September 12, 2002
by Fred Hyde
The floor of the convention at the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) in Spokane, Washington was hushed when Gil Veyna took the mike to support “A Resolution Against the War, Attacks on Civil Liberties and Cuts in Public Services.
“As a Chicano and a unionist,” Veyna said, “I resent Bush's war on terrorism which is a war on working people and immigrants."
Veyna, a 22-year Veterans Administration hospital employee, was at the August 19-22, 2002 convention as a delegate for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3197. His union is one of several which raised objections to the government’s plan to remove civil service protections and collective bargaining rights from the 170,000 federal workers in the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.
In his comments, Veyna criticized the national leadership of the AFL-CIO for its support of the military actions in Afghanistan. He noted that the administration is turning its guns on dockworkers, referring to the threat to call out troops in the name of "national security" in the case the International Longshore Workers Union strikes.
Veyna was no less critical of what he termed “federally sanctioned racial profiling following 9/11” which put immigrants under the spotlight and led to many unfairly losing their jobs.
When Veyna sat down, not a single delegate of the 500 unionists representing locals throughout the state rose to speak against the resolution, and it passed overwhelmingly. Thus Washington became the first State Labor Council in the country to call on the AFL-CIO to seek the repeal of the USA Patriot Act and oppose the U.S. government's war without end.
The American Federations of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 304 from Seattle brought the resolution to the convention after it was proposed by rank and file members active in the Freedom Socialist Party. Following its passage, AFSCME Local 304 President Rodolfo Franco said, "I urge other unions and labor councils to pass similar resolutions and send a message to President Bush: Stop wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on military spending and war, money that is urgently needed to fund decent health care, housing, education, job training and social services for millions of unemployed and low income workers and the poor in this country and elsewhere."
The resolution urges the government to redirect federal funds from the military budget to laid-off workers and public services, to promote global justice by providing humanitarian and economic aid to workers in other countries and to release the hundreds of Middle Easterners, Arabs, and other immigrants detained over the past year without due process and/or legal representation.
It also directs the WSLC to defend civil liberties by pressuring local and state law enforcement not to cooperate with FBI spying on political, labor, and anti-globalism activists or with INS harassment of immigrants.
Fred Hyde is from Seattle, Washington and was a delegate to the Washington State Labor Council Convention from AFSCME Local 304.