USLAW Press Conference in San Francisco, February 13, 2003

Note from the Editors of Labor Standard: This report is especially significant in that it mentions aforthcoming global labor declaration against the war.”

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), Labor Committee for Peace and Justice (LC4PJ), and the San Francisco Labor Council (SFLC) conducted a press conference this morning (Thursday, February 13, 10:00 a.m.) in the conference room of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in San Francisco. (The SFLC offices are two floors below the ILWU’s international offices.) The objective of the press conference was to build publicity for and participation in the labor contingent which USLAW and LC4PJ are organizing for Sunday’s antiwar demonstration in San Francisco.

In preparation for this media event, we set up a small committee led by Jack Rasmus, a member of National Writers Union Local 3/UAW Local 1981.  A press release was collectively developed and issued on Tuesday afternoon.  It was distributed by Dave Bates, the Communications Director of Local 250 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and also by the SFLC.  Follow-up was done by the committee and by media coordinators from Global Exchange and others handling publicity for the march and rally.  In this way, we believe that most primary media were contacted at least three times prior to the event, including calls on the morning of the press conference.

We issued an invitation to union officials from labor organizations known to be antiwar to send a spokesperson and encouraged them to bring a couple of rank and filers to the press conference. We also asked several to authorize quotes to be used in the press release. The release included short quotes from Gerry Zero, Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago, which hosted the founding conference of USLAW; Walter Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer of the SFLC; Sal Rosselli, President of SEIU Local 250; Trent Willis, Business Agent of ILWU Local 10 and Northern California member of the USLAW Continuations Committee; and Mary Bergan, President of the California Federation of Teachers.

We prepared a press packet which included the press release, a list of all California labor organizations known to be antiwar, a copy of the USLAW founding resolution and an account of the founding written by Michael Eisenscher for the LC4PJ newsletter, photos from the founding meeting and of labor contingent marchers in the last antiwar demonstration in San Francisco on Jan. 18, and a copy of flyers used to mobilize workers to participate in the labor contingent this Sunday.

We decorated the ILWU conference room with posters we had printed for the demonstration that say “No War in Iraq or Against Workers at Home—Labor Against War.” They also bear the logo of LC4PJ.  These and other demonstration posters provided the backdrop against which the TV cameras would shoot the speakers.

Yesterday and this morning prior to the event, four TV stations called Michael Eisenscher, the designated contact person, to confirm the event was still on and to indicate their intention to participate.

At the event, we had in fact Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 11, and 14, plus KGO and KPFA radio reporters, and a reporter for the SF Bay Guardian. The Chronicle and other print media did not send reporters.

Michael Eisenscher opened the press conference by introducing Trent Willis, who chaired. He made an introductory statement, then introduced Walter Johnson. Trent spoke about his union’s stake in this struggle and the founding of USLAW, and informed the media of a forthcoming global labor declaration against the war. After Walter’s remarks, there were several questions to the two of them from reporters. Trent then introduced in turn a number of union spokespeople for short remarks. We asked each to focus on one of four points, among others they might make:

  1. Why their union took a stand/passed a resolution against the war;

  2. The relevance for and impact of the impending war on their members;

  3. How the war will affect civil liberties, union rights and democratic liberties;

  4. Examples of members who planned to participate in their first protest demonstration.

The following then spoke for about 2–4 minutes each:

Trent Willis closed the press conference with some additional remarks and repeated his invitation to workers, both union and non-union, throughout California to come to San Francisco on Sunday to march in the labor contingent.