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May 27, 1988 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-05-27

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fla n dmilimila n d

In February, the AFL-CIO criticized
Israel for the first time. Yet relations
between the Jewish community and Big
Labor tare hardly in jeopardy.


Staff Writer


he labor movement, and meet- ing sewing machines and their even-.
ing the goals of working men ings at meetings of the International
and women throughout the Ladies Garment Workers Union (IL-
world, was ' a lifelong passion GWU). In their place are non-union,
for American Federation of middle-class workers — physicians,
Labor founder Samuel Gompers. His lawyers and other professionals.
Sturdy remnants do remain.
Judaism was not.
Yet the young immigrant brought About 20' percent of the executive
to the trade unions a small symbol of council of the AFL-CIO is Jewish, and
Jewish tradition that today, more Jews still can be found in the leader-
than 100 years later, continues to ship of numerous unions, including
represent the American labor the ILGWU, the United Federation of
Teachers, the Communications
Not long after Gompers arrived in Workers of America and the
New York from London in 1863, he Amalgamated Clothing and lbxtile
joined the Hand-in-Hand Society, a Workers Union.
Locally, too, several Jews hold top
Jewish mutual aid organization.
When he helped found the AFL, positions in the Metropolitan Detroit
Gompers took the society's logo of AFL-CIO. These include Bernie
clasped hands and made it the sym- Firestone, AFL-CIO vice president,
and David Hecker, assistant to AFL-
bol of the labor federation.
_ For many labor and Jewish CIO President Tom Turner.
And while national JLC Assis-
leaders, this symbol characterizes the
bond that ties the two groups tant Director Michael Perry has seen
together. It is a relationship, they say, a revival in Jewish participation in
forged in the Jewish role in helping white-collar trade unions during the
found the AFL and the CongresS of In- past 20 years, it is unlikely this ever
dustrial Organizations (CIO), nur- will match the Jewish participation
tured by the unions' support of the in labor of the 1920s.
Still, ties between Jews and labor
State of Israel, and still vital today as
the two communities work together remain strong, and one of the most ob-
on such mutual concerns as social ser- vious areas of common interest is
vice programs, education and human Israel.
A full 80 percent of all interna-
"The welfare of each group," a tional unions have invested more
Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) state- than $500 million in Israel Bonds.
"But it's not just the money," one
ment reads, "is interwoven with that
Bonds official in New York said. "The
of the other."
Yet, Jews today comprise but a labor movement gives tremendous
very small part of the work force support in many ways."
He noted, for example, that
traditionally associated with the
William H. Wynn, a Protestant, has
labor movement.
Gone are the thousands of just been named national chairman
Eastern European immigrants who of the trade union division of the
spent their days hunched over rattl- State of Israel Bonds organization.



Wynn is international president of
the United Food and Commerical
Workers International Union and a
vice president of the AFL-CIO.
Labor leaders and lawyers also
have participated in Bonds-sponsored
trips to Israel. Three years ago a trade
union delegation from Michigan, in-
cluding Robert Potter of Grand
Rapids, president of United Food and
Commercial Workers Union local 951,
went to Israel.
After the eight-day trip, Potter
said he felt the experience had given
him a greater understanding of Israel
and commented, "I wish I could send
my organizers out and come back
with such positive results!'
Another example of labor support
for Israel is the AFL-CIO executive
council's consistent denunciation of
proposed U.S. arms sales to Jordan
and Saudi Arabia. In a 1982 state-
ment, the executive council said,
"Giving formidable weapons to those
who have adamantly refused to join
the peace process (is a move that) can
only undermine that process!'
And in a gesture that hardly
could be labeled a calculated move to
woo local Jewish support, North
Dakota's AFL-CIO last year wrote the
state's congressman, Byron Dorgan,
in opposition to a proposed U.S. arms
sale of 1,600 air-to-ground missiles to
Saudi Arabia.
The Wyoming State • AFL-CIO
also responded to the proposed arms
sale. In a resolution submitted by the
union's executive board, the Wyoming
AFL-CIO called on the Reagan ad-
ministration to "refrain from selling
weapons to any country that remains
in a state of war with our friend and
ally, Israel."

A similar letter was mailed
earlier this month by Louisiana AFL-
CIO President Victor Bussie, who
wrote Secretary of State George
Shultz to express the labor group's op-
position to the proposed sale of $1
billion of new weapons to Saudi


f the labor-Jewish relationship
is characterized by a shared
agenda, it also has been one
devoid of public criticism.
When left-wing and liberal groups
throughout the United States con-
demned Israel's 1982 invasion of
Lebanon, the AFL-CIO was excep-
tional in its refusal to do so. Instead,
the labor organization issued a state-
ment in support of the move.
Under the headline "The AFL-
CIO is not neutral. We support
Israel," the labor organization said in
part: `"lb protect its security, Israel
was justified not only in altering its
stated objective of removing the im-
mediate threat but in attacking its
source — the command structure of
the PLO itself . . . Israel has not only
created the possibility of a free
Lebanon; it has dealt a blow to inter-
national terrorism and set back
Soviet influence in the Middle East —
and thus advanced the interests of the
Western democracies."
The National Jewish Community
Relations Advisory Council
(NJCRAC) was so impressed that it
paid for a full-page reprint of the
statement in the New York Times.
And after the Sabra and Shatila
refugee camp massacres, AFL-CIO
President Lane Kirkland said, "The
worldwide revulsion it (violence in the

Continued on Page 27

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