Meeting in its national convention in St. Louis, the AFL-CIO strongly condemned the hate groups of the radical right, including the white supremacists, fascists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, so-called “alt-rightists,”” and their ilk, all now out in the open and responsible for the fatal riot in Charlottesville, Va.
In a resolution sponsored by the Postal Workers and offered by its president, Mark Dimondstein, the labor federation also blasted support for such fascists “at the highest levels of government”—meaning GOP President Donald Trump.
“If we are not vigilant, we could wake up in a fascist America,” the resolution warned. It urged unions to “draw a line in the sand” against hate-mongers.
The resolution was a top cause for Dimondstein. He’s the son of a World War II veteran who fought against the Nazis, and members of his extended family died in Hitler’s Holocaust against Europe’s six million Jews and many millions of other people. His children bear the names of European resistance fighters.
The Nazis were a particular trigger in the Charlottesville right-wing riot because their members paraded through the college town, ostensibly to protect a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, while chanting “Jews will not replace us!” And a neo-Nazi deliberately slammed his car into counter-protesters, killing one, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and injuring at least 19 more.
The resolution demands “working-class unity” against hate and reminds adherents unity and solidarity is needed to counter Wall Street and corporate power as well as the extreme right, racist, and fascist groups.
Those corporate forces “use ‘divide and conquer,’ always attempting to divide native from foreign-born, men from women, white from black, private sector from public sector, full-time from temporary, and U.S. workers from workers around the world,” the resolution added.
“The rise of the ‘alt-right,’ KKK, and neo-Nazis/neo-fascists and their divisiveness of white supremacy, bigotry, intimidation, and race and religious hatred is a direct threat to the working class, to the oppressed, and to our union organizations,” it warned.
“Union members and people of goodwill across the political spectrum are disturbed and outraged by the rising presence and violence of these hate groups in Charlottesville and elsewhere—and the green light given by the White House,” it noted.
While the resolution did not say so, Trump’s virtual backing of the white supremacists in Charlottesville led AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and former top federation staffer Thea Lee, the incoming president of the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute, to immediately resign in protest from a Trump manufacturing advisory committee. So did most business representatives. Trump then abolished it.
Dimondstein linked the current hate groups to Hitler, and pointed out trade unionists were among the Nazis’ first victims, even before Hitler’s deliberate decision to exterminate all Jews.
“We should never forget the devastation fascism, most identified with Hitler-led Nazi Germany, inflicted on people of the world behind the white supremacist theories of the superiority of the ‘Aryan Master Race’,” the resolution said.
“One of the first acts of Nazi Germany was to ban trade unions and persecute, jail, and kill unionists. Hitler’s Germany invaded one country after the other, leaving tens of millions murdered by the Nazis’ brutal iron heel, crushing those who did not think, talk, or look like them.” Besides six million dead Jews and 80 million dead overall in World War II, Hitler used slave laborers “to enrich the German industrialists.” The resolution praised the Allied victory of 1945.
The Heyer killing, the Charlottesville riot, and white supremacists’ hatred of African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and Jews, it added, shows a Hitler re-run could happen here.
“Resolved, the AFL-CIO encourages our affiliates to…engage in the struggle to defend union rights and all democratic rights in opposition to rising fascism,” the resolution concluded.
View texts of resolutions, video of proceedings and more from the convention on the AFL-CIO website.