US: AFSCME and SEIU unions take bold anti-war stance

“Working-class brothers and sisters in uniform died in Iraq for profits”

In June, the AFL-CIO’s two biggest unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), met at their respective conventions. Both passed resolutions clearly condemning the occupation of Iraq and calling for bringing the troops home.

SEIU, with 1.7 million members, took up the platform passed in October 2003 by the multi-union group US Labor Against the War. This platform calls for, “A Just Foreign Policy based on International law and global justice… An end to the U.S. Occupation of Iraq; The Redirecting of the Nation’s Resources from inflated military spending to meeting the needs of working families …Supporting Our Troops and their families by bringing our troops home safely…Protecting Workers Rights, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and the Rights of Immigrants…Solidarity with workers around the world…”

The resolution was submitted by the union’s International Executive Board and reportedly adopted unanimously by the nearly 4,000 delegates.

No Reagan style funerals for soldiers

At the AFSCME convention, representing 1.4 million members, including many military veterans, three locals submitted resolutions. One attacked the principle and practice of pre-emptive war as “conquest and neo-colonizing an oil rich Arab nation…with the long-term aim of dominating and exploiting the petroleum industry,” while the other resolutions called for US troops to be withdrawn from Iraq “now.”

The three were combined by the International leadership, using the language of the first but adding wording calling on President Bush to “bring our troops home as soon as possible.” A number of delegates argued for replacing the phrase “as soon as possible” with “now.”

In moving the amendment, this article’s author pointed out how the corporate media has concealed the deaths of US soldiers in contrast to Reagan’s state funeral: “Where were the state funerals and the 21-gun salutes for the more than 800 of our working-class brothers and sisters in uniform who have died in Iraq – for the profits of the arms industry, the oil industry, and the privateers who are feasting off the wreckage that US aggression has made of Iraq? And what are we supposed to say to the families of the thousands upon thousands of Iraqis killed in the last 15 months? The situation is getting worse, not better. Abu Ghraib only underlines the fact that no good can come of a continued US presence in Iraq.”

The amendment was carried overwhelmingly. The SEIU and AFSCME resolutions clearly show the increasing anger among working-class people and trade unionists against Bush’s war, and the potential for the working class to begin to take real action to hasten its end.

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July 2004