AFL-CIO delegates against U.S. wars

One by one or in small groups, delegates to the the AFL-CIO national convention, held Sept. 8-11 in Los Angeles, passed by — friendly and talkative as we handed out more than 500 leaflets motivating the AFL-CIO to take a stand against the war in Syria. The leaflets featured an open letter to the delegates from Workers World Party entitled “Why we must oppose war on Syria.” Smiles, handshakes, comments of good luck and short chats were common as we leafleted outside with no official standing. Delegates expressed hope that the issue of the threatened U.S. war on Syria would be raised at the convention.

The sentiment against war on Syria was overwhelming, although many were influenced by the relentless propaganda in the bourgeois press against the Syrian government. But no one we spoke with was for bombing Syria. Our flyer reminded them that “the government lied about the Gulf of Tonkin to start the Vietnam war; it lied about WMD [weapons of mass destruction] in Iraq; why should we believe anything they tell us to start a war in Syria? At this critical moment, when there are so many issues confronting working people, there is no more pressing issue than the threat of war in Syria.”

We urged the convention to take front and center on this issue, to reflect the overwhelming opposition to the war among its own members and the working class generally, and to not leave opposition to the war to racist, anti-union demagogues such as Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich, who receive so much media attention. The flyer also explained that “while there never seems to be money for food stamps, unemployment insurance, to raise the minimum wage, for health care, Social Security and other pressing needs, there always seems to be money to wage war.”

It also stated, “Syrian workers have the same needs as workers in the U.S. -– another war would take resources desperately needed here to destroy the lives of people in Syria. As representatives of millions of organized workers, who hope to organize millions more who are unorganized, nothing would raise the reputation of organized labor more than to take the lead on opposing war in Syria. … As usual, it is always the working people and the poor who pay the most for the war and make the greatest sacrifices.”

Anti-war resolutions were presented by three unions and passed by the convention, all calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan and a reduction in the military budget. But none of these resolutions mentioned the war on Syria. To this writer’s knowledge, no discussion of the war threats against Syria was ever allowed during the convention, though a resolution by a Chicago local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees against war in Syria was passed out.

There was, however, an important resolution denouncing the military coup in Honduras and supporting the resistance movement and its inclusion in upcoming November elections there. It also called for the elections to be fair and without intimidation.

Also circulated outside and sometimes inside the convention were leaflets about the growing struggle against the dreadful cutbacks looming in Detroit; about the campaign against postal closings and privatization; a flyer motivating a growing “A Job is a Right” movement; as well as Workers World newspaper.

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