by Steven Ertelt
August 7, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — When California’s state labor coalition voted to oppose a parental notification measure on the ballot this November, they did more than just take a stand on a one-time vote. The group, which represents 2.1 million workers affiliated with 1,100 unions, approved a policy statement calling on the national AFL-CIO to endorse abortion.
The national labor union has not typically weighed in on the abortion debate but the California Labor Federation voted to ask the AFL-CIO ”to reconsider its position of neutrality on the issue.”
The most recent version of the AFL-CIO policy statement on abortion, adopted in 1990, leaves it up to individual union members to arrive at their own conclusions on the matter.
It says it leaves opinions on abortion ”to the good and sound judgment of union members…. Sincere and dedicated trade unionists can be found on both sides of these issues.”
The Los Angeles Times reports from a conversation it had with national labor leaders in Washington, who told the newspaper they are unaware of any statewide group that has taken a similar position as California’s.
In 1990, when abortion advocates were pressing the AFL-CIO to take a formal position on abortion, polls showed that 77 percent of union households believed the AFL-CIO should remain neutral.
Abortion has been an issue before at the national level for labor unions. Some members have waged fights to make sure their funds used to pay for insurance coverage don’t also cover abortions.
In September 2003, the United Auto Workers withdrew an effort to require the big three automakers and two major auto parts manufacturers to pay for abortions in employee health insurance plans.
Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said her group launched a protest that rallied many labor workers.
"Some of the union members were saying if the contract included abortion coverage, they were going to fight ratification," Listing said. "That’s the last thing you want, division within your union."
Other people the Times interviewed indicated they didn’t think the California labor group’s vote would change much.
Bob Balgenorth, president of the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, said his union and others won’t be advancing abortion.
”We take positions only on things that directly affect working people,” he said. ”We don’t intrude into their personal lives.”
Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said he didn’t think the vote would have much effect.
Should the AFL-CIO endorse abortion it would likely come under fire from a large portion of its membership.
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) received strong criticism for sponsoring a pro-abortion march held in April 2004.
When LifeNews.com contacted AFSCME, a division of AFL-CIO, regarding its sponsorship of the abortion march, officials had no comment. Instead they referred all comments regarding the march to pro-abortion organizations.
When asked if this would alienate pro-life Democrats, Kristen Day, Executive Director Democrats for Life, told LifeNews.com, "AFSCME and the National Democratic Party supporting the pro-abortion march and pro-abortion forces ignores the silent pro-life majority who are organizing and will be more vocal in the future."