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CA State Resolution On AFL-CIO Foreign Operations

From: Kim Scipes
Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2002 11:22 PM
Subject: California State Fed Convention Resolutions

Plumbers and Fitters Local 393 in San Jose, CA has submitted the "Clear the Air" resolution (below) calling upon the AFL-CIO to open its archives for general research and discussion, account for what has happened in areas of foreign affairs in the past, give a thorough rundown of what the Federation is doing abroad with government money and terminate financial ties between the federal government and the AFL-CIO so U.S. labor can act in genuine solidarity with workers in other countries. This resolution was also passed by the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, which voted at its last meeting to support the resolution at the State Federation Convention.

Open discussion of "Clear the Air" will deepen understanding within the trade union movement of just what has gone down and what is happening now in the international relations of the AFL-CIO. Its passage would have a profound effect for workers here and throughout the world. It would strike a most powerful note for independence of the US labor movement that would resonate in all AFL-CIO political relationships, domestic and global.

The support of your union and your support of this resolution AS A DELEGATE to the July 23-24 convention in San Francisco can be of crucial importance. If you can become a delegate to the State Federation convention, please take advantage of that opportunity. Don't miss what could be a historic convention.

(As sent Monday 6/17/02)
RESOLUTION SUBMITTED TO THE CALIFORNIA LABOR FEDERATION, AFL-CIO

24TH BIENNIAL CONVENTION - JULY 23-24, 2002

BY Plumbers, Steamfitters and Refrigeration Fitters UA LOCAL 393, SAN JOSE, CA

IT'S TIME TO CLEAR THE AIR ABOUT AFL-CIO POLICY ABROAD!

WHEREAS, the impact of economic globalization on American working families and workers everywhere is causing more job dislocation, impoverishment of working families, division among workers and a huge economic gap between rich and poor in the U.S. and among nations, with power shifting more and more into corporate hands; and

WHEREAS, an effective strategy to serve our members' interests and counter the corporate economic globalization agenda is to build solidarity and unity among unions and workers' organizations worldwide based upon mutual respect and our common needs, with mutually determined labor standards based on social justice and human rights as they are perceived by workers in each nation; and

WHEREAS, while we recognize and applaud the many changes in the international policy and practice of the AFL-CIO in recent years and as we are taking steps in increase credibility among workers and members in the U.S. we must also overcome fear and suspicion of workers abroad based upon errors and excesses of the Cold War years so that the AFL-CIO may become a more trusted and vital actor on the state of working class international affairs; and

WHEREAS, recent articles in the Labor Studies Journal for Summer 2000 show that the AFL-CIO played a role leading to the bloody Pinochet overthrow of the democratically elected government in Chile, that its work was linked to corporate and CIA intervention ordered by Richard Nixon and led by Henry Kissinger (clearly against the best interests of the labor movement in Latin America and the United States,) that the AFL-CIO engaged in similar activities in many countries on almost every continent and that such activities served corporate interests and were largely funded by the U.S. government; and

WHEREAS, the bitter fruit of the experience in Chile and other countries was a strengthened hand for Corporate America, destruction of militant unions and support of spurious unions, persecution of working families and the torture, disappearance and death of many trade responsibility activists and leaders, situations which defy rebuilding trust without our taking responsibility for such event where it may be due, and accounting for and repudiating such policies;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that, to advance the progressive new policies of the AFL-CIO in global affairs, we call upon our Federation to fully account for what was done in Chile and other countries where similar roles may have been played in our name, to renounce such policies and practices and to openly invite concerned union members and researchers to review and discuss all AFL-CIO archives on international labor affairs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO describe, country by country, exactly what activities it may still be engaged in abroad with funds paid by government agencies and renounce any such ties that could compromise our authentic credibility and the trust of workers here and abroad and that would make us paid agents of government or of the forces of corporate economic globalization; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the above actions be taken to clear the air in affirmation of an AFL-CIO policy of genuine global labor solidarity in pursuit of economic and social justice with attention to domestic and international labor standards that include the right to organize and strike, an adequate social safety net, living wages, the right to health care and education, elimination of mandatory overtime, protection of the rights of immigrant workers, prohibitions on stirkebearing and the pursuit of peace among nations and peoples; and

FINALLY RESOLVED, that we send this resolution to the AFL-CIO and circulate it to Labor Councils and local union in our area and elsewhere asking them to take similar action.

FINALLY RESOLVED, that upon adoption this resolution be forwarded to the California State Pipe Trades Council, the California Labor Federation and the AFL-CIO for consideration by those organizations.

---------------------------------------

This resolution was approved by unanimous vote at the membership meeting of UA Local 393 on October 11, 2000 and is being forwarded to the California State Pipe Trades Council, the California Labor Federation and the AFL-CIO for consideration of adoption by those organizations.

Loyd Williams

Business Manager, Plumbers, Steamfitters and Refrigeration Fitters UA Local 393

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The article below was published in JOURNEYMAN - The official Publicaqtion of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County AFL-CIO

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THE AFL-CIO IN VENEZUELA:IS IT BACK TO THE FUTURE?

Recent events in Venezuela raise old questions about the newly revealed role of the AFL-CIO working in tandem with corporate interests and the Bush Administration to effect change in that oil producing upstart nation. Why did this happen and what should we do about it?

The trade unionists of Venezuela justly oppose various policies of President Hugo Chavez. He has tried to control unions. There are also good reasons why Venezuelan workers support Chavez, why they elected him by a wide majority, and why they took to the streets to reinstate him when dictator-for-a-day Pedro Carmona unseated him in a coup on April 12. But it is hard to fathom why the AFL-CIO would be involved in the events leading up to that coup on a Bush administration chump change payroll.

The AFL-CIO explains that it had good reason to want to offer help to the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV). It was under attack and must have suffered from a such a lack of democracy within that " the CTV conducted an impressive process of internal democratization with the assistance of the AFL-CIO and the Solidarity Center (American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS)....All of the AFL-CIO-Solidarity Center's funding for Venezuela went for this purpose."

With scarce union resources, unions in many countries fail to get needed help even when they face brutal repression. Why target AFL-CIO-ACILS funds ($154,377) on problems of internal democracy in Venezuela's CTV? There are perhaps several reasons. (ACILS is the AFL-CIO's foreign policy arm.)

Neither the AFL-CIO nor ACILS has its own money to squander in Venezuela. The cash in question comes from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). NED was set up with the aid of Henry Kissinger under President Reagan to funnel federal funds through overt private hands to do the kind of covert work that used to fall to the CIA. Today NED provides a dollar disconnect to cover Bush administration footprints in some of its overseas manipulations.

That's where the AFL-CIO's ACILS fits in, funneling $154,377 into the CTV, right alongside the other three pillars of NED: the Democratic Party's National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, transmitting $210,500; the Republican Party's International Republican Institute, laundering it's share, $339,998, and the big business bagman for Bush administration-corporate operations abroad, the Center of International Private Enterprise, joined the chorus to the likely tune of $175,125. NED's overall expenditure was $877,000. Chris Sabatini, the NED guy in charge, reportedly said the Endowment had hurriedly increased its outlays in Venezuela in the last year. And it's not hard to guess why.

The Bush administration has been itching to undo President Chavez. After all, he vigorously opposes "Plan Colombia" which feeds US military aid to his neighboring army which works in cahoots with death squads that murder more trade unionists than are killed in all the rest of the world. Chavez prohibits U.S. planes supplying the Colombian military from flying over Venezuelan airspace. He is the one South American head of state who speaks out against the new super NAFTA, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Chavez has ordered U.S. military advisers out of his Defense Ministry and, as a populist presiding over a nation with huge oil production, it's pretty sure his priorities favor the needs of his own people over Bush's multinational oil cartel buddies. Chavez is also more than a minor irritant to Bush & Co. in breaking the US embargo by supplying oil to Cuba.

In Peru recently Secretary of State Colin Powell said he favored a "transitional government" for Venezuela. That could only be achieved by a coup. While 19 countries denounced the 4/11 coup, ours was the only government to welcome it and, having met previously with the coup plotters, US consultations took place with the Chamber of Commerce's Pedro Carmona as he dismantled Venezuela's democracy and its institutions. Evidence of Bush administration involvement continues to mount. With US policy in Venezuela directed by Bush appointees who are tainted in scandal with the Iran-Contra outlaws of the eighties, such as Otto Reich, Elliott Abramson and John Negroponte, the accusatory fingers of Latin America point directly at the Bush administration.

Even the rightwing CATO institute said NED "was directly funded by Washington...But it wasn't really accountable." The AFL-CIO doesn't belong in this daisy chain with corporate thieves and sycophants under the covers of the NED or of any other swindle diverting federal funds for subversion abroad. The pattern of AFL-CIO activity emerging in Venezuela is eerily reminiscent of what was paid for in Chile under Nixon and Kissinger in 1973 to unseat another democratically elected President, Salvador Allende. No coup would ever have been attempted in either Chile or Venezuela unless the labor component was thought to be firmly in place. To the detriment of American workers, AFL-CIO association with the Venezuela operation revives distrust among Latin American unionists, immigrants in the U.S. work force and activists in the movement against globalization. We can do something about it.

In September of 2000 Plumbers and Fitters Local 393 in San Jose and the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council each unanimously passed a resolution titled "It's Time to Clear the Air About AFL-CIO Policy Abroad!" They sent it to President John Sweeney. Other councils and unions around the country did likewise. The resolution never appeared at an AFL-CIO convention. A similar resolve from Seattle was printed in the resolution book at the last AFL-CIO convention, but withdrawn and not considered on the floor. A reply from President Sweeney was repeatedly requested but was not forthcoming. When he visited the Bay Area last year he was asked directly and personally for an answer. He said, "Sure, I'll look into it. " I f he did look into it, he decided not to deal with it.

The resolution said we must," overcome fear and suspicion of workers abroad based upon errors and excesses of the Cold War years so that the AFL-CIO may become a more trusted and vital actor on the stage of workingclass international affairs." It cited reports showing that in the early seventies "the AFL-CIO played a role leading to the bloody Pinochet overthrow of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile ," and "was linked to the corporate and CIA intervention ordered by Richard Nixon and led by Henry Kissinger...and that the AFL-CIO engaged in similar activities in many countries on almost every continent,...(which) served corporate interests and were largely funded by the U.S government." Such activities, it said, resulted in, "persecution of working families and the torture, disappearance and death of many trade union activists and leaders, situations which defy rebuilding trust without our taking responsibility for such events where it may be due, and accounting for and repudiating such policies."

"Clear the Air," as the resolution came to be known, called for a full accounting by the AFL-CIO, "for what was done in Chile and in other countries where similar roles may have been played in our name, (and) to renounce such policies and practices and openly invite concerned union members and researchers to review and discuss all AFL-CIO archives on international labor affairs."

Had "Clear the Air" been openly and democratically dealt with and brought to the floor of the last convention, the Federation would have had to "describe, country by country, exactly what activities it may still be engaged in abroad with funds paid by government agencies and renounce any such ties that could compromise our authentic credibility and the trust of the workers here and abroad and that would make us paid agents of government or of the forces of corporate globalization."

Had "Clear the Air" become AFL-CIO policy, the Federation would never have become entangled with the Bush administration in events leading up to the Keystone Cop coup in Venezuela,which would have been farcical but for the fact (reported by the Washington Post) that up to sixty lives were lost.

If American workers are to experience security in the future, the AFL-CIO has a world of organizing to generate, a mountain of politics to climb and a chain of authentic international labor solidarity to weld. We don't have time, energy or reputation to waste carrying water for corporate America abroad. The only solidarity we can offer or receive can come only from the ranks of working people. No matter what AFL-CIO intentions, when Bush pays the piper he calls the tune.

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