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May 27, 1988 - Image 30

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

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Hand-In-Hand

Continued from preceding page

that all of us agree on is that
Israel must stay on this
earth," Meyers said.
This is exactly the kind of
statement certain Arab
groups in Detroit do not want
to hear.
Some Arabs reportedly are
doing their best to erode the
close relationship between
Jews and the labor move-
ment. One of the ways they
are doing this is through
sheer numbers. With a large
community in the Detroit
area, Arabs have become
more and more prevalent in
the unions and thus have
achieved some measure of in-
fluence, according to one
observer who asked to remain
anonymous.
"Labor is still supportive,
there's no doubt about that,"
the observer said. "But
there's no question that forces
in the Arab community, and
some radical left-wing groups
as well, are trying to destroy
the trade unions' support for
Israel."

W

hat, the confirmed
skeptic might be
compelled to ask, is
the reason behind the labor
movement's continued sup-
port of Israel and interest in
Soviet Jewry? -
For the JLC's Perry, the
answer is simple.
First, the labor movement
has "long institutional
memories," he said. The
Jewish community and trade
unionists have a history of
working together, "and the
labor movement does not
abandon those friendships
easily."
Perry also said the Jewish
community has made it a
point to reach out and ask for
support. "The AFL-CIO is
made aware of Jewish con-
cerns, but this does not signal
a quid pro quo arrangement,"
he said.
Perhaps most important is
the labor movement's strong
commitment to democracy
and human rights, Perry said.
"Democracy is central to
the ideology of the labor
movement," he said. "It's not
simply wages and hours."
Perry added, "Everybody
says he's for democracy and
motherhood and apple pie.
But this really is taken very,
very seriously by labor
leaders?'
The AFL-CIO's Hecker said
that programs such as the
Trade Union Council for
Soviet Jewry should not be
singled out as ones of solely
Jewish interest, but rather as
human rights issues. "And
the AFL-CIO is there to pro-
tect the rights of everyone —
Jews, Christians, Muslims,

United Auto Workers President Owen Bieber (left) shakes hands with
Frank Garrison, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO, during a
dinner earlier this month at which Garrison was honored by the
Histadrut. Looking on is Tom Turner, president of the Metro Detroit
AFL-CIO.

Shintos, down the line," he
said.
It is, in a way, a lopsided
relationship. Although the
Jewish community is often
active in labor programs, it
would be difficult to match
the labor movement's involve-
ment in Israel and Soviet
Jewry.
Much of the Jewish com-
munity's action is the direct
work of the JLC.
The JLC appealed last
month to Jewish community
relations councils and other
Jewish agencies nationwide
to register their opposition to
lifting a ban on industrial
homework. The JLC's posi-
tion already has the support
of NJCRAC.
In Detroit, the Rabbinical
Commission of the Jewish
Community Council recently
passed a resolution endorsing
the "Wrath of Grapes
Boycott" called by Cesar
Chavez. The commission bas-
ed its decision on the biblical
tenet, "Justice, justice, you
shall pursue?'
Earlier this month, the
board of directors of Temple
Emanu-El also endorsed the
boycott, and asserted that no
table grapes would be used at
temple functions.
Another example is a
UAW/General Motors contract
awarded in January to the
Jewish Vocational Service.
The contract provides for JVS
recruitment, assessment,
counseling and other job
placement skills for the
18,000 workers laid off by
GM.
Workers will be able to
enroll in retraining programs
at Henry Ford Community
College, subcontracted
through the JVS. A similar

JVS program at the college
was offered for laid-off Ford
workers.
The JLC's Perry also cited
participation by NJCRAC in
labor law reform and other
pro-union campaigns, and
Jewish organized opposition
to the right-to-work proposal.
Support from social action
committees at several local
synagogues and temples and
the continued involvement of
the Workman's Circle were
noted by the AFL-CIO's
Hecker.
Yet members of the labor
movement do not feel they are
owed such support simply
because of their own par-
ticipation in the Soviet Jewry
movement or because of their
dedication to Israel, he said.
Hecker's staunch pro-labor
stance is not without
-precedence. His paternal
grandfather was in the
Jewish Socialist Bund, and
his father's favorite dinner
topic was the labor
movement.
"I grew up in a house where
we were taught every night at
the dinner table that
whatever good there was was
through the trade union
movement," he said.
At the same time, Hecker
inherited the Jewish tradi-
tion of working for justice.
Now, no line exists to
separate the two. The labor
movement and his Judaism
are inextricably linked.
"I can't distinguish between
values in Judaism and what
is valued in the trade union
movement," he said.
"Judaism is all about fighting
for justice and for what is
right. And that's what the
labor movement is all about,
too:"

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