Joe Burns writing in Working In These Times:
Important labor groups are speaking out against the recent spate of federal attacks on the civil liberties of U.S. peace and labor activists. On October 1, 2010, the convention of AFSCME Council 5, representing 46,000 public employees in Minnesota, passed a resolution objecting to recent FBI raids of prominent peace and labor rights activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Likewise, the San Francisco Central Labor Council delegates meeting voted on September 27 to denounce the raids and “participate in the ongoing movement to defend our civil rights and civil liberties from FBI infringement.”
On September 24, the FBI raided the homes of seven activists, seizing computers, cell phones and documents. The FBI also raided the offices of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, seizing their computer containing a database of supporters. The peace movement nationally has roundly condemned the FBI for attempting to silence dissent. In the weeks following the raids, demonstrators protested in dozens of US cities.
The FBI also issued subpoenas requiring the activists to testify before a grand jury in Chicago. Many of those subpoenaed are trade unionists. The AFSCME Council 5 resolution noted that four of the subpoenaed activists were members in good standing of ASCME Council 5. The San Francisco CLC resolution made note that among the Chicago activists subpoenaed was Joe Losbaker, a longtime SEIU chief steward at the University of Illinois Chicago and a stalwart in the Chicago labor solidarity scene.
They are also workers, parents and homeowners—real peoplewho face real consequences and a terrible choice: If they refuse to cooperate with this illegitimate fishing expedition, they face imprisonment. This jeopardizes their jobs, their homes and their families. All have informed the grand jury they will refuse to testify.
The FBI raids came the same week the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General criticized the FBI (PDF link) for engaging in surveillance of domestic peace groups, including the pacifist Merton Center. The report found no compelling reason for the FBI infiltrating and conducting surveillance of these domestic groups.
Read more here.