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Minnesota AFSCME Convention Passes Two Important Resolutions: Solidarity Resolutions with Northwest Flight Attendants, Immigrant Workers

By brad

Bloomington, MN – AFSCME Council 5, which represents over 40,000 public sector workers in Minnesota, held its annual convention here Oct. 5-7. At the convention, two notable resolutions were passed, both of which were written by AFSCME Local 3800, the clerical workers union at the University of Minnesota.

Solidarity with Immigrant Workers

One resolution called for AFSCME Council 5 to actively support the immigrant rights movement. While this resolution passed, it was the only one out of the 21 resolutions presented at the convention that aroused any debate and that some delegates voted against. The 20 other resolutions were all approved unanimously. About three quarters of the delegates voted in favor of the immigrant rights resolution, the Council 5 Executive Board supported it and one of the Chair Officers spoke strongly in favor of it.

But a quarter of the delegates voted against the immigrant rights resolution. This shows why it is so important to bring forward such resolutions, to bring the debate about immigrant rights out into the open in the labor movement. It is important to have the discussion openly, to try to convince those that disagree that this is about solidarity, and that immigrant workers’ fight for legalization and full equality is the fight of all workers.

The immigrant rights resolution that was passed at the Council 5 convention is one of the more progressive immigrant rights positions taken by a union in the U.S. Some unions have played a fairly bad role at the national level, such as SEIU, by supporting the ‘compromise’ Kennedy-McCain bill. This bill would create a massive second-class guest worker program, a three-tier program that would call for the immediate deportation of the millions of immigrant workers who have been here less than two years, impose a highly restrictive process that would exclude the majority of immigrant workers and a system where it would take more than ten years for the few who do qualify to get any sort of legal status.

The resolution passed at the AFSCME Council 5 convention is better than this. The resolution was modeled on the resolution passed at the AFSCME International Convention in August, but is more concise. It clearly comes out in favor of legalization, against expanded guest worker programs, and against ‘enforcement-only’ and ‘enforcement-first’ policies. It also states clearly that AFSCME is against NAFTA-style free trade agreements. The resolution calls on Council 5 and on locals within the Council to actively support and participate in the immigrant rights movement. It also commits AFSCME Council 5 to work against anti-immigrant legislation at the state level. The passage of this resolution was made possible by the generally progressive resolution that was passed at the AFSCME International Convention. It is significant that AFSCME Minnesota has taken a position against expanding guest worker programs as well as against enforcement-first or enforcement-only policies. This resolution puts AFSCME against all the main existing legislative proposals, from the Sensenbrenner bill to the ‘compromise’ proposals that Bush supports, which include vastly expanded guest worker programs and vast new walls and more troops on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Solidarity with Flight Attendants at Northwest Airlines

The other important resolution that was passed was a resolution in support of the flight attendants at Northwest Airlines, who are in the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union. They are in a sharp battle with Northwest Airlines, who is trying to block the flight attendants’ right to strike – saying that since Northwest is in bankruptcy the workers should not be allowed to strike. Northwest has imposed a contract on the flight attendants with 40% wage cuts and other concessions. The flight attendants have voted to reject the proposed contract twice.

This resolution called on AFSCME Council 5 to support the flight attendants in their struggle, to mobilize for their rallies, as well as to take up a collection at the convention for the flight attendants’ strike fund. Over $2100 was collected from delegates on the floor of the convention and then the convention voted to have the Council 5 Executive Board match that amount, doubling the contribution to over $4200.

Camilla Wolkerstorfer, Interim President of Council 95 of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, was a guest at the convention and spoke about their struggle with Northwest Airlines. She received standing ovations, and she was brought to tears when they announced the amount of money collected at the convention.

Both of these resolutions represented a broad-minded spirit of solidarity with all workers who are struggling for their rights. This kind of solidarity – with mostly unorganized immigrant workers and with flight attendants taking on a vicious anti-union corporation here in Minnesota – is key to revitalizing the labor movement.

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