American and Iraqi workers in efforts to pass internationally recognized Iraqi labor laws.  The ITUC also participated in this process, resulting in passage by the Iraqi parliament in September 2015 of a new labor law.  Work continues to pass a trade union law that would allow collective bargaining by Iraqi public sector workers, the majority of the labor force.