AFL-CIO 25th National
Debate on Resolution 53 on Iraq
(Tuesday afternoon, July 26, 2005)
transcription of recording of debate.]
* Presentation of
Resolution 53 by Leo Gerard, President of the Steelworkers union, on
behalf of the AFL-CIO's Resolutions Committee:
53 deals with our country's military involvement in Iraq, surely a
difficult and contentious issue. The resolution applauds the courage
of our soldiers, insists that they be properly equipped with
protective fighting gear and armored vehicles, and calls for expanded
benefits for veterans and those returning from Iraq.
calls for our troops to be brought home as quickly as possible.
And finally the resolution asserts that the bedrock of
any democracy is a free, democratic labor movement, and calls on the
Iraqi government to adopt new labor laws that conform to ILO
This resolution was submitted by the
Executive Council and subsumes Resolutions 35 to 39, and Resolution
56. Upon adoption of Resolution 53, there will be no further action
taken on the subsumed resolutions.
The many resolutions
submitted on Iraq clearly reflect the very strongly held views from
around the country on the war in Iraq. There were 18 different
resolutions originally submitted by State Labor Federations and
Central Labor Councils, some of which were combined before the
resolutions were finalized.
Resolution 53 reflects many
months of consideration and discussion by the International Affairs
Committee of the AFL-CIO and more recently this week by the
Mr. Chairman, this Committee
recommends that Resolution 53 be adopted. On behalf of the Committee,
I so move.
* Gerald McEntee, President of the
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
and Chairperson of the Convention Resolutions Committee:
heard the report of the committee. Do I hear support? Yes, I hear
support. The Chair understands that the delegate on microphone 3 is
prepared to offer what the Federation believes is a friendly
amendment to Resolution 53. And I would like to invite delegate Fred
Mason to make such an amendment. Brother Mason ...
Fred Mason, President, Maryland State and District of Columbia
Thank you very much. I'm Fred Mason,
President of the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO and
also a proud member of the American Federation of Teachers.
rise today to offer a friendly amendment. This amendment would change
Paragraph 2, Line 9 and would simply change the words "as
quickly as possible" to "rapidly." I would urge for a
second to this friendly amendment. [spontaneous applause from the
* Chairperson McEntee:
Chair deems this a friendly amendment. Does he have support? I hear
support. All those in favor of the friendly amendment signify by
saying "aye" [loud response]. Those opposed say "no"
[no opposition heard]. The "ayes" have it. Your amendment
is friendly, brother.
you very much. And if I may, President McEntee, I also would like to
express my pride in the work and deliberations of the Executive
Council in taking up this very important issue.
Good. Most of the
International Affairs Committee, as Leo [Gerard] said, worked very
hard and very long. The delegate on mic 1 ...
Traven Leyshon, President, Washington-Orange-Lamoille Labor Council
My name is Traven Leyshon. I am the
President of the Washington - Orange - Lamoille Labor Council in
Vermont. Our labor council is one of the 18 affiliates that submitted
resolutions quite similar to the one that we're discussing at this
point. Our central labor council and our Vermont State Federation
call for supporting our troops by bringing them home now [applause]
to their families and loved ones. We took this position only after
careful consideration and building unity among the membership and
officers of our local unions and community allies.
adopting this resolution we will join with unions representing
millions of members who have taken a stand for peace and against
occupation. To mention only a few: AFSCME, CWA, APWU, American
Federation of Musicians, many of our State Federations (California,
Washington, Wisconsin, Vermont, etc.), as well as numerous central
labor councils -- as well, of course, as SEIU and NEA. Indeed, I
think, this is a majority of organized labor.
our troops are union members, or they're from families of union
members, who face extraordinary danger with courage and sacrifice.
Bringing them home now is the best means of protecting and honoring
The Bush Administration is using the war and
national security hysteria to create a climate to attack civil
liberties, collective bargaining rights, and the right to organize.
Just ask the Department of Defense employees, the Transportation
Security Administration workers, or the West Coast longshoremen about
the impact of the war on workers' rights.
AFL-CIO was a proud sponsor, along with many of you, of a recent tour
of Iraqi labor leaders who met with thousands of union members across
this country. The Iraqis gave voice to the working people of Iraq --
until the tour, a voice largely unheard in the U.S. They issued a
joint statement, which states in part:
principal obstacle to peace, stability, and the reconstruction of
Iraq is the occupation. The occupation is the problem, not the
solution. Iraqi sovereignty and independence must be restored. The
occupation must end in all its forms, including military bases and
economic domination. ... The occupation has been a catastrophe for
both our peoples."
As Resolution 53 concludes:
"Iraq's workers and their institutions are already
leaders in the struggle for democracy. Trade unionists are being
targeted for their activism, and some have paid for their valor with
their lives. ... In concert with the international trade union
movement, the AFL-CIO will continue to provide our full solidarity to
Iraq's workers as they lead the struggle for and end to the violence
and a more just and democratic nation."
the voice of the organized U.S. working class, we have a
responsibility to stand with Iraq's courageous labor movement, and to
fight to bring our troops home now! I thank you. [applause]
Delegate mic 2 ...
Nancy Wohlforth, International Secretary Treasurer, Office and
Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) and National
Co-Chair, Pride at Work:
My name is Nancy
Wohlforth, and I'm with the Office and Professional Employees
International Union. I would just like to draw the attention of all
the delegates to the unionists who are here from Iraq. Could you
please stand up [addressing the Iraqi delegation in the guest section
of the convention hall] so we can all see you [standing ovation].
I am very proud to know many of them as I have had the
opportunity to be a Co-convenor of U.S. Labor Against the War, which
sponsored the tour of six Iraqi trade unionists to the United States.
The purpose of the tour was to educate trade union
rank-and-file members and trade union leaders to the real truth of
what's going on in Iraq. All too often, all we hear are the lies and
deceit of the Bush administration that put us in Iraq on a lot of
false pretexts and keeps us in Iraq for absolutely no good reason
except to enrich his cronies in Halliburton and other such companies.
We asked the Iraqi trade unionists to tell
us honestly what they believe about this war and what they want
American working people to do to help them in their struggle to build
unions, justice and equity and fairness in the work place, and get
their lives back together so that can have running water, electricity
and gasoline. We asked them what they wanted.
tell you what they want: They want an end to the U.S. occupation
[applause]. They want it now, and not yesterday [applause]. Because
as long as we are there, they can never really achieve their
self-determination and build a truly democratic state.
we in U.S. Labor Against the War say to the Iraqi unionists: Thank
you for telling us what you think; now it's our responsibility to get
the word out to every single trade union in the country that we must
tell George Bush that we are sick and tired of his lies, and we are
sick and tired of the massive deficit that is built up supporting
this war while schools are going down the drain, while our working
people are being laid off, and while so many other vital needs are
not being dealt with.
That is why we must now mobilize
and bring people to a massive demonstration in Washington on
September 24. Thank you very much. [applause]
Thank you. Delegate mic 3 ...
* Brooks Sunkett, Vice President, Communication
Workers of America (CWA):
Mr. Chairman, brothers
and sisters. My name is Brooks Sunkett, and I'm from CWA.
rise in support of this resolution for many reasons. Number one: I'm
a Vietnam veteran. And this war seems very similar to that war. Lies
were told to me then, and lies are being told to me now. [long
We were told that there were weapons of mass
destruction -- and, as we all know, there were no weapons of mass
Number two: This war is tearing our
Number three: The cost of the war is
putting our public sector services at stake. I am also a public
sector worker. And 250 million dollars a day is being spent on this
war. All together, 200 billion dollars have been spent. That means
sacrificing the public sector infrastructure of this country.
Number four: How many more men and women need to die,
how many more families need to be torn apart, how many more of our
sons and daughters need to be maimed because of this war?
was a mistake to go to war, and it is a mistake to stay in. [loud and
Number five: The people of Iraq don't
want us there. We lied to get there, and they would like for us to
leave. All we are doing is exacerbating a very bad situation.
behalf of working families, on behalf of our communities, on behalf
of our sons and daughters, on behalf of families everywhere, I urge
all of you to support this resolution. [applause]
Thank you brother. Delegate
mic 4 ...
* David Newby, President, Wisconsin State
Chairman McEntee, brothers and sisters: My
name is David Newby and I'm President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO,
one of the state federations that submitted resolutions to this
Both of the resolutions we submitted were
passed last September at our State AFL-CIO Convention. To be
perfectly honest with you, I expected there to be a lot of debate
over those resolutions. I've never in my experience in the labor
movement not seen a situation where a resolution on an international
affairs issue came before a convention that was not extremely
As a result, I was really quite surprised
that these were not contentious resolutions. One called for an end to
the occupation in Iraq, the other called for the restoration of the
right of Iraqi workers to organize and form unions. There was almost
no opposition. And in fact, my hunch is that there were fewer than 10
out of the many hundreds of delegates present who voted against these
I think this was because, number one, our
delegates were outraged that President Bush and members of his
administration lied to us in order to start this war -- a war that
was planned probably from the very first day that he became
president. And they were outraged as well, I think, because as a
result of that war -- which we got into because of lies to the
American people and to Congress -- over 1,700 of our men and women in
uniform have died, and tens of thousands of Iraqis civilians have
And those 1,700 men and women in uniform come
almost completely from working families. They are our members, or the
sons and daughters of our members.
I urge you very
strongly to adopt this resolution. I think it is carefully crafted.
And I think it sends a message both to the President and to the
American people that we simply must end this war and end this outrage
that has been visited upon us by President Bush. [loud applause]
Thank you brother. Delegate
mic 1 ...
* Tom Lee, President, American Federation
I'm Tom Lee, President of the
American Federation of Musicians. I rise in support of Resolution 53.
Last week at our 96th Convention our delegates supported a resolution
similar to the one we have before us.
I don't think
there's anybody in this room who wouldn't support the overthrow of a
dictatorial regime. There's no one in this room who wouldn't support
the right for people throughout our world to enjoy basic human rights
-- and there is nobody in this room who wouldn't support the right to
However, 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.
There's a general agreement in the United States and
throughout the world that Iraq did not have weapons of mass
destruction that posed an imminent threat to this country or to
Iraq's neighbors. In fact, the only weapons of mass destruction were
the bombs and missiles that were falling out of our own planes on the
poor people of Iraq, who are being killed and maimed.
war and the military occupation of Iraq have cost the lives of over
1,700 troops, the wounding and disabling of thousands more, and the
death, by some estimates, of over 150,000 Iraqi civilians, with
casualties among soldiers of other nations and the devastation of
much of that country.
Last week we heard an impassioned
plea from one of our delegates who was in the Korean War. This
gentleman stood up and said, "I wish, I truly wish somebody when
I was in the Korean War had introduced a resolution like this and
kept my ass out of those bunkers." [applause] He said, "I
was scared, I was afraid, we were all afraid. I still suffer from
nightmares because nobody had the courage to stand up and get me out
of those bunkers."
We recognize the courage of
U.S. military troops, many of whom are members or relatives of
members of various unions, including all of the unions of the AFL-CIO
and other organizations. But the war and occupation of Iraq have cost
over 200 billion dollars, leading directly to cuts in social and
human services, education, music and arts programs, and even benefits
for the very veterans from this and other conflicts.
workers and their families face growing domestic challenges,
unemployment, declining wages and benefits, de-unionization of the
work force, reduced public services, cutbacks in health care and
education services, cuts in veterans' benefits, threatened cuts in
Social Security, escalating public debt -- as well as sharp declines
in the funding for music and the arts.
Resolution 53. We want to bring our troops home. We should start a
movement to bring our troops home now and reorder the priorities of
this administration to bring health care and bring back the things
that people need. Thank you. [loud applause]
Thank you brother. Delegate
mic 2 ...
* Henry Nicholas, President, AFSCME 1199
Mr. Chairman, my name is Henry
Nicholas, and I'm a delegate from AFSCME. I stand before the
delegates as one of those patriots. My son has been called back to
Iraq four times already, and he's on the list to go back now. He
talks of the lack of equipment for the servicemen.
there is another side of that. Most of our sons and daughters serving
in Iraq, when they come home, there is no help here. My son is a
nervous wreck right now, but he's on the list to go back. He knows
that when he comes back home, there will be no jobs here.
need to say that the sons and daughters of the American families
should come home now! [applause]
And I must say to all
the members of this labor movement that I'm so proud. 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
Thank you so very much. [loud applause]
* Chairperson McEntee:
brother. Delegate mic 3
* Tim Paulson, Executive
Director, San Francisco Labor Council:
My name is
Tim Paulson and I'm the Executive Director of the San Francisco Labor
Council. Early on, the delegates to our Council realized that this
was a distortion of the values of working men and women in our
country. All this money that is being spent on bombs and occupation
could have been used for health care, jobs, and infrastructure. It
could have been used for the things that working men and women
absolutely value. That's what we believe in.
on, we passed a resolution that said that we must bring the troops
home immediately! We believe, as Jesse Jackson said today, that we
must "Brings the troops home!" "Bring the troops
We believe that when you say "rapidly,"
that would be the same as "immediately" -- and that is why
we are going to support this resolution.
I also want to
thank our brothers and sisters of U.S. Labor Against the War for the
hard work they have done across the country [loud applause] to make
sure we are all aware of, and united around, this issue -- which is
an issue of central concern to all working men and women. Thank you.
* Chairperson McEntee:
brother. Delegate mic 4 ...
* Tom Hobart, Vice
President from New York, American Federation of Teachers:
Chairman, I'm Tom Hobart, American Federation of Teachers, Vice
President from New York. The AFT supports this well-crafted
resolution that is before us. I know everybody in this room wants
peace both in America and in Iraq. But there is not going to be peace
in America or in Iraq today ... or tomorrow.
Americans every day realize that President Bush misled us on why we
went to war, and he also poorly executed that war. But we are there.
All of us, everyone in America I'm sure supports our
men and women in uniform who are over there. But what we are going to
have to do is make sure that they are removed safely, and that the
people in Iraq are also safe.
Remember that the
terrorists are not only killing American service people, they are
also killing Iraqis. And we cannot leave there, and leave the
terrorists in charge of that country, in which we went in and
disrupted the order that was there, however bad it was, and then have
a killing field like we saw in Cambodia.
I urge the
delegates to pass this resolution that was carefully crafted in order
to stand in a position that does what is right in a war that maybe
was started for the very wrong reasons.
Thank you brother. Delegate
mic 1 ...
Mr. Chairman. I'm with the American
Federation of Teachers. I move to close the discussion.
The motion has been made to move the
previous question and close the discussion. All those in favor of
closing the debate signify by saying "aye." All those
opposed say "no." The "ayes" have it.
you is amended Resolution 53. Debate has been closed. We'll vote on
the amended resolution. All those in favor signify by saying aye"
[overwhelming majority]. All those opposed say "no" [a few
The "ayes" have it. So ordered.
[Convention discussion on
Iraq Resolution 53 transcribed verbatim for USLAW by Donna Kesselman
and Alan Benjamin from audio tape.]