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[casi] Iraqi workers up against U.S. corporations

Iraqi workers up against U.S. corporations

By Judith Le Blanc

This article was reprinted from the July 5, 2003, issue of
the *People's Weekly World*.  For subscription information
see below.  All rights reserved - may be used with PWW

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), a nationwide network
of labor groups, recently presented an expose of the U.S.
corporate invasion of Iraq under cover of the U.S.-British
occupation.  The report was presented to the Workers'
Group of the International Labor Organization in Geneva,
June 14-15.

The report's introduction says, "If photos of corporate
criminals were hung on post office walls, many firms
identified in this report would find their profile
prominently displayed there."

Iraqi workers face a daunting challenge under the
U.S.-British occupation's open door policy for
corporations with records of labor, environmental, and
human rights violations as well as Wall Street finance
scandals.  The Bush administration's prejudicial process
for awarding contracts for Iraq has set off congressional
calls for full disclosure.  For example, MCI is receiving
a $30 million deal to build a mobile telecommunications
system.  "MCI was found to have committed the largest
corporate fraud in history, and that should be a major
factor in determining the fitness of contractors to do
business with the federal government," Sen. Edward
Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in a letter questioning government
contracts with this corporation.  Kennedy continued, "The
firm's false and deceptive reports of earnings caused
substantial harm to its employees and shareholders and to
the telecommunications industry as a whole."

Communication Workers of America, the union representing
MCI workers, calls MCI "one of the most union-hostile
corporations in the telecommunications industry."

The USLAW report details the history of the 17 other U.S.
corporations set to privatize Iraqi industries and
services and be given full control of the development of a
"free market economy."

With visions of a Middle East Free Trade Zone, the Bush
administration is steamrolling a privatization plan on a
country in which 30 percent of the workers were employed
by the state.  Who will ultimately control the Iraqi
economy is also a big worry for Iraqi business people and
merchants.  The Wall Street Journal reports Iraqi
businesses are now fighting to survive under occupation
without laws to protect their interests.  Mohammed
Al-Saraf, managing director of the Al-Saraf Group, a
family-owned company, said, "The doors are closed just
like under Saddam."

The labor report also says, "We can be sure that [the Bush
administration's] definition of 'democracy' does not
include workers' rights and strong independent unions.
Bush and his cohorts have waged a relentless assault
against organized labor and working families in the U.S.
We would expect nothing different in their treatment of
unions and workers in Iraq."

U.S. corporations are poised to reap huge profits while
the Iraqi people lack essential human services and
democratic rights.  With an eye to winning fat corporate
kickbacks to its 2004 election campaign, the Bush
administration has pursued a plan for post-war Iraq, which
can only bring more misery to the Iraqi people unless
effective international support is given to their
democratic right to organize against U.S. corporate
control of the rebuilding of their country.

The USLAW report aims to mobilize U.S. working people
to support the efforts of Iraqi workers, but also to
challenge the Bush administration's anti-worker,
anti-labor policies at home.

Gerald Zero, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 705
in Chicago, the union's second largest local of UPS
workers and a USLAW affiliate, said, "As Iraqis begin to
rebuild their labor movement, they will confront not only
U.S. authorities and their former Baathist managers, but
also some of the most powerful multinational corporations
in the world.  This report serves as an important
introduction to those employers."

Amy Newell, USLAW national organizer, said USLAW plans
to participate in an international labor delegation to
Iraq, "with the aim of gathering facts about the state and
needs of the workers in Iraq." Newell added, "We will want
to be part of this delegation and to build support for it
widely among working people in the United States."

The report says, "A strong, independent, free and
democratic labor movement and respect for workers' and
human rights must be an essential pillar of a new
democratic Iraq."

The author can be reached at

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