[Documents menu] Documents menu
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 18:20:26 GMT
Reply-To: People's Weekly World <scott@rednet.org>
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
From: People's Weekly World <scott@rednet.org>
Organization: PWW
Subject: Voices from the AFL-CIO convention
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>

Voices from the AFL-CIO convention

By Judith Le Blanc, People's Weekly World
11 November 1995

NEW YORK -- Delegates to the 21st Convention of the AFL-CIO rocked and clapped to Aretha Franklin's Respect and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA on the convention's last day. They were in a fighting mood, ready to work to fulfill the convention's mandate.

George Becker, president of the United Steelworkers of America, set the stage for the week's deliberations when he told delegates, "We will change the history of the labor movement with this convention. Workers are fed up with society and how working class America is treated ... Now we're fighting back with a revitalized AFL-CIO."

The hotly contested leadership election was put into perspective by William Bywater, president of the International Union of Electronic Workers. "There has been a lot of frustration in the labor movement. Some have thought that one individual can come along to lead us out of a disastrous situation. No one person can do that because the problems labor faces are created by the multinational corporations."

Delegates spoke about the need for labor to crusade on behalf of the whole working class if economic and social justice is to be won. Many interviewed by the World spoke of the need to mobilize the AFL-CIO's 13 million members to fight House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the ultra-right Contract on America.

Strengthening unity in the fight against Corporate America was on everyone's mind. "We're here because the old ways of fighting for labor's rights no longer fits today's crisis in the plant or in Washington, D.C.," said Mark Froemke, a central labor council delegate from North Dakota. The labor movement needs "more militant mass tactics. It's the winning approach," Froemke said.

Tony Martinez, Jr., a business agent for the National Association of Letter Carriers, said, "My main concern is how to get the energy and discussions from this convention into the everyday world. The climate demands it, if we [want] to be effective in confronting Gingrich ... It's a big job but we have no choice."

The convention was fired up by a new level of unity, diversity and inclusion. "Now the AFL-CIO is going to do great things. We have a vision," said Ophelia McFadden of Los Angeles County Employees Union Local 434. "I became the first Black woman international vice president 16 years ago under Sweeney's leadership. Now as president of the AFL-CIO he can bring all the people together and put labor into its rightful place in society -- in the forefront of the fight for workers."

Pat Thorpe, an organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 140 in New York City, was impressed by the feeling of togetherness. "You can feel the unity," she said. "There is a new strength of unity coming out of this convention."

George Meyers, chair of the Communist Party USA's labor commission, who attended as an observer, agreed. "Labor and its allies have a new framework to fight for new levels of class and multiracial unity; a new framework to build left- center initiatives, labor-community coalitions, to reverse the corporate offensive in the workplace and at the bargaining table."

Rev. James Orange, chair of the Atlanta chapter of Jobs with Justice and a leader of the eight-million-member National Baptist Conference said, "Nothing can diminish what the AFL- CIO has done historically. They have moved masses of people in the cause of civil rights. We can't take on Newt Gingrich or the other right-wingers by ourselves. We must organize our communities as allies in organizing the unorganized."

Richard Masur, who was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild on Nov. 2, said, "We are artists but it doesn't change the fact that we all are workers ... Just look at the goals of American business. Many corporations have been reorganizing, downsizing and, in doing so, destroying people's livelihood," Masur said. "Wall Street, opinion makers and the international banking interests have one apparent aim and that is to concentrate the wealth into the hands of a few."

Lawrence Conklin, a member of the Seafarers Union and a convention sergeant-at-arms, said he had gained a new understanding of what the AFL-CIO represented. "My next door neighbor got me and other guys in the neighborhood interested in working on the docks. When I was as young as 14 years I started going to the shipyards in Brooklyn and Bayonne until I was old enough to go to seafarers school. I've been lucky."

Conklin said, "Every place there is a union, they protect the workers. It gives everyone a fair chance, regardless of who they know."

Kenneth Allen, a delegate from Oregon and executive director of Council 75, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said, "This convention reflected where the rank and file are. They want more action, more coordinated approaches to struggle. They want to see unions backing each other. A fighting spirit is what folks want to see."

And that's just what they got at the AFL-CIO's 21st National Convention.

Read the Peoples Weekly World
Sub info: pww@pww.org
235 W. 23rd St. NYC 10011
$20/yr - $1-2 mos trial sub

Tired of the same old system: Join the Communist Party, USA
Info: CPUSA@rednet.org; or (212) 989-4994; or http://www.hartford-hwp.com/cp-usa/

[World History Archives]     [Gateway to World History]     [Images from World History]     [Hartford Web Publishing]