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Date: Sat, 4 Oct 97 10:56:31 CDT
From: bghauk@berlin.infomatch.com (Brian Hauk)
Subject: AFL-CIO Convention Draws To Close
Organization: InfoMatch Internet - Vancouver BC
Article: 19269

AFL-CIO Convention Draws To Close

By Ernie Mailhot, from the Militant, Vol. 61, no. 35
13 October 1997

PITTSBURGH - The four-day convention of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) ended September 25 with a rally of up to 200 people outside the convention center featuring AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and Democratic Party politician Jesse Jackson. Like the rest of the convention, the rally and the deliberations of the last day reflected the impact of the UPS strike and recent union organizing victories.

Among other speakers featured at the convention was Kweisi Mfume, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He urged closer ties between labor and civil rights organizations.

Elisa Sa'nchez, leader of MANA, a national Latina organization, gave a special presentation calling on delegates to advance women, especially those of color, into the AFL-CIO leadership bodies.

Jaime Marti'nez, an delegate from the International Union of Electrical Workers in San Antonio, Texas, took the floor on several occasions, condemning the racism and indignities faced by immigrant workers from Mexico. "We need to work across borders," he said, explaining why unionists should support demonstrations for immigrant rights like the Oct. 12, 1996, march in Washington, D.C.

A resolution entitled "Civil and Human Rights" was approved that stated, "Affirmative action continues to face unrelenting attacks in the courts, in Congress and in state legislatures across the country." It went on, " if there are flaws in the execution of these methods, then by all means we should correct them. But let us not use them as a pretext for returning to the complacent and degrading policies of the past."

President William Clinton spoke to the convention September 24. As his motorcade arrived he was met by several Boilermakers Union members carrying signs opposing extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Latin America. Inside, Clinton got a cool response from delegates to his speech defending renewal of "fast-track" authority to draft trade deals, which must be voted up or down by Congress without amendment. His speech was interrupted briefly by heckling from a few delegates.

Describing the U.S. capitalist rulers' interests in such trade negotiations with other countries Clinton said, "We have 4 percent of the world's population and we enjoy 22 percent of the world's wealth. If we want to keep that 22 percent of the wealth we have as 4 percent of the world's people, we have to sell something to the other 96 percent."

The convention approved an amendment to the AFL-CIO constitution titled, "Modernizing the AFL-CIO's Policies Regarding Anti-Democratic Influences and Movements." This amendment replaced all direct references to excluding from union membership or office those who are members of the Communist Party, communists or fascists.

New language was inserted calling for the exclusion of those who support "authoritarianism, totalitarianism, terrorism and other forces that suppress individual liberties and freedom of association."

International greetings to the convention were given by Robert White, president of the Canadian Labor Congress, and Margaret Prosser of the Trades Union Congress of Britain.

Other business taken up by the delegates included the election of all of the top officers of the 13 million-member organization. None of the posts were contested, and all of the current officers were reelected. A constitutional amendment passed earlier in the convention extended the term of office from two to four years.

Ernie Mailhot is a member of the International Association of Machinists.

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