- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. The AFL-CIO leadership yesterday adopted a resolution telling the Bush administration not to wage war with Iraq without the support of the United Nations.

"The president has not fulfilled his responsibility to make a compelling and coherent explanation to the American people and the world about the need for military action against Iraq at this time," says the resolution, adopted unanimously by the 54-member executive council.

"Our country and our families will be more secure if America is the respected leader of a broad coalition against terrorism, rather than isolated as a lone enforcer," the resolution says.

The leadership of the AFL-CIO, which backed Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in 2000 and consistently has supported Democratic presidential candidates in recent years, is joining ranks with a number of Democratic lawmakers who are questioning the war.

The labor movement traditionally has supported America's war efforts.

Labor leaders said the lack of international support for any such U.S. move, unlike during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, calls for different action.

"We think the situation deserves the kind of response we've given," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said.

Morton Bahr, president of the Communication Workers of America, said the anti-war resolution does not signify lack of patriotism.

"I don't think there's any question in anybody's mind that Saddam Hussein needs to be taken out," Mr. Bahr said.

However, "we believe an attack now is premature," he said.

If America acts alone, "the cost obviously is going to be astronomical," he said, adding that it could hurt the nation's economy and working families.

This week, the American Federation of Teachers issued a statement expressing an opinion common among the leadership of the AFL-CIO's 66 affiliated unions.

"The challenge today is not so different as it was in other years as we confront the rogue state created by Saddam Hussein and the companion threat of terrorism," the AFT statement said.

However, "We believe that the president has not fulfilled his responsibility to make a compelling and coherent explanation to the American people and the world as to why military action in Iraq is necessary at this time."

Mr. Sweeney, joined by his British counterpart John Monks of the Trades Union Congress, issued a similar statement in an appeal to President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"The goal of our policy should be to take every possible step to achieve the legitimate ends of disarming Iraq without recourse to war," the statement said. About 100 local unions have adopted similar resolutions opposing war with Iraq.

"Bush's drive for war serves as a cover and a distraction for the sinking economy, corporate corruption [and] layoffs," said the resolution from the United Steelworkers Local 1011 of East Chicago, Ind.

Although opposition to war is not unanimous among unions, labor leaders who have not expressed opinions generally remain neutral.

"We have to remain neutral," said Melissa Gilbert, president of the Screen Actors Guild. "Some of our members are broadcasters and we can't get into any political arenas."

Opinions run the gamut among SAG members, who range from conservative gun rights campaigner Charlton Heston to liberal activists, who say driving sports utility vehicles promotes terrorism by increasing America's dependence on oil from the Middle East.

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