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A lesson for Cuba solidarity in AFL-CIO turnaround on Iraq War.

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  • Zola2642@aol.com
    From: Emile Schepers This is a bit off-topic, but I forward it because there is a lesson for all international solidarity work, including Cuba solidarity work,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2005
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      From: Emile Schepers

      This is a bit off-topic, but I forward it because there is
      a lesson for all international solidarity work, including
      Cuba solidarity work, in this:

      Here is a transcript of the dramatic moment at the AFL-CIO
      convention in Chicago, when the strongly worded resolution
      for a pullout from the Iraq War was passed with little
      opposition. This suggests that similar resolutions to end
      the Cuba blockade and many other things can and will
      eventually be brought forward and passed, IF the left stops
      talking to the left and does begins to talk to ordinary
      co-workers, neighbors etc.

      These things do not fall from the sky, but rather are the
      product of long and diligent efforts by left-wing and
      progressive trade unionists, working within their own
      unions to educate members on these issues. A key role was
      played by Fred Mason, head of the Maryland and DC AFL-CIO,
      who also did not fall from the sky, but is who he is, and
      is able to do what he does, because he was elected by rank
      and file workers in the Washington-Baltimore area, who
      support what he is doing. So much for "backward American

      Many thanks to US Labor Against the War and others who
      worked on this signal service to humanity. We need to all
      call and fax and e-mail the corporate controlled press to
      denounce the fact that NOWHERE was this important action

      There was not a word in the NY times, USA Today, in the
      major TV stations, Washington Post etc. To the
      establishment press, the "only story" from the convention
      was about the decision of certain unions to disaffiliate
      from the AFL-CIO (the anti-war position had support both
      from unions who left or who are dissafected, and from those
      who stayed in. The two unions who have butted heads the
      hardest in the infighting in the AFL-CIO, SEIU and AFSCME,
      had both come out earlier with strongly worded anti-war
      resolutions from their own conventions (so if they can
      unite on this ....?).

      Transcription of Debate on AFL-CIO Resolution 53 on Iraq
      Date: 7/29/05 9:25:48 PM Central Daylight Time

      For the first time in its 50 year history, the AFL-CIO voted to break
      with the U.S. government over a foreign war. The decision to adopt a
      resolution calling for rapid return of all U.S. troops from Iraq was
      the product of more than a year of patient steady organizing on the
      part of antiwar labor activists and union leaders across the country,
      led and coordinated by U.S. Labor Against the War.

      Eighteen AFL-CIO affiliates (unions, labor councils and state
      federations) submitted resolutions calling for either an immediate or
      rapid end to the occupation and return of the troops. The General
      Executive Council, meeting on the eve of the convention, prepared its
      own resolution, drawing elements from the eighteen but failing to
      include a demand for immediate or rapid withdrawal. It was the GEC
      resolution that was reported to the convention floor for a vote by
      the Resolutions Committee, which met over the weekend prior to the
      opening of the convention in Monday, July 25th.

      Throughout the weekend and all day Monday, USLAW supporters leafleted
      and lobbied delegates, inviting them to a reception Monday evening
      cosponsored by Pride at Work and USLAW for the Iraqi union leaders
      who attended the convention as guests of the AFL-CIO. More than 150
      people turned out for the reception, reflecting the strength of
      antiwar sentiment and support for a strong anti-occupation

      USLAW forces caucused and decided to propose an amendment calling for
      a rapid return of the troops. The transcription that follows makes
      clear that by "rapid" the delegates mean "immediate" or "speedy"
      withdrawal, not some drawn out "phased" down-sizing of the U.S.
      military presence. No one spoke against the amendment, which was
      adopted, nor against the amended resolution. The resolution passed by
      an overwhelming majority vote of the delegates.

      AFL-CIO 25th National Convention Chicago, Illinois Debate on
      Resolution 53 on Iraq (Tuesday afternoon, July 26, 2005)

      [Unofficial transcription of recording of debate.]

      * Presentation of Resolution 53 by Leo Gerard, President of the
      Steelworkers union, on behalf of the AFL-CIO's Resolutions Committee:

      Resolution 53 deals with our country's military involvement in Iraq,
      surely a difficult and contentious issue. The resolution applauds the
      courage of our soldiers, insists that they be properly equipped with
      protective fighting gear and armored vehicles, and calls for expanded
      benefits for veterans and those returning from Iraq.

      It calls for our troops to be brought home as quickly as possible.

      And finally the resolution asserts that the bedrock of any democracy
      is a free, democratic labor movement, and calls on the Iraqi
      government to adopt new labor laws that conform to ILO standards.

      This resolution was submitted by the Executive Council and subsumes
      Resolutions 35 to 39, and Resolution 56. Upon adoption of Resolution
      53, there will be no further action taken on the subsumed

      The many resolutions submitted on Iraq clearly reflect the very
      strongly held views from around the country on the war in Iraq. There
      were 18 different resolutions originally submitted by State Labor
      Federations and Central Labor Councils, some of which were combined
      before the resolutions were finalized.

      Resolution 53 reflects many months of consideration and discussion by
      the International Affairs Committee of the AFL-CIO and more recently
      this week by the Resolutions Committee.

      Mr. Chairman, this Committee recommends that Resolution 53 be
      adopted. On behalf of the Committee, I so move.

      * Gerald McEntee, President of the American Federation of State,
      County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Chairperson of the
      Convention Resolutions Committee:

      You heard the report of the committee. Do I hear support? Yes, I hear
      support. The Chair understands that the delegate on microphone 3 is
      prepared to offer what the Federation believes is a friendly
      amendment to Resolution 53. And I would like to invite delegate Fred
      Mason to make such an amendment. Brother Mason ...

      * Fred Mason, President, Maryland State and District of Columbia

      Thank you very much. I'm Fred Mason, President of the Maryland State
      and District of Columbia AFL-CIO and also a proud member of the
      American Federation of Teachers.

      I rise today to offer a friendly amendment. This amendment would
      change Paragraph 2, Line 9 and would simply change the words "as
      quickly as possible" to "rapidly." I would urge for a second to this
      friendly amendment. [spontaneous applause from the delegates]

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      The Chair deems this a friendly amendment. Does he have support? I
      hear support. All those in favor of the friendly amendment signify by
      saying "aye" [loud response]. Those opposed say "no" [no opposition
      heard]. The "ayes" have it. Your amendment is friendly, brother.

      Fred Mason:

      Thank you very much. And if I may, President McEntee, I also would
      like to express my pride in the work and deliberations of the
      Executive Council in taking up this very important issue.

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Good. Most of the International Affairs Committee, as Leo [Gerard]
      said, worked very hard and very long. The delegate on mic 1 ...

      * Traven Leyshon, President, Washington-Orange-Lamoille Labor Council

      My name is Traven Leyshon. I am the President of the
      Washington-Orange-Lamoille Labor Council in Vermont. Our labor
      council is one of the 18 affiliates that submitted resolutions quite
      similar to the one that we're discussing at this point. Our central
      labor council and our Vermont State Federation call for supporting
      our troops by bringing them home now [applause] to their families and
      loved ones. We took this position only after careful consideration
      and building unity among the membership and officers of our local
      unions and community allies.

      By adopting this resolution we will join with unions representing
      millions of members who have taken a stand for peace and against
      occupation. To mention only a few: AFSCME, CWA, APWU, American
      Federation of Musicians, many of our State Federations (California,
      Washington, Wisconsin, Vermont, etc.), as well as numerous central
      labor councils -- as well, of course, as SEIU and NEA. Indeed, I
      think, this is a majority of organized labor.

      Many of our troops are union members, or they're from families of
      union members, who face extraordinary danger with courage and
      sacrifice. Bringing them home now is the best means of protecting and
      honoring them.

      The Bush Administration is using the war and national security
      hysteria to create a climate to attack civil liberties, collective
      bargaining rights, and the right to organize. Just ask the Department
      of Defense employees, the Transportation Security Administration
      workers, or the West Coast longshoremen about the impact of the war
      on workers' rights.

      The Vermont AFL-CIO was a proud sponsor, along with many of you, of a
      recent tour of Iraqi labor leaders who met with thousands of union
      members across this country. The Iraqis gave voice to the working
      people of Iraq -- until the tour, a voice largely unheard in the U.S.
      They issued a joint statement, which states in part:

      "The principal obstacle to peace, stability, and the reconstruction
      of Iraq is the occupation. The occupation is the problem, not the
      solution. Iraqi sovereignty and independence must be restored. The
      occupation must end in all its forms, including military bases and
      economic domination. ... The occupation has been a catastrophe for
      both our peoples."

      As Resolution 53 concludes:

      "Iraq's workers and their institutions are already leaders in the
      struggle for democracy. Trade unionists are being targeted for their
      activism, and some have paid for their valor with their lives. ... In
      concert with the international trade union movement, the AFL-CIO will
      continue to provide our full solidarity to Iraq's workers as they
      lead the struggle for and end to the violence and a more just and
      democratic nation."

      Indeed, as the voice of the organized U.S. working class, we have a
      responsibility to stand with Iraq's courageous labor movement, and to
      fight to bring our troops home now! I thank you. [applause]

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Delegate mic 2 ...

      * Nancy Wohlforth, International Secretary Treasurer, Office and
      Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) and National
      Co-Chair, Pride at Work:

      My name is Nancy Wohlforth, and I'm with the Office and Professional
      Employees International Union. I would just like to draw the
      attention of all the delegates to the unionists who are here from
      Iraq. Could you please stand up [addressing the Iraqi delegation in
      the guest section of the convention hall] so we can all see you
      [standing ovation].

      I am very proud to know many of them as I have had the opportunity to
      be a Co-convenor of U.S. Labor Against the War, which sponsored the
      tour of six Iraqi trade unionists to the United States.

      The purpose of the tour was to educate trade union rank-and-file
      members and trade union leaders to the real truth of what's going on
      in Iraq. All too often, all we hear are the lies and deceit of the
      Bush administration that put us in Iraq on a lot of false pretexts
      and keeps us in Iraq for absolutely no good reason except to enrich
      his cronies in Halliburton and other such companies. [applause]

      We asked the Iraqi trade unionists to tell us honestly what they
      believe about this war and what they want American working people to
      do to help them in their struggle to build unions, justice and equity
      and fairness in the work place, and get their lives back together so
      that can have running water, electricity and gasoline. We asked them
      what they wanted.

      And I'll tell you what they want: They want an end to the U.S.
      occupation [applause]. They want it now, and not yesterday
      [applause]. Because as long as we are there, they can never really
      achieve their self-determination and build a truly democratic state.

      So we in U.S. Labor Against the War say to the Iraqi unionists: Thank
      you for telling us what you think; now it's our responsibility to get
      the word out to every single trade union in the country that we must
      tell George Bush that we are sick and tired of his lies, and we are
      sick and tired of the massive deficit that is built up supporting
      this war while schools are going down the drain, while our working
      people are being laid off, and while so many other vital needs are
      not being dealt with.

      That is why we must now mobilize and bring people to a massive
      demonstration in Washington on September 24. Thank you very much.

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Thank you. Delegate mic 3 ...

      * Brooks Sunkett, Vice President, Communication Workers of America

      Mr. Chairman, brothers and sisters. My name is Brooks Sunkett, and
      I'm from CWA.

      I rise in support of this resolution for many reasons. Number one:
      I'm a Vietnam veteran. And this war seems very similar to that war.
      Lies were told to me then, and lies are being told to me now. [long

      We were told that there were weapons of mass destruction -- and, as
      we all know, there were no weapons of mass destruction.

      Number two: This war is tearing our country apart.

      Number three: The cost of the war is putting our public sector
      services at stake. I am also a public sector worker. And 250 million
      dollars a day is being spent on this war. All together, 200 billion
      dollars have been spent. That means sacrificing the public sector
      infrastructure of this country.

      Number four: How many more men and women need to die, how many more
      families need to be torn apart, how many more of our sons and
      daughters need to be maimed because of this war?

      It was a mistake to go to war, and it is a mistake to stay in. [loud
      and long applause]

      Number five: The people of Iraq don't want us there. We lied to get
      there, and they would like for us to leave. All we are doing is
      exacerbating a very bad situation.

      On behalf of working families, on behalf of our communities, on
      behalf of our sons and daughters, on behalf of families everywhere, I
      urge all of you to support this resolution. [applause]

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Thank you brother. Delegate mic 4 ...

      * David Newby, President, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:

      Chairman McEntee, brothers and sisters: My name is David Newby and
      I'm President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, one of the state
      federations that submitted resolutions to this convention.

      Both of the resolutions we submitted were passed last September at
      our State AFL-CIO Convention. To be perfectly honest with you, I
      expected there to be a lot of debate over those resolutions. I've
      never in my experience in the labor movement not seen a situation
      where a resolution on an international affairs issue came before a
      convention that was not extremely contentious.

      As a result, I was really quite surprised that these were not
      contentious resolutions. One called for an end to the occupation in
      Iraq, the other called for the restoration of the right of Iraqi
      workers to organize and form unions. There was almost no opposition.
      And in fact, my hunch is that there were fewer than 10 out of the
      many hundreds of delegates present who voted against these

      I think this was because, number one, our delegates were outraged
      that President Bush and members of his administration lied to us in
      order to start this war -- a war that was planned probably from the
      very first day that he became president. And they were outraged as
      well, I think, because as a result of that war -- which we got into
      because of lies to the American people and to Congress -- over 1,700
      of our men and women in uniform have died, and tens of thousands of
      Iraqis civilians have died.

      And those 1,700 men and women in uniform come almost completely from
      working families. They are our members, or the sons and daughters of
      our members.

      I urge you very strongly to adopt this resolution. I think it is
      carefully crafted. And I think it sends a message both to the
      President and to the American people that we simply must end this war
      and end this outrage that has been visited upon us by President Bush.
      [loud applause]

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Thank you brother. Delegate mic 1 ...

      * Tom Lee, President, American Federation of Musicians:

      I'm Tom Lee, President of the American Federation of Musicians. I
      rise in support of Resolution 53. Last week at our 96th Convention
      our delegates supported a resolution similar to the one we have
      before us.

      I don't think there's anybody in this room who wouldn't support the
      overthrow of a dictatorial regime. There's no one in this room who
      wouldn't support the right for people throughout our world to enjoy
      basic human rights -- and there is nobody in this room who wouldn't
      support the right to self-determination.

      However, this administration has embarked on a new and dangerous
      path: a pre-emptive war without an imminent threat to the U.S. This
      is a policy that makes us less secure, increases the threat of
      terrorism, and has put Iraq on a path of civil war, rather than on
      the path of a democratic society.

      There's a general agreement in the United States and throughout the
      world that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction that posed
      an imminent threat to this country or to Iraq's neighbors. In fact,
      the only weapons of mass destruction were the bombs and missiles that
      were falling out of our own planes on the poor people of Iraq, who
      are being killed and maimed.

      The war and the military occupation of Iraq have cost the lives of
      over 1,700 troops, the wounding and disabling of thousands more, and
      the death, by some estimates, of over 150,000 Iraqi civilians, with
      casualties among soldiers of other nations and the devastation of
      much of that country.

      Last week we heard an impassioned plea from one of our delegates who
      was in the Korean War. This gentleman stood up and said, "I wish, I
      truly wish somebody when I was in the Korean War had introduced a
      resolution like this and kept my ass out of those bunkers."
      [applause] He said, "I was scared, I was afraid, we were all afraid.
      I still suffer from nightmares because nobody had the courage to
      stand up and get me out of those bunkers."

      We recognize the courage of U.S. military troops, many of whom are
      members or relatives of members of various unions, including all of
      the unions of the AFL-CIO and other organizations. But the war and
      occupation of Iraq have cost over 200 billion dollars, leading
      directly to cuts in social and human services, education, music and
      arts programs, and even benefits for the very veterans from this and
      other conflicts.

      Our workers and their families face growing domestic challenges,
      unemployment, declining wages and benefits, de-unionization of the
      work force, reduced public services, cutbacks in health care and
      education services, cuts in veterans' benefits, threatened cuts in
      Social Security, escalating public debt -- as well as sharp declines
      in the funding for music and the arts.

      We support Resolution 53. We want to bring our troops home. We should
      start a movement to bring our troops home now and reorder the
      priorities of this administration to bring health care and bring back
      the things that people need. Thank you. [loud applause]

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Thank you brother. Delegate mic 2 ...

      * Henry Nicholas, President, AFSCME 1199 (Pennsylvania)

      Mr. Chairman, my name is Henry Nicholas, and I'm a delegate from
      AFSCME. I stand before the delegates as one of those patriots. My son
      has been called back to Iraq four times already, and he's on the list
      to go back now. He talks of the lack of equipment for the servicemen.

      But there is another side of that. Most of our sons and daughters
      serving in Iraq, when they come home, there is no help here. My son
      is a nervous wreck right now, but he's on the list to go back. He
      knows that when he comes back home, there will be no jobs here.

      We need to say that the sons and daughters of the American families
      should come home now! [applause]

      And I must say to all the members of this labor movement that I'm so
      proud. This is my proudest moment being a union member, because in
      all the 49 years that I've been coming to these conventions, this is
      the first time we've had the moral courage to stand up and say
      "Enough is enough!"

      Thank you so very much. [loud applause]

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Thank you brother. Delegate mic 3

      * Tim Paulson, Executive Director, San Francisco Labor Council:

      My name is Tim Paulson and I'm the Executive Director of the San
      Francisco Labor Council. Early on, the delegates to our Council
      realized that this was a distortion of the values of working men and
      women in our country. All this money that is being spent on bombs and
      occupation could have been used for health care, jobs, and
      infrastructure. It could have been used for the things that working
      men and women absolutely value. That's what we believe in.

      Very early on, we passed a resolution that said that we must bring
      the troops home immediately! We believe, as Jesse Jackson said today,
      that we must "Brings the troops home!" "Bring the troops home!"

      We believe that when you say "rapidly," that would be the same as
      "immediately" -- and that is why we are going to support this

      I also want to thank our brothers and sisters of U.S. Labor Against
      the War for the hard work they have done across the country [loud
      applause] to make sure we are all aware of, and united around, this
      issue -- which is an issue of central concern to all working men and
      women. Thank you.

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Thank you, brother. Delegate mic 4 ...

      * Tom Hobart, Vice President from New York, American Federation of

      Mr. Chairman, I'm Tom Hobart, American Federation of Teachers, Vice
      President from New York. The AFT supports this well-crafted
      resolution that is before us. I know everybody in this room wants
      peace both in America and in Iraq. But there is not going to be peace
      in America or in Iraq today ... or tomorrow.

      More Americans every day realize that President Bush misled us on why
      we went to war, and he also poorly executed that war. But we are

      All of us, everyone in America I'm sure supports our men and women in
      uniform who are over there. But what we are going to have to do is
      make sure that they are removed safely, and that the people in Iraq
      are also safe.

      Remember that the terrorists are not only killing American service
      people, they are also killing Iraqis. And we cannot leave there, and
      leave the terrorists in charge of that country, in which we went in
      and disrupted the order that was there, however bad it was, and then
      have a killing field like we saw in Cambodia.

      I urge the delegates to pass this resolution that was carefully
      crafted in order to stand in a position that does what is right in a
      war that maybe was started for the very wrong reasons.

      * Chairperson McEntee:

      Thank you brother. Delegate mic 1 ...

      Mr. Chairman. I'm with the American Federation of Teachers. I move to
      close the discussion.

      Chairman McEntee:

      The motion has been made to move the previous question and close the
      discussion. All those in favor of closing the debate signify by
      saying "aye." All those opposed say "no." The "ayes" have it.

      Before you is amended Resolution 53. Debate has been closed. We'll
      vote on the amended resolution. All those in favor signify by saying
      aye" [overwhelming majority]. All those opposed say "no" [a few

      The "ayes" have it. So ordered. [loud applause]

      [Convention discussion on Iraq Resolution 53 transcribed verbatim for
      USLAW by Donna Kesselman and Alan Benjamin from audio tape.]

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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