Open Letter to AFL-CIO Convention Delegates From Concerned Trade Unionists & Labor Activists

On June 10, 2013, the San Francisco Labor Council adopted a resolution on “Building an Independent Labor Movement” that was submitted for a discussion and vote at the 2013 National AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles.

We, the undersigned trade unionists, believe that this important resolution needs to make it out of Committee to be discussed on the convention floor. The issues it raises are central to the strengthening and survival of our labor movement. It states, in part:

“Whereas, we are an independent labor movement and as such should never subordinate the interests and needs of the working class to the dictates of politicians of either major party, as these politicians all too often defer to the corporate class.

“Whereas, labor has been diverted from the struggle for an independent labor movement by the countless calls for ‘shared sacrifice’ promoted by the employers and politicians in their service. Having accepted the framework of ‘shared sacrifice’ has led labor to water down our demands and make compromises that have impeded us from mounting a powerful independent fightback movement, in alliance with our community partners, capable of rolling back the anti-worker assault and wresting concessions from the corporate class. …

“Therefore be it resolved that, the AFL-CIO convention affirms the urgent need to build an independent labor movement, rejecting any and all calls for ‘shared sacrifice’ and drawing a hard, unmovable, line in the sand when it comes to promoting the demands and interests of our members and the working class majority.”

Does this not apply to all too many arenas of our activity as a labor movement — from the bailouts of Wall Street and Detroit, to healthcare reform, to the fight for jobs for all, or even most recently to immigration reform?

Wall Street was bailed out to the tune of $12 trillion, while Main Street got shafted. GM and Chrysler received $90 billion in bailout funds, while UAW members, in the name of “shared sacrifice,” were forced to take major cuts in jobs, wages, and pension and healthcare benefits for retirees. Now the automakers’ profits are way up, but Detroit is bankrupt, and the government is refusing to bail out Detroit’s public workers, who risk losing their pensions.

Shouldn’t the labor movement, following the example of the San Francisco Labor Council, demand, “Bail Out Main Street, NOT Wall Street?” Shouldn’t labor demand that the government provide the $3.5 billion it would take to make the workers’ pension fund whole to ensure them the retirement security they deserve and are owed.

Later, labor was told that the Affordable Care Act was the only thing on the healthcare reform table. Instead of fighting and campaigning for what we want and need, Single Payer healthcare / Medicare For All, labor dropped the ball. Now we are saddled with a corporate reform that keeps the private insurance companies in the driver’s seat and threatens our union health-care plans. We may not have won Single Payer, but by sticking to our guns we could have won the Public Option, salvaged our union plans, and opened the door to Single Payer.

Then we were told to go along with the Obama plan on “job creation” — which would provide at most 2 million new jobs — at a time when unemployment and underemployment are at 27 million. Shouldn’t the labor movement, instead, be fighting independently for its own full employment program?

And now we are being told to rally behind the Senate’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill as a way to win a path to citizenship for up to 11 million undocumented immigrants. This is a bill that would exclude more than half of the applicants for citizenship over the 13-year application process, increase the militarization of the border by $45 billion, heighten the repression of undocumented workers on the shop floor (E-Verify, employer sanctions) and maintain a slightly revised, but no-less objectionable, “guest worker” program. These are all points that labor has strongly opposed in the past.

Shouldn’t we as labor be fighting for what we want, as opposed to what we are told is “realistic” and “feasible?”

We call on all convention delegates to push for a full discussion of this San Francisco Labor Council resolution on the convention floor. The issues raised here cannot and must not be brushed aside. They are too crucial to our future as a labor movement!


[Note: All titles below are for identification purposes only.]

Karen Lewis, President, 
Chicago Teachers Union (AFT) 
Chicago, Illinois

Donna Dewitt, President Emeritus
South Carolina AFL-CIO Charleston, South Carolina

Marty Hittelman, President Emeritus California Federation of Teachers (CFT)
, Los Angeles, California

Traven Leyshon, Secretary-Treasurer Vermont AFL-CIO
 & President, 
Green Mountain Labor Council delegate to the convention Montpelier, Vermont

Erin McKee, President
, South Carolina AFL-CIO Charleston, South Carolina

Al Rojas, Vice President, Sacramento (CA) Labor Council For
 Latin American Development (LCLAA) Sacramento, California

Carol Gay, President
, NJ State Industrial Union Council
and CWA Retiree Newark, New Jersey

Steve Early, TNG/CWA Local 39521 Richmond, California

Charity Scmidt, Co-President, TAA
U of Wisconsin @ Madison Madison, Wisconsin

Amy Hines, AEU & Executive Board Member
, Young Workers of California Clayton, California

Dennis Serrette, Former Director of Education
, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Baltimore, Maryland

Nativo Lopez, United Front for Justice and Dignity
, Los Angeles, California

Alan Benjamin, Exec. Bd. member
, S.F. Labor Council
San Francisco, California

Chris Silvera, Teamsters Local 808
, Long Island City, New York

Jerry Gordon, Retired, International Representative, UFCW Cleveland, Ohio

Eduardo Rosario, NYC-LCLAA Exec. Board, Brooklyn, New York

Ron Kaminkow, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) #51
General Secretary, Railroad Workers United Reno, Nevada

Fred Hirsch, Vice President UA Local 393, 
San Jose, California

Carl Finamore, Former President (ret) IAM Lodge 1781
& current delegate
 SF Labor Council
, San Francisco, California

Donna Cartwright, Co-chair
, Transgender Caucus, Pride @ Work, 
Baltimore, Maryland

Dante Strobino, UE Field Organizer Durham, North Carolina

Mark Demming, National Lawyers Guild Oakland, California

David Walters, Retired, IBEW 1245 Pacifica, California

Laurence H. Shoup, UAW 1981 (ret) Oakland, California

CT Weber, Past Exec. Director, CSEA District Council 784 Sacramento, California

Michael Carano, Teamsters Local 348, retired Cleveland, Ohio

Michael Lyon, AFT 2121 Retiree, 
Gray Panthers of SF
 San Francisco, California

Dr. Jack Rasmus, AFT Local 1474 Richmond, California

Francesca Rosa, Delegate
, San Francisco Labor Council
San Francisco, California

Bill Balderston, Oakland Education Association, retired Issues Chairperson NEA Peace & Justice Caucus, Oakland, California

Bennet Zurofsky, Esq., General Counsel
, NJ State Industrial Union Council
Newark, New Jersey

Jack Gerson, Oakland Education Association, retired Oakland, California

Millie Phillips, Administrative Committee Labor Fightback Network, Berkeley, California

Linda Ray, SEIU 1021 Peace & Solidarity Committee Chair Delegate to San Francisco Labor Council
San Francisco, California

Jim Hamilton, Vice chair, retiree chapter AFT Local 420
, St. Louis, Missouri

Bill Leumer, Former President
IAM Local 565, 
San Francisco, California

Ann Robertson, California Faculty Association, 
San Francisco, California

Allan Fisher, AFT 2121, 
San Francisco, California

Shanell Williams, Student Trustee 
City College of San Francisco, 
San Francisco, California

Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, 
Atlanta, Georgia

Vann Seawell, Retired Staff Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board Workers United Galena, Ohio

Marc Rich, Retired, UTLA Pasadena, California

Melina Juarez, Co-Editor, El Organizador, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Rodger Scott, AFT 2121
San Francisco, California

Paul Alan Lenart, Former organizer CWA 3570 Reno, Nevada

Paul Colvin, CWA/ITU Retired, 
San Francisco, California

Dan Kaplan, Executive Secretary AFT Local 1493
, San Mateo, California

Tom Lacey, OPEIU, Local 3, 
San Francisco, California

Tina Beacock, Chicago Teachers Union Chicago, Illinois

Andrew Barbano, Editor, CWA Local 9413/AFL-CIO; member
 Reno, Nevada

Tom Edminster, Executive Board, UESF (AFT/NEA)/AFT 61; Delegate UESF to S.F. Labor Council, Pacifica, California

Ben Attebury, APWU
 Carson City, Nevada

Mary Prophet, OEA/CTA/NEA Berkeley, California

Hal Sutton, UAW 1268 (retired) Rockton, Illinois

Tim Stinson, Labor activist, Albany, Oregon


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