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Compromise on Foreign Policy OKd by AFL-CIO

October 30, 1985|HARRY BERNSTEIN | Times Staff Writer

After lengthy, heated debate, delegates to the AFL-CIO convention in Anaheim on Tuesday approved a compromise foreign policy resolution designed to satisfy both the passionately anti-communist leaders of the federation and other leaders who vigorously oppose President Reagan's Central American policies.

A key section of the resolution said:

"Unfortunately, the Reagan Administration continues to place emphasis on a military, rather than a political solution to the conflicts in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

"But the AFL-CIO believes that a negotiated settlement, rather than a military victory, holds the best hope for the social, economic and political justice that the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador deserve.

" . . . The AFL-CIO condemns the Sandinista government's campaign to coerce independent unions . . . (and) this campaign is reminiscent of Fidel Castro's subjugation of Cuba's trade union movement."

Neither Denounce Nor Back

Thus, the resolution did not specifically denounce U.S. aid to Nicaraguan rebels, called contras, who with U.S. backing are waging guerrilla warfare against the Sandinista government, nor did it specifically back such aid.

Twenty-four of the largest of the 96 AFL-CIO affiliated unions wanted specific opposition to the aid, but that position was opposed by many federation leaders.

The resolution leaves the individual affiliated unions free to support or oppose aid to the contras and the Duarte government of El Salvador.

The federation's resolution was the only one that provoked strong debate among the convention delegates.

The compromise, while vigorously debated on the convention floor, had been worked out Monday in behind-the-scenes debate among members of the federation's resolutions committee. AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland and other top federation officers were determined to avoid any resolution that would seriously divide the nation's largest labor organization.

An ardent supporter of a position against the Sandinistas was Albert Shanker, an AFL-CIO vice president and the head of the American Federation of Teachers.

Shanker said he has "a much greater concern for the violations of human and civil rights being perpetrated by the government of Nicaragua than I do about the actions of the contras. As a matter of fact, if I were deprived of the same rights that the Nicaraguan citizens are deprived of, I'm not so sure I would not end up being a contra myself."

Shanker noted that the resolution included issues ranging from strong opposition to South African apartheid to support of the Solidarity trade union in Poland.

'War of Terror'

However, Kenneth Blaylock, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said he was disturbed because the resolution did not specifically oppose aid to the contras "who are waging a war of terror against the people of Nicaragua."

Despite his remarks, Blaylock did not actually call for the resolution's defeat. Others did, however.

"It does not get to the question of our money, or our dollars, and eventually the use of our own troops if our proxy troops cannot get the job (of overthrowing the Sandinista government) done," said Jerome Brown, head of the Hospital and Health Care Employees union.

Ed Asner, the Screen Actors Guild president, said he was disturbed that the AFL-CIO was spending "as much money on misguided foreign programs as it is on domestic programs," and he denounced the attempts of the United States to "use force and violence to overthrow the government of another country."

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