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Oregon labor leaders to Congress: end the war

April 18, 2011

As many Americans scramble to file their taxes at the last minute today, it is a useful time to reflect on how those tax dollars are being spent and whether the government’s budget reflects our values.

The congressional budget debates happening now make it all too apparent that the answer is no. The poor and middle class in this country are bearing the brunt of billions of dollars of budget cuts. What do we get in exchange? A $100 billion-per-year war that shows little sign of succeeding or making Americans safer. (To see what portion of your taxes went to pay for the Afghanistan war, check out this tax calculator from Rethink Afghanistan).

To make sure that members of Congress know we expect them to right this wrong, a group of labor leaders in Oregon sent a letter today to the state’s representatives and senators urging them to take advantage of every opportunity to push for an end to the war. You can read the full letter and see the list of signers below:

Dear Oregon congressional delegation,

As labor leaders dedicated to protecting the best interests of working Oregonians, we are writing to thank those of you who have gone on the record supporting an end to the war in Afghanistan and urge you to intensify your efforts to end this costly and unnecessary war.

Oregonians have already spent more than $3 billion on the war, and there is no end in sight. President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget includes devastating cuts that impact the poor and working class—from low income home heating assistance to community service block grants to Pell grants—while allocating another $107 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, American soldiers and their families bear a costly burden to continue this war. More than 1,400 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001, and suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rates for veterans have hit record highs.

We have seen the outrage at this attack on the middle and working classes erupt in the streets of Madison, WI, and throughout the country. Our supporters and members cannot tolerate government actions that prioritize continuing a war beyond the ten-year mark over building our communities at home.

This tradeoff in spending is especially egregious given the lack of evidence that the war in Afghanistan contributes to improving American security. By all major indicators—US casualties, civilian casualties, corruption, security—the military strategy is failing. With fewer than 100 Al Qaeda members reportedly in Afghanistan, we are asking Americans to spend more than $1 billion per Al Qaeda fighter while they struggle to make ends meet at home.

There are much more cost effective alternatives in Afghanistan that stand a better chance of success. The US should implement a nonmilitary strategy based on regional diplomacy, political negotiations, development and humanitarian aid and divert the saved resources toward economic opportunities in Oregon and around the country.

It is unconscionable to balance the budget on the backs of working people in order to fund a war that isn’t making Americans safer. We urge you to take action to pressure the administration to end the war, including cosponsoring and voting for legislation to end the war and speaking out forcefully for a new approach.

Sincerely,

Tom Chamberlain, President
Oregon AFL-CIO

Gary L. Gillespie, President
Oregon AFSCME Council 75

Richard Sanders, Executive Director
Oregon Education Association

Linda Burgin, President
Heather Conroy, Executive Director
SEIU Local 503, OPEU

Madelyn Elder, President
Communication Workers of America Local 7901

Ken Saether, President
Communication Workers of America Local 7906

Robert Petroff, President
Oregon Machinists Council

Jonathan J. Hunt, President-Business Representative
Amalgamated Transit Union Division 757

Mike Richards, Executive Secretary/Treasurer
Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 11

Gregory A. Pallesen, Vice President
Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers

Ryan Takas, Union Representative
International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 5

Margaret Butler, Director
Portland Jobs with Justice

Jim Alexander, Chair
Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice


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