Friday, April 04, 2008

Letter to Rep. Allyson Schwartz regarding her refusal to sign on to Congressional letter in support of Iraqi labor rights

Dear Rep. Schwartz:

Your e-mail inviting me to your April 7th reception just arrived. Your timing is amazing. I just got off the phone with your aide, John Sherry, who informed me that you feel "the timing isn't right with all that's going on in Iraq right now" to sign on to a letter with many of your Congressional colleagues to PM al-Maliki, urging him to promote fundamental workers' rights in Iraq.

Much of what is going on in Basra right now is directly related to the repression of union rights for oil workers, who oppose the privatization of their industry and have been campaigning against the so-called "benchmark" laws which would provide a wholesale giveaway of future oil field development and revenue to multinational oil corporations for up to 30 years. The timing couldn't be more important.

Even without the Basra situation, I wonder when you think is the right time to express concern about the outlawing of their labor organizations, freezing of union bank accounts, raiding of their offices, confiscating of their computers and records, and assassination of their leaders.

The AFL-CIO has been lobbying for signatures on this letter, though they initially authored a stronger version. Yesterday, the PA AFL-CIO Convention delegates reiterated their opposition to this blood-soaked, immoral war and their support for Iraqi union rights, and they affiliated with US Labor Against the War (USLAW). I am a national co-convenor of USLAW, the anti-war movement within America's union movement, and we too have been lobbying congressional representatives to sign on to this letter. Other PA legislators have willingly done so.

Your response to this appeal is beyond disappointing. You have long had the support of organized labor for your many campaigns, and you have had my personal support, both financially and with significant volunteer time. Your refusal to take this simple, principled step in support of human and workers' rights is truly bewildering and very upsetting.

Consequently I will not be attending Monday's reception. Nor will I provide any support for your campaigns unless and until you exhibit more concrete, progressive positions on this war and the working people who are among its principal victims.

Kathy Black, President
Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women
Co-Convenor, US Labor Against the War
VP for Finance, Philadelphia NOW