From WEEKLY MDS No.901, September 2, 2005 issue

AFL-CIO Demands Withdrawal of US Troops / US and Iraqi Labor United in Achieving Ground-breaking Resolution

Historic anti-war resolution

On July 27, at its national convention in Chicago, the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations), a US national center of labor unions with a membership of 13 million workers, voted virtually unanimously for a resolution demanding "rapid return" of all US troops from Iraq.

The epoch-making significance of this resolution for the withdrawal of US troops is summarized in simple comments from the USLAW (US Labor Against War); "For the first time in its 50 year history, the AFL-CIO voted to break with the U.S. government over a foreign war." At the same time, we must recognize the significance of the decisive impact that Iraqi workers from the Iraqi Civil Resistance gave during their end-the-occupation tours of the nation in solidarity with USLAW.

Iraqi labor delegated to the US

The AFL-CIO gave voice against the war on Iraq before attacks started. After the war began, however, it had opted to remain silent about the war and occupation. The resolution is a result of the patient and steady organizing effort by USLAW members, which moved the AFL-CIO leadership toward the anti-occupation resolution.

Toward the convention, USLAW members succeeded in helping unions, labor councils and federations they belong to adopt anti-occupation resolutions, and submitted to the convention 18 proposals for an anti-occupation resolution.

In June this year, USLAW also invited six leaders of Iraqi labor movement, including Falah Alwan, the President of the FWCUI (Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq), one of the key organizations of the Iraqi Civil Resistance and the IFC (Iraq Freedom Congress). Prior to the convention, they had organized exchange rallies with workers, citizens and lawmakers in 25 US cities and issued joint statements demanding immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

The Iraqi delegation from Iabor unions and the OWFI (Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq) attended the convention as guests of AFL-CIO. They appealed with a message at the meeting on the day before the convention, saying, "The principal obstacle to peace, stability, and the reconstruction of Iraq is the occupation." This message was quoted at the convention and a standing ovation was given to the Iraqis.

As a result of these efforts, the convention unanimously supported a motion by a USLAW delegate to replace the ambiguous "as quickly as possible" in the original resolution consolidated by the Resolutions Committee with "rapidly" as a term equivalent to "immediately." Furthermore, the following wording was included in the resolution: "Iraq's workers and their institutions are already leaders in the struggle for democracy" while making it clear that AFL-CIO calls on the Iraqi government to adopt new labor laws that conform to ILO standards.

Join September 24 action en masse

Voices of delegates at the AFL-CIO convention are evidence of the fact that a majority of union members had been seeking such a resolution.

A Korean War veteran said, "I truly wish somebody when I was in the Korean War had introduced a resolution like this and kept my ass out of those bunker." A delegate of a union of public workers declared that "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!'"

In an end-of-June poll, majorities of Americans responded that they thought the war was a mistake and it made the US less safe, showing growing opposition to the continued occupation of Iraq.

Ms. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier fallen in the Iraq War, is now addressed as "Anti-war Mom" and her vigil action in front of President Bush's Texas ranch in pursuit of a dialog with Bush is attracting sympathy across the nation. Representing its 13 million members, the AFL-CIO's resolution calling for return of US troops is going to give another blow to the Bush administration's persistence of the occupation. There are calls among delegates to the convention for doing their best to organize great marches to Washington DC on September 24. Support the struggle of US workers and join the September 24 international joint actions, calling for solidarity with the Iraqi Civil Resistance - IFC.

Weekly MDS