US Labor Responds to Iraqi Prime Minister about Iraqi Unions


8-06-07, 9:21 am

Below is a letter from John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, expressing his strong condemnation of an order issued by the Iraqi Oil Minister to state-owned oil companies not to recognize or deal with the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, a federation that represents 26,000 of the 36,000 oil sector workers in Iraq. The Oil Minister has played foil for the U.S. in this brazen effort to suppress popular resistance to the Oil (theft) Law.

The IFOU has been at the forefront of the struggle to preserve public ownership and control of Iraq's oil resources in the face of a concerted effort by the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund and multinational oil corporations to impose a new 'Hydrocarbon Law' on Iraq that would privatize control of 2/3 or more of Iraq's oil, the second largest reserves of oil in the world. The IFOU has, with support of four other labor federations in Iraq, declared it will resist this raid on the national heritage of Iraqis, including by work stoppages and strikes if necessary.

It was Paul Bremer, President Bush's 'Viceroy', who claimed Saddam Hussein's 1987 law banning unions in public enterprises as his own and passed that law on to the hand-picked Interim Governing Council he created to provide an Iraqi fig leaf for the U.S. occupation. Rather than scrap that law, the Maliki government has elected to continue enforcing it. This has led to raids on union offices, seizure of union records, destruction of union office equipment, freezing union bank accounts, arrest, beating and kidnapping of union activists, and even assassination of union leaders. The fact that the Oil Minister felt free to hide behind a dictator's anti-labor law says much about whether it is the roots of democracy being planted in Iraq or the roots of authoritarian neo-colonial U.S. control.

US Labor Against the War urges its affiliates, all labor organizations, and individual workers to let the government of Iraq know that the world is watching and will not allow them to continue violating labor rights of Iraqi union members with impunity. But we must also tell the U.S. Congress that its support for a 'benchmark' calling for adoption of the Oil (theft) Law makes it an accomplice in this crime. We should demand that the Congress drop this benchmark and renounce any effort to impose a new regime of private foreign control of Iraqi oil. The only benchmark that matters now is the one that immediately removes all U.S. military forces and mercenary contractors from Iraq so that the Iraqi people can determine for themselves, free of foreign interference and coercion by occupation, how to rebuild their nation and restructure their government and economy. Congress has a duty to use its control over appropriations to immediately defund all military operations in Iraq, except for the rapid evacuation of US forces, contractors and any Iraqis who by virtue of their service to the U.S. require refuge outside of Iraq. Only when the 70% of the American people who want an end to the occupation ACT to demand an end to the war, will a spineless Congress develop the backbone required to end it.

From US Labor Against War

American, Federation of Labor a Congress of Industrial Organizations August 2. 2007 His Excellency Nouri Al Maliki, Prime Minister The Republic of Iraq Baghdad, Iraq

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

On behalf of the nearly ten million working men and women of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL CIO), I write to strongly condemn an order given by the Minister of Oil an July 18 prohibiting it, agencies and departments from dealing with the country's oil unions, declaring them and all unions in the public sector 'illegal.'

Shockingly, this directive relies an labor and trade union laws developed by the previous dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, intended to squash democracy in the workplace, ban independent trade unions and silence workers. This attempt to silence Iraqi unions is an unacceptable attack an human rights in Iraq and a breach of the most fundamental rights to freedom of association, which Iraq is required to uphold by virtue of its membership in the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Your government's actions in this case appear to undermine a previous commitment to develop a new labor law in consultation with the ILO. This process began in 2004 and is currently on hold. Iraqi workers deserve a new labor law that would afford them, for the first time in decades, the rights enshrined in the ILO's Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Iraqi Workers have been joining together freely to form trade unions across the country, including in the oil sector, since 2003. The AFL CIO has worked closely with Iraqi labor representatives and their supporters worldwide to rebuild labor institutions and to promote trade unions and worker rights in Iraq. Trade unions are a fundamental civil society organization necessary for democracies to grow and thrive. We urge the Iraqi government to withdraw this order immediately. Further, we urge the Iraqi government to revive its consultations with the ILO in order to replace the labor laws installed by a dictator, with a truly democratic labor law worthy of a new democratic Iraq. _______

Direct your messages to:

U.S. Embassy of the Republic of Iraq 1801 P Street, NW Washington, DC 20036 Tel: (202) 483-7500

New general e-mail address is

Ambassador's Office Fax: (202) 462-5066

A copy to USLAW atwill enable us to pass your messages on to the Iraqi Oil Workers Union.

Messages to your member of Congress and Senators can be sent at: for the House and for the Senate.

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