March To Miami, ASJE's mid-journey report
Labor-Environmental Alliance Links Seattle to Miami in the Fight Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas
ON THE ROAD WITH THE BLUE-GREEN MACHINE. Moving across the US from Seattle to Miami, the unlikely alliance of trade unionists and environmentalists who derailed the World Trade Organization ministerial in 1999 is on the march again.
For immediate release: November 2003
Contact: Dan Leahy, 360-402-0441
Seven travelers from the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment (ASJE) will continue their 15-state cross-country caravan highlighting local labor-environmental issues and educating communities to the dangers posed by "free trade" agendas. The march began in Seattle and is moving through communities across the northwest and the US heartland to Miami. That's where officials will meet on November 20-21 to propose the world's largest free trade area (Free Trade Area of the Americas).
From Oct 28 through Nov 19, the "Blue-Green Machine," a 1975 Crown biodiesel bus, will bring ASJE organizers to FTAA protest events in Dayton, Chicago, Lexington, Nashville, Memphis, Tampa and other towns in the Midwest and South. ASJE speakers and the Blue-Green Machine's "Not Ready for Free Trade Players" will take part in planned events ranging from rallies, banquets, teach-ins, classes, a protest at Brach's Candy (moving to Mexico from Chicago area), and finally, a three-day bike-puppet walk with union and youth activists, from Ft. Lauderdale into Miami.
"This March is reinvigorating the alliance of trade activists, rank and file union members, ranchers, environmentalists and others who were so effective in stopping the expansion of NAFTA and shutting down the WTO," said Dan Leahy, Executive Director of ASJE and tour participant.
ASJE and the Blue Green Machine offer local organizers an opportunity to connect to other communities around shared issues. With its presentation on the importance of alliances, followed by a Reader's Theater called "The Race to the Bottom," the ASJE is simultaneously enlivening and enlightening local participants. Original songs that parody free trade and corporate dominance while celebrating a growing resistance movement are another popular feature of the Road Show.
"The "FTAA - No Way!" song [to the tune and motions of "YMCA"] got everyone up and on their feet together," said Bill Carey, United Steelworkers staff member and co-chair of the Alliance, who helped organize an event in Indianapolis on Oct. 20. "It was all we could do to keep them from starting off for Miami that night!"
Upcoming events promise to be as diverse as those in the Western US: In Missoula, Mt., trade union floats and "blue-green cheerleaders" participated in the Homecoming Parade for the first time. In Coeur d'Alene, ID., Umpqua Watershed Council members walked precincts with trade unionists gathering signatures for an initiative to repeal Idaho's draconian "Right to Work" law. In Bismarck, N.D., farmers and State Labor Council activists held a joint press conference on the Capitol steps to protest dumping. In Minnesota and Iowa, Steelworkers rallied a broad coalition of unions and environmental groups for spirited demonstrations. In Missouri and Indiana, union members strategized with young activists from Jobs With Justice and the Sierra Club to produce "Town Hall" meetings and downtown rallies that focused on the threat the FTAA poses to local industry and environment.
"In simple terms, the March to Miami poses the question 'Do you want to reward work rather than wealth?'" said Dan Leahy, ASJE Executive Director and participant in the tour. "The free trade economy rewards wealth and enshrines corporate profit as a value above all others. Our alliances are building toward an economy that rewards work and reflects community values."
Note: The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment Education Project (ASJE) is a non-profit organization composed of environmental and union activists. The seeds of the Alliance were planted when forest activists fighting the Maxxam Corporation's destruction of ancient redwoods joined forces with Steelworkers locked out of Maxxam's Kaiser Aluminum plants. Its mission is to nurture a new possibility of political power by building a strong and broad-based national network of local labor-environmental ("blue-green") alliances. In this way, ASJE helps to create the basis for a new social contract in which communities are empowered to ensure that "nature is protected, the worker is respected, and unrestrained corporate power is rejected."
The structure of the Alliance embodies the view that a strong labor/environmental movement must be rooted in a merging of organizational cultures and maintained by a network of personal relationships grounded in local political work. ASJE's membership today stands at 86 union locals and organizations and 210 individuals from the labor and environmental movements. The Board consists of 12 individuals, six elected by environmental members and six by labor members. Bill Carey of United States Steelworkers District 7 and Fred Huette of the Oregon Sierra Club are paired as the Board's co-chairs.
The basic work of ASJE is undertaken through four working groups that have evolved with the Alliance's program opportunities and local resources. Currently, there are four working groups: Restoration Jobs, Energy, Global Trade and Rogue Corporations. Each of the working groups pairs a labor and an environmental co-chair, and includes members from on and off the Board.
For more information check out the Alliance's website, www.asje.org. Or contact the Alliance directly at ASJE, Box 602, Olympia, WA 98507 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
address: ASJE, Box 602, Olympia, WA 98507
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