Five top union leaders endorse Iran nuclear arms control pact

MINNEAPOLIS (PAI) – Five top union leaders, including AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, have signed a letter to President Barack Obama endorsing the agreement between Iran and the world’s top six powers, limiting and rolling back Iran’s nuclear development program  .

Public opinion pollster James Zogby, a committee member, circulated the letter during the Democratic National Committee meeting in Minneapolis on the weekend of August 29-30. It drew 160 signatures, a majority. The DNC did not take formal action on the controversial pact, which the GOP-run Congress may vote on by Sept. 17.

Besides Gebre, Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum, retired Connecticut AFL-CIO President John Olsen and former Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo , who is a DNC vice-chair, signed. So did former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

The signers represented just themselves, not their unions or other labor groups. Appelbaum also heads the Jewish Labor Committee, which has taken no position on the nuclear pact. Only the Steelworkers  and U.S. Labor Against War have taken formal stands on the proposed agreement. Both are for it.

“Seven years ago this weekend, we nominated Sen. Barack Obama for president” a statement from Zogby and other drafters says. In 2008, it adds, Obama “promised to choose diplomacy and engagement over conflict in pursuing American foreign policy objectives.

“Now, by working with the P5+1 — the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany-to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, President Obama has helped to fulfill that pledge. Promise made; promise delivered.”

Strictly limiting Iran’s nuclear program “is an important victory for diplomacy,” their letter adds. “We recognize there are some who in good faith have expressed reservations with elements of” the agreement, “but we believe you and key members of your administration have effectively and respectfully responded to these concerns. We, therefore, join you in supporting” the pact with Iran “as the best way forward to secure our nation, our allies, and world peace.”

Two of the five unionists who signed the letter, Appelbaum and Weingarten, are Jewish, and the U.S. Jewish community is split on the merits of the deal. Some more-progressive elements, led by the J Street coalition, support it.

The more conservative American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) agrees with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both forcefully blast the pact as leaving Iran free to use nuclear weapons in the future to obliterate Israel. AIPAC is running a multimillion-ad campaign to get Congress to reject it, by veto-proof margins. J Street is running a smaller ad campaign favoring the agreement.

Photo: The agreement with Iran involves not just the United States, but Europe, Russia and China. From left to right: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry, at the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015, during their talks on the Iranian nuclear program.  |  Joe Klamar/pool photo via AP



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.