Musicians and other protesters rallied against the war last September in New York.
Both the AFM and the AFL-CIO at their respective conventions in July passed strongly worded resolutions calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The resolutions also condemned the invasion as based on faulty intelligence that has made our nation less secure from the threat of terrorism.
Both resolutions offered strong support for the troops, for improvements in veteran benefits when the soldiers return home and sharp criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the occupation. The AFM resolution directly linked the $100 billion per year cost of the war to “reduced public services, crumbling health care and educational systems, cuts in veterans benefits, threatened cuts in Social Security, escalating public debt, as well as sharp declines in funding for the arts and arts education.”
The AFM resolution was introduced by Recording Vice President Bill Dennison and fellow Local 802 delegate Jay Schaffner, along with delegates from Local 677 (Honolulu) and Local 153 (San Jose). When it reached the floor of the convention it sparked a wide-ranging discussion that resulted in the addition of an amendment condemning the U.S. occupation for keeping in place the harsh anti-union laws of the Saddam Hussein regime. The resolution also called upon AFM leaders to communicate the contents of the resolution to the AFL-CIO whose convention was set to begin only a few days later in Chicago.
In addition to the AFM, nearly a dozen other international unions along with state and local labor federations had earlier passed resolutions condemning the invasion of Iraq and urging an end to the occupation. Those measures formed the basis of the AFL-CIO resolution, which reflected the widespread condemnation of the war among the ranks of labor.
AFM President Tom Lee conveyed the sentiments of the just concluded AFM convention, telling AFL-CIO convention delegates, “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.”
The final AFL-CIO resolution read, “Our soldiers — the men and women risking their lives in Iraq — come from America’s working families. They are our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, our husbands and wives. They deserve to be properly equipped with protective body gear and up-armored vehicles. And they deserve leadership that fully values their courage and sacrifice. Most importantly, they deserve a commitment from our country’s leaders to bring them home as quickly as possible.”
Watching the AFL-CIO convention proceedings were five Iraqi trade union leaders who had urged their U.S. union sisters and brothers to help bring peace to their country by withdrawing all occupation forces. One of those, Khalil Mashhadani, the general secretary of the Iraqi General Federation of Trade Unions, told delegates that the war has destroyed factories, killed or injured tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens and left many more thousands of Iraqis unemployed. Mashhadani asked, “Is this the freedom we want to have?” He said labor leaders are regularly targeted for assassination and workers’ rights are still being denied under a 1987 decree issued by Saddam Hussein, which neither the occupation forces nor the Iraqi interim government has lifted.
Local 802 members who are interested in participating in the labor movement’s efforts to end the war in Iraq, including the planned national mobilization to end the war set for September 24-26 in Washington, D.C., can contact Jay Schaffner at (212) 245-4802, ext. 160. Also see U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) at www.USLaborAgainstWar.org.