27 July 2010

Union Veterans Hope To Inluence Other Veteran 's Groups

All too often people with common interests find themselves not trusting the other and failing to see opportunity to act in their own self-interest.  I think this situation is readily apparent between members of the various veteran's organizations and unions.  Both groups care about America, and both groups have memberships of men and women with strong inner codes of decency and fairness; what some would call basic blue-collar values.  But, we often see both groups misunderstanding or misinterpreting the motives and intent of the other with cynical politicians using "hot-button" issues to keep divided the two constituencies .

In response to this situation, the National AFL/CIO, two years ago to the month, launched its Union Veterans Council with initial plans for state councils in Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Virginia and West Virginia with union activists currently planning expanding by establishing state councils or union-veteran led events in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Oregon and Arizona.

As I write this, there are over 12-million union members who are also military veterans and hundreds of thousands or retirees are veterans, with an untold number of union families with relatives actively serving or recently released from military service.  This is a powerful constituency.  When they speak, veterans and union members do well to listen!

The Union Veterans Council includes representatives from 20 unions and labor organizations who come from every branch of the military.  It is chaired by Navy veteran Mark Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL/CIO, who served during the Vietnam War.  The Co-Vice Chairs of the Council, Ann Converso, United American Nurses President, and J. David Cox, American Federation of Government Employees Secretary-Treasurer, have between them over fifty years of combined service in the Veteran Administration.

Through their website they have already identified over 4,600 e-activists who want to stay engaged with the movement and over 400 union veteran spokespeople.

They are bringing together top union leaders who are also veterans to strategize and mobilize union veterans at all levels of the union movement.  During the 2008 elections, Vietnam veteran and IBEW member, Jim Wasserman, appeared in a TV ad explaining why Republican Presidential Candidate, John McCain's agenda was all wrong for working people.  His words were a legitimate and welcome contrast to the inflammatory and divisive attacks by previous ad-hoc and spurious veteran's groups such as the Swift Boat crowd.

While it is true that many veteran organizations seem to represent only the viewpoints of a jingoistic and reactionary right-wing the Union Veterans Councils provide validation for union and other veterans who do not share such extremist views.  Union veterans are leading walks, work site visits and round-table discussions talking to union members and veterans about key issues.

Personally, as a veteran of the Marine Corps, I find it refreshing and exciting to know that there are other veterans just like me that value the progressive and liberal dreams and aspirations on which our country and the union movement were built and who are working to deliver that message to other union members and veterans.

One of its key resolutions is to "encourage union veterans to take leadership roles in other veteran's organizations and strive to form coalitions and alliances with other veteran groups around union veteran's issues".

To learn more, just click on their website which is linked above.

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