NLG INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE NEWSLETTER

 

November, 2001

 

THE CRITICAL NATURE OF THE GUILD’S INTERNATIONAL 

WORK: A REPORT FROM TUCSON

So is it really that important for a relatively small, progressive legal organization to be doing international work? On October 11th, the International Committee met during the Guild’s national convention for over six intense and incredibly exciting hours to report on the work we’ve been doing, evaluate our organizational structure, and specifically examine our role in light of the events of September 11th. The impact and importance of the Guild’s international work was never more apparent.

The Middle East Sub-Committee has reactivated in the past year, as a result of the Guild’s delegation to Israel and the Occupied Territories in January 2001. (The report is available on the Guild’s website, www.nlg.org; hard copies are also available through the National Office). Coalitions have been formed nationally and locally with groups working on the issue of Palestine; additional delegations are being planned; Guild members are living in Palestine, working with various human rights groups. The Convention included workshops on Palestine, and Iran and Iraq, which began the discussion of future programmatic work. More information about the committee is available from the committee co-chairs: Zaha Hassan, Portland, Oregon, zaha@uswest.net; Dan Burnstein, Boston, Mass., npro1@ziplink.net; Linda Mansour, Toledo, Ohio, lindamansour@aol.com.
The Cuba Sub-Committee continues to organize in support of Cuba, regularly sending delegations to meet with various labor organizations and providing information against the blockade. We have responded to the Bush administration’s interference with the rights of US citizens to travel to Cuba by establishing a "Wall of Lawyers" defense network. The workshop at the Convention organized by the Sub-Committee was well-attended, and pointed out the importance and difficulty of this work as one of the intended speakers – Guillermo Ferriol, a Cuban labor lawyer and union official – was denied a visa to attend the convention. A seminar on the issues of equality and law has been organized by the Guild in Camaguey, Cuba for January 7, 2002 through January 10, 2002; information about the seminar is available through Molly Doherty, mollydoherty@hotmail.com. For more information about the sub-committee, contact its chairperson, Art Heitzer, Milwaukie, Wisconsin, aheitzer@igc.org.
Guild members continue to do and support work being done around the borders and free trade issues. Guild members working in the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of American have helped to establish a Strategic Organizing Alliance between the UE and Mexico’s Authentic Labor Front (FAT) in order to build a new kind of international solidarity focused on organizing and based on rank-and-file involvement. Robin Alexander of the UE is a contact person for more information about this critical work: ueintl@igc.org.

 

We have continued to be actively involved with the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. In this past year, the Guild’s representative to IADL, Jeanne Mirer, has attended meetings in Europe, Bulgaria, and Hanoi. A conference on the Palestinian issue will be held in Paris in late November to which we intend to send several representatives. We are also helping to develop the International Commission for Labor Rights project which has been initiated by IADL. The purpose of the Commission is to provide critical assistance to all those seeking to enforce internationally and locally established labor laws by sending observers to investigate and report on alleged labor law violations. More information on the Commission is available at www.labourcommission.org. Our hope is to initiate training programs in the US for lawyers and law students to learn to participate in this project with colleagues from around the world. The first certification training for lawyers who are seeking to become commissioners to investigate abuses of labor rights will be held this January at the International Labor Organization Headquarters in Geneva. Anyone who is interested should immediately contact Jeanne Mirer at mirerfam@earthlink.net.
Guild members are also involved with other international legal organizations in Japan, North Korea, Colombia, Puerto Rico and South Africa, continuing to explore ways of getting more involved in the ongoing struggles in those countries.

 

As we met, it became apparent that to do our international work more effectively, we have to expand our present committee organization. Three committee co-chairs were chosen: Steven Goldberg of Portland, Oregon, Marjorie Cohn of San Diego, California, and Jeanne Mirer of Detroit, Michigan. We also decided to hire a law student to work for the committee approximately four hours per week and be based in San Diego. People amazingly came forward at the committee meeting offering to pay the student’s salary for the first year.

SEPTEMBER 11TH DISCUSSION

 

A significant part of the Committee’s Thursday meeting, followed by hours of additional meetings during the Convention, focused on the events of September 11th and their aftermath. People expressed feelings about as well as analysis of the events, carefully listening to and considering what each person said. We agreed that those responsible must be held accountable. But in determining how to make this happen, we have to be conscious of our core principles as a legal organization, and our analysis as lawyers of US law – particularly as it has adopted international law and the United Nations Charter. Two resolutions were passed dealing with these issues which will be set forth in Guild Practitioner – one discussing programmatic work to be taken by the Guild, the other re-asserting our opposition to the death penalty for those who are ultimately captured and held responsible for the September 11th atrocities. The resolutions have been posted on the Guild website: www.nlg.org.

Implementation of the resolutions now must become a critical focus of the Guild. A project has been developed by the Guild’s National Executive Committee focusing largely on the domestic implications of the "war against terrorism." (More information is available on the project’s website: post911@nlg.org.) But what role should we be taking in generating education and opposition to this country’s plans for a long running war? The Committee will be focusing on this question in the coming weeks.

Obviously, there is much work to be done. Contact us if you want more information about the Committee, or about any of the work discussed in this newsletter. Join the Committee (it’s $15 annually, free for law students). Send us articles describing the work which you’re already doing. There has never been a better time to get involved in this work.

Steven Goldberg sgold3631@inetarena.com

Jeanne Mirer mirerfam@earthlink.net

Marjorie Cohn libertad48@aol.com