One year ago, more than 50,000 protesters from around the world converged in Seattle to protest the third ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization, a powerful global commerce group whose mechanisms and authority were largely unknown to the public, shrouded in bureaucratic secrecy. The protesters, representing a broad coalition of interests from human rights, the environment, public health and agriculture, took to the streets and in a week’s time made “WTO” a household word and the name “Seattle” synonymous with the resurgence of global activism in the United States.
One year later, the “Battle for Seattle” wages on, as the various organizations who mobilized there try to keep public attention focused on the ongoing threats posed by the WTO, the World Bank, free trade agreements, globalization and corporate greed. On Nov. 30, regional representatives from some of those groups will be in Missoula for a forum and panel discussion at the University of Montana entitled “Beyond the World Trade Organization: Convergence, Coalition and Commitment.”
“It’s been a corporate agenda for decades to blame everything either on labor or the environment. When jobs are lost to overseas it’s either the environmentalists’ fault or the high cost of labor here,” says Don Kegley of the United Steelworkers of America in Spokane, one of the forum panelists. Kegley is also labor chair for the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, an international coalition that bridges the interests of labor groups and environmentalists.
“The fact is, there are literally thousands or tens of thousands of jobs that can be created protecting the environment,” says Kegley. “Once we can stop the [corporate] rhetoric, then we can begin to actively pursue those jobs and protecting the environment.”
“It’s good to see a reawakening of more of the progressive, leftist movements in this country,” says panelist James “JR” Roof, co-founder of The Ruckus Society, an organization that trains people in public campaigns and tactics of nonviolent protest. “It’s good to see people finally key in to the powers and the lack of accountability within the WTO.”
Other panelists will include agricultural activist Helen Waller of the Northern Plains Resource Council and Rita Jankowski-Bradley of Missoula Women for Peace. The evening will begin with photos and a video presentation of the Seattle protests by Joe DeFelice of High Plains Films.
The forum will be held Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the North Urey Underground Lecture Hall on UM campus. The event is free and open to the public.