Delegates adopted a resolution that puts the giant teacher union on new ground in opposition to the war and occupation of Afghanistan, opposing any further escalation and calling for “rapid, orderly withdrawal of all armed forces and military contractors, to begin immediately.”
In a separate but related action, AFT referred to its Executive Council a “special order” resolution on Iraqi Labor Rights that was introduced too late to go through the normal resolution process. It was adopted unanimously at a meeting of the council that took place immediately following the convention.
GET OUT OF AFGHANISTAN
The resolution on Afghanistan calls for “reallocation of funds that would otherwise be directed to the war in Afghanistan for job creation, education, health care and other urgently needed social programs for the working people” of the U.S., and for aid to the Afghan people for infrastructure and social development “to facilitate not only peace but peace with justice.” The resolution also reaffirms the union’s full support for returning troops for both mental and physical health care, job training, placement in jobs paying a living wage, and access to education and student financial aid.
AFT went beyond simply taking a political stand. It also committed itself to undertake an educational campaign on these issues among its membership, seeking to involve members in the political tasks necessary to implement the resolution in public policy, and to communicate its position to members of Congress and the Obama Administration, as well as to its affiliates.
SUPPORTING LABOR RIGHTS IN IRAQ
The Iraq resolution, which was referred to its Executive Council as a “special order,” addresses the alarming escalation of attacks on unions and labor activists by the Iraqi government, including recently criminal charges being filed against two of the top officers of the Federation of Oil Unions for “undermining the Iraqi economy” when they advocated for the rights of unions members and in opposition to the privatization of the oil industry.
The government also recently barred foreign travel by any Iraqi labor leader without the approval of the government–an action intended to cut off contact between Iraq’s unions and the international labor movement. Had this decree been in effect in 2005, the six Iraqi labor leaders who visited the US, speaking to audiences of American workers in 26 cities, would not likely have taken place. That tour had a significant impact on the debate that led to adoption of the unprecedented AFL-CIO convention resolution calling for rapid withdrawal from Iraq.
Government ministries have also punitively transferred union leaders who organize demonstrations or strikes to remote locations elsewhere in the country so that they are cut off from their base and union members are left without leadership.
The resolution referred to the Executive Council registers AFT’s strong objection to these violations and asks the union’s leadership to communicate its position to President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and the Iraqi ambassador to the United States with a request that they “reverse these policies and secure full labor rights for Iraqi workers.” It goes further to call on AFT locals and state affiliates to participate in campaigns to pressure Congress and the Obama administration to “take all appropriate steps to help secure full labor rights for Iraqi workers.”
The AFT’s adoption of this resolution is a solidarity action that adds to the mounting pressure on the Iraqi regime to fulfill the requirement contained in its new constitution for adoption of a basic labor law that complies with international standards for labor rights.
The resolution on Afghanistan was referred to the convention by NY State United Teachers based on one submitted to its convention by United University Professional, AFT Local 2190, a USLAW affiliate.
The resolution on labor rights was drafted by USLAW Steering Committee Member Michael Zweig and was submitted on behalf of the entire UUP/AFT Local 2190 delegation, of which he was a member.