Worker’s correspondence

Sept. 20, 2002, was a tragic day for the working people of Cincinnati, Ohio. The local leadership of the AFL-CIO labor council held its Committee on Political Education dinner in a unionized hotel located inside the area of downtown businesses being boycotted by civil rights organizations to protest injustices that touched off recent rioting here.

Approximately 50 people joined the picket line, some holding signs reading, “AFL-CIO scabs on Civil Rights.” One white union member held a picket sign that read “100% Union, 100% for defeating the Republicans in November, 100% against crossing this picket line.”

A local of the American Federation of Government Employees told its members not to attend and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers did the same. A small, but important, contingent of union activists were among the boycotters.

But the fact remains: the council leadership held the dinner in violation of the boycott. Cincinnati, long dominated by the extreme right, reeks with an atmosphere of conservatism and reaction that infects the local Democratic party and now seems to have gained support from the local labor council leadership.

The boycott committee has done several things that have narrowed its support, such as including the area of the city with a concentration of union hotels and restaurant in the boycott area. They have sometimes behaved in a sectarian manner, such as not calling for a national boycott of Procter and Gamble, one of the real rulers of Cincinnati.

The council’s action has strengthened the ultra right here and will do long-term damage to the people’s movements, especially union organizing drives. It is clear that a broad Black/white coalition must now be created in order to counter this rightward drift the local AFL-CIO council.

– Phil Amaddon, union activist (