Largest State Federation of Labor in U.S. Calls for “Immediate” End to U.S. Occupation of Iraq

San Diego, CA: On Tuesday, July 13th at its 25th biennial convention, the California Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, representing more than two million members, voted overwhelmingly to call upon the AFL-CIO to “demand an immediate end to the US occupation of Iraq, and to support the repeal of the Patriot Act and the reordering of national priorities toward the human needs of our people.” The California federation is the largest in the AFL-CIO, with more than one-sixth of its members.

The action was inspired by a strong antiwar resolution submitted by the San Francisco Labor Council, but as reported by the resolutions committee to the convention, it called only for an “expedient” end to the occupation.  When debate opened, State Labor Federation Vice President Nancy Wohlforth (who is also national Secretary-Treasurer of the Office & Professional Employees International Union and national leader of Pride at Work), proposed to restore the original demand for “immediate” end to the occupation.  Her motion was seconded by Walter Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco Labor Council.  On a voice vote by the more than 400 delegates, an overwhelming majority voted in favor of the stronger demand.  The strength of that vote appears to reflect the depth of anger which union members have toward the Bush administration's “pre-emptive” war and occupation in Iraq where more than 850 U.S. troops have been killed and more than 5000 have been wounded since the invasion last year.

A second amendment was then introduced by John Dalrymple, Executive Director of the Contra Costa County Central Labor Council, and Alan Benjamin, Executive Board member of OPEIU Local 3 in San Francisco, to affirm the California Labor Federation's intent to “explore affiliation with and help actively support and promote U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW).…”  USLAW is a national network of labor organizations opposed to U.S. policy in Iraq that has more than 80 affiliated national and local unions, regional labor bodies, labor antiwar committees, and allied labor organizations.  This amendment was also adopted by an overwhelming majority, and was followed by an even larger majority vote for adoption of the resolution as amended.

The California federation also adopted without modification a resolution demanding transparency and accountability by the AFL-CIO in its international programs.  It urged the AFL-CIO and its Solidarity Center to “exercise extreme caution in seeking or accepting funding from the U.S. government, its agencies and any other institutions which it funds,” such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), for its work in Iraq or elsewhere.  It warned that doing so could “give the appearance, if not the effect, of making the AFL-CIO appear to be an agent of the U.S. government and its foreign policies,” which, it warned, “may taint the good reputation of the Federation in the eyes of the labor movements in other countries and draw into question the motivation and true independence of the Federation in its international affairs.”

The convention called upon the AFL-CIO “to fully account for what was done” in Chile, Venezuela and other countries where the AFL-CIO funneled NED funds to opponents of the elected government.  In the case of Chile, that led to the military coup and overthrow of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in the 1973, which brought to power the Pinochet dictatorship, and in the case of Venezuela, to the attempted but unsuccessful overthrow of the government of Hugo Chavez in 2003.  It called upon the federation to give a country by country accounting of its activities and to “renounce any ... tie that could compromise our authentic credibility and the trust of workers here and abroad that would make us paid agents of government or of the forces of corporate economic globalization.” 

The convention called upon the AFL-CIO to fund its international programs and activities, whenever possible, with funds generated directly from its affiliates and their members.

That resolution had been submitted by the central labor councils of San Francisco, Monterey Bay, the South Bay and Plumbers and Fitters Local 393, in San Jose.

The two-day convention resumes and will conclude on Wednesday. 

Issued by U.S. Labor Against the War
1718 M Street, NW, #153
Washington, DC 20036