AFL-CIO asks Wyden to oppose Ashcroft for AG

SALEM - The Oregon AFL-CIO asked U.S. Senator Ron Wyden to join the national labor federation in opposing the nomination of John Ashcroft for U.S. attorney general.

In a statement released Jan. 9, the national AFL-CIO Executive Council said it will "do everything in our power to persuade the Senate to reject his nomination." John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said labor will support the vast majority of President-elect George W. Bush's cabinet nominees, despite differences with many of them on critical issues. "Most of the nominees do not support our agenda to benefit working families," he said. "But we have confidence that we can work together to find common ground, and recognize that it is divisive as well as self-defeating to refuse to support appointees of good will and character solely on partisan grounds."

The labor federation said, however, that Ashcroft - and Gale Norton, Bush's nominee for interior secretary - have records of public service that thoroughly reject the politics of unity that Bush has said he will champion.

"We cannot support, and will work to defeat, their nominations," the AFL-CIO stated. Wyden was non-committal when asked by Oregon AFL-CIO President Tim Nesbitt, during a panel discussion at its Legislative Conference in Salem last Saturday, to join labor in opposing Ashcroft's nomination. A liberal Democrat from Portland, Wyden said that although he and Ashcroft hold opposite views on almost every major issue (other than free trade), the American people are very sensitive to issues of fairness when it comes to the confirmation process.

"Elections have consequences," he said, but he vowed to carry labor's concerns to Bush and Ashcroft during Senate confirmation hearings that began this week. "My pledge to you is that I will be tough, but fair. I won't compromise one iota on principles." The AFL-CIO Executive Council maintains that Ashcroft "lacks the integrity, the temperament and the commitment to equal justice under the law required for an attorney general. Were his views to become those of the Justice Department, they would threaten every federal labor and employment law currently protecting working families. His views are at radical odds with the laws over which an attorney general has authority - from the role of the federal judiciary, to the role of the federal government in protecting the rights of all Americans, to the rights of women in the workplace."

Senator Ashcroft's highly partisan attacks on executive branch and judicial appointments, together with his statements about litmus tests for these appointments, demonstrate a temperament at odds with that required for attorney general, the AFL-CIO pointed out. "He is clearly a divider, and not a uniter, and his rabid partisanship was displayed in an interview in the April 10, 1998 edition of Human Events, when he said:

'There are voices in the Republican Party today who preach pragmatism, who champion conciliation, who counsel compromise. I stand here today to reject those deceptions. If there was ever a time to unfurl the banner of unabashed conservatism, it is now.'" In the U.S. Senate, Ashcroft flew his banner high by compiling an extremely conservative and anti-working family voting record, the AFL-CIO said. "He tried to undermine the public education system co-founded by labor at the turn of the last century by promoting religious school vouchers as the hope of the next. He refused to condemn crimes based on sexual orientation, gender and disability by voting against the Hate Crimes Act of 1999. He showcased his disdain for the elderly by voting against measures designed to preserve Social Security and in 1988 told a middle school class, 'Social Security is a bad thing.' "

To express your views on Ashcroft or other Bush nominations, Wyden can be reached in Portland at 503-326-7525; fax: 503-326-7528; Salem: 503-589-4555; Eugene: 541-431-0229; Medford: 541-858-5122; Bend: 541-330-9142; La Grande: 541-962-7691; or Washington, D.C., at 202-224-5244; fax: 202-228-2717.

U.S. Senator Gordon Smith can be reached in Portland at 503-326-3386; fax: 503-326-2900; or from Pendleton: 541-278-1129; Medford: 541-608-9102; Eugene: 541-465-6750; Bend: 541-318-1298, or Washington, D.C., at 202-224-3753.

Washington U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell can be reached at 1-888-648-7328; fax: 202-224-0514. In Seattle call 206-220-6400; fax 206-220-6404.

Contact Senator Patty Murray in Vancouver at 360-696-7797; fax: 360-696-7798. In Washington, D.C., call 202-224-2621; fax 202-224-0238.

January 19, 2001 issue

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