Las Vegas (CNSNews.com) - The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a liberal activist, told a packed audience at the AFL-CIO convention Tuesday that the government is using the "right wing media" in America as a weapon to destroy the leadership of organized labor.
Jackson said leaks of government information to "right-wing media" outlets such as the Washington Times and FOX News are being used as weapons, the same way that FBI wiretaps and IRS audits are being used as weapons.
He also blasted Attorney General John Ashcroft's detention of suspected terrorists, calling Ashcroft the "suspect" who is "threatening democracy" with his anti-terror offensive.
"Ashcroft is using the FBI as one weapon, the IRS as another weapon and leaks to the right-wing media as another weapon," he declared.
Jackson believes the intent of the media leaks is to "destroy the leadership" of organized labor and distract it from the 2002 elections.
"Suppose a labor leader protests a policy... raise(s) a question about war policy, even for debate -- you are a suspect," Jackson said. "Suppose you then give a donation to a peaceful organization. They then trail your money and then they tap your phone and then IRS and then Washington Times and then FOX... (the) time they spend tying up labor leaders will keep you too busy to fight back in year 2002," he stated.
Jackson's sometimes rambling speech at the 24th Biennial Convention in Las Vegas was enthusiastically received by the delegates.
At one point, Jackson seemed to tie opponents of organized labor to domestic terrorists.
"You know anthrax did not come from a cave in Afghanistan. The same people who blew up the building in Oklahoma City, Ruby Ridge, the terror attack in Atlanta, Georgia, -- those same anti-union forces. Anthrax in the government, anthrax to the media and yet there is a price we pay focusing on domestic internal terror (sic)" he stated.
"They are using bin Laden as an excuse to take away basic workers rights," he added.
Jackson believes that those who say the world changed after September 11th are wrong. He noted that the opponents of organized labor have not changed their positions.
"Those who would trade off American jobs for slave labor abroad still choose slave labor over organized labor."
He compared President George W. Bush's economic stimulus plan to the policies that led to the Great Depression.
"Hoover said give the money to the corporations. He put us in a hole. Roosevelt said give the money to the people. He rode us out. We must choose Roosevelt over Hoover," he remarked.
Jackson also expanded the definition of terrorism, saying, "We must fight terrorism wherever it manifests itself. Denying the worker the right to organize is a form of economic terror."
Yes to immigrants' rights
The 1000-member labor delegation voted on Tuesday to urge the federal government to grant amnesty to all illegal aliens. Resolution 5: A Nation of Immigrants, calls on Congress to "enable undocumented workers from all countries to attain permanent legal U.S. citizen status..." The measure passed unanimously.
"The terrorist acts were not committed by immigrants, they were committed by criminals," said John Wilhelm, general president of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union.
Bill Moore, an official with the Minnesota state AFL-CIO, asked, "Why should we be afraid of foreigners? We're all foreigners except for Indians." "You discriminate against one, you discriminate against everybody," Moore told CNSNews.com .
The delegates also passed a separate resolution urging passage of a federal hate crime law and a ban on racial profiling.
Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, said, "Hate crimes affect all kinds of workers...We refuse to sanction hate."
Who supports Bush?
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney refused to acknowledge exit poll data showing that 40 percent of rank-and-file union members voted for Bush in last year's presidential election.
Asked if it was fair to use union dues to support Democratic candidates, he told CNSNews.com , "I haven't seen any poll that shows 40 percent voted for President Bush. But I have seen the polls that have shown the vote Al Gore got, and if every voter in this country had their vote counted, Al Gore would be president."
Contempt for right-to-work laws
Many participants exhibited contempt for state right-to-work laws, which allow workers the choice of whether to join a union.
Jack Shea, president of the Pennsylvania-based Allegheny County Labor Council, accused the National Right to Work Committee of being "backed by the manufacturing association that wants to make a union-free nation, which means that all workers will be working for a lot less."
Stefan Gleason of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit group that offers legal aid to employees fighting compulsory unionism, fired back, telling CNSNews.com that, "Unlike organized labor, all our support is voluntary. We do not have to have force people to support us -- they (just) do."
Gleason said that as many as 10 million workers nationwide must pay union dues or lose their jobs.
According to Gleason, right-to-work laws make union membership voluntary by stripping the union of the power to fire a worker if that worker refuses to join.
But Charlie Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey state AFL-CIO, called right-to-work laws "a death knell to organized labor."
Wowkanech explained, "Essentially what that means is [they] are going to take you out of business. We can't tolerate that."
Gleason said Wowkanech's comment was revealing.
"What a stunning statement. What a lack of confidence they display. If they do not have the power to force membership, they would be dead," he stated.
Gleason accused organized labor of using compulsory workers' dues to support Democratic candidates. "Eighty percent of the American people oppose
forced unionization," he said.
"The fact that they do not represent rank-and-file workers, that is what is so threatening to them. An organization built on coercion should not be surprised the people aren't with you," he commented.
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