San Francisco Labor Contingent Marches Against War

by Charles Walker

San Francisco, February 16—More than 500 San Francisco Bay Area trade unionists joined a jam-packed antiwar march up the city’s main thoroughfare today. Marching behind a twenty-foot “Labor Against War” banner and a dockworkers’ drill team, the trade union contingent was the result of vigorous organizing by the newly formed U.S. Labor Against War (USLAW). Officials from many area AFL-CIO Labor Councils were on hand, and at least a dozen official local union banners showed that members from the SEIU, Roofers, California Nurses Association, Plumbers, Teamsters, and the National Writers Union had turned out.

Although only a small part of today’s protest demonstration, estimated at 250,000 by rally planners, the organized labor contingent was the largest number of unionists, as unionists, to be seen at the several antiwar rallies of recent months. Just recently, some lagging regional central labor councils have adopted antiwar resolutions, as have some local unions, including San Francisco Teamsters Local 85, only the second in the country to break with the national Teamsters’ apparent support of the administration’s war aims.

The labor contingent, however, wasn’t the only sign of trade unionists at the protest march. Here and there, T-shirts, buttons, and hand-made signs indicated that many trade unionists marched, although not with the labor contingent. But the throngs were so huge (the column that filled the sidewalks, as well as the street, was three hours long!) that it’s inconceivable to think that thousands of wage earners, unionized or not, didn’t march on their own, independent of any organization, including unions.

The presence of the labor contingent and the founding of USLAW are sure to mean that more intense lobbying of union officers and organizing among the union ranks is likely to get under way. The potential for rallying workers, as workers, is at least as enormous as the unpopularity of the government’s war plans.