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We of the AFL-CIO have a vital interest in these treaties both as citizens, concerned with the security and welfare of our country, and as trade unionists, representing thousands of workers employed in the Canal Zone.
At its last meeting on August 29 and 30, the AFL-OIO Executive Council dis. cussed the Panama Canal treaties at some length. Following this discussion and analysis of the summary terms of the treaties, the Council unanimously adopted the following statement:
"After thirteen years of on-again, off-again negotiations between the governments of the United States and Panama, two treaties have been agreed to which radically alter the Panama Canal Treaty of 1903.
“According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the treaties of 1977 provide for continuing freedom of action of the United States to maintain neutrality of the Canal and further guarantee U.S. access and rights to use all land and water areas and installations necessary for the defense of the Canal through the year 2000.
"Job security and rights of workers in the Canal Zone, both U.S. and Panamanian, will be assured. Since 1949, the AFL has called for justice in the Canal Zone in arguing for equal pay for equal work, so that Panamanian citizens would not be exploited through a double standard of remuneration. Through the years, particularly during the long and arduous periods of negotiations groping to ward a new treaty, the AFL-CIO has maintained a vigilant stance concerning workers' rights in the Canal Zone and the safekeeping of the elements of C.S. defense inherent in the Panama Canal Agreement.
“We are satisfied that the new treaties cover both considerations adequately. U.S. citizens now employed in the Canal Zone will be protected and remunerated as U.S. government employees and will be offered new benefits tailored to fit the new treaty characteristics, such as early retirement.
"After reviewing the summary of the new treaties, and based on the assumption that it is an accurate reflection of the final treaty language, which is not yet available, the AFL-CIO Executive Council views the two Panama Canal Treaties guaranteeing the permanent neutrality of the Canal and the operation and de fense of the Canal through the year 2000, as instruments worthy of support by U.S. citizens and their elected representatives. These new instruments constitute a just and enduring basis for harmony in the Western Hemisphere, and we support their ratification by the Senate.”
Mr. Chairman, our position is based on practical grounds, in the light of the circumstances of the modern world, and the conviction that we have more to gain today, in terms of the broad interests and ideals of the United States, than we have to lose, by approval of these treaties.
In the public debate of recent weeks over the wisdom of these treaties, some arguments bave drawn attention to the dubious circumstances surrounding the original treaty of 1903. I do not propose to rehash that question, for it has no bearing on our position.
While historically interesting, revisionist aspersions on the role of this country in a bygone era are scarcely relevant to the issues actually before you. Adverse judgments by this generation on the actions of another generation in another world, three-quarters of a century ago, may excite the moralism of some but they have little persuasive appeal to our members today. Nor are latter-day efforts to portray Theodore Roosevelt as some sort of an international brigand likely to rally broad public support behind these treaties.
In fact, the Panama Canal treaty was renegotiated twice, in 1936 and in 1965, with duly constituted Panamanian governments, with significant modifications in its terms and increases in annual compensation to Panama.
In no way should the treaties now before you be painted or regarded as acts ne atonement for American "guilt”, for we are guilty of nothing. On the contrary, the construction and operation of the Panama Canal by the United States was and is an extraordinary service to humanity and to all the maritime nations of the world. The American people have every right and reason to continue to regard this as a proud chapter in our history, as has been taught to school children for generations. And I, for one, deeply deplore and resent the campaign by Latin American demagogues, and by our own guilt-mongers, to condemn it as a locus of American "imperialism” or “racism", as was put forward at the ILO last June.
But the time has now come to bring to the fore ancoher aspect of American pride; our pride in the fact that we are not and do not want to become an oldtime colonial power, clutching a sort of cloudy, semi-sovereignty over this strip of territory, for its own sake, like some faded banner of past glory.
Our real interest in this canal is simple and concrete and derives from its only real purpose and function. The function of the Panama Canal is to offer transit to the vessels of all nations (which can fit into its locks) from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. That is all.
Mr. Chairman, I accept as valid the assurances by the President of the United States, supported by the Secretaries of Defense and State and by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the terms of the treaties afford adequate guarantees that this function will continue to be performed without let or hindrance and that there is no serious risk, as a consequence of these treaties, that American vessels, commercial or military, will ever be deprived of full access to this vital passageway between the oceans. I have no reason, in the face of those solemn and expert assurances, to interpose any less-informed judgment to the contrary.
Beyond that, I believe that the continued assertion of sovereignty, for no de. finable further reason, over a narrow strip of land, inside and dividing the territory of another country, would not, in the modern world, be an asset, but could on the other hand, be a liability.
Mr. Chairman, speaking for the AFL-CIO, we therefore support and strongly urge the approval of the Panama Canal treaties.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Kirkland.
Mr. KIRKLAND. No, sir. But they will be available for response to your questions.
The CHAIRMAN. Fine; thank you.
QUESTIONS FOR THE RECORD
I will, in the interest of time and as a result of the admonition of the Chair concerning the very long list of witnesses that we have today, pass at this time.
However, staff has prepared what I consider to be some very good questions. I am hopeful that those may be submitted to Mr. Kirkland and the other witnesses so that they may respond in writing for the record.
I thank the Chair.
I concur that I would like to see those questions asked. I think they were very good questions. The only one that I would like to go into detail right now would be the first one on that list.
AFL-CIO POSITION REGARDING TREATIES
I believe Mr. Meany's statement was prepared after your executive council meeting in August.
Mr. KIRKLAND. [Nods affirmatively.]
Senator GLENN. There has been an awful lot of controversy raised around the treaties since that time.
Does this statement still indicate the way you feel the executive council would react to the new situation now, where the rights of passage have been questioned, and where the rights of intervention to maintain neutrality have been questioned, at the Panamanian end,
at least, and where different interpretations are now being put on the treaties? That has given us considerable pause here on the committee. Do you feel that your statement would still be valid? Or would it require some further elucidation to bring it up to date in light of those things?
Mr. KIRKLAND. Senator Glenn, I can only give you my best judgment as to how the executive council would react to that new question that has arisen regarding the differing interpretations of, as I understand it, the right of expeditious passage,
I believe that it would be the general view of the council—and it certainly would be my view and, I believe, President Meany's view, that that is a serious question on which clarification is definitely needed. I am reasonably sure that the Senate will require that clarification.
Senator GLENN. I think you are correct.
I have a few questions to ask, and I will not duplicate those prepared by the staff.
I would like to say, Mr. Kirkland, that I think your testimony is very important. The fact that the council has followed this issue closely for more than a decade and now stated a position as forcefully as it has, is significant. There is no shadow of doubt that George Meany, you, and others in the council are patriotic to the core. You have opposed many things that various administrations have done, but you have always had in mind the national interest, and I commend you for that.
UNITED STATES-PANAMANIAN JOB SECURITY, WORKERS' RIGHTS IN
The statement adopted by the AFL-CIO Executive Council says, and I will quote: "Job security and rights of workers in the Canal Zone, both United States and Panamanian, will be assured."
We will hear from at least one witness today who will dispute that statement.
Would you wish to elaborate on the reasons that you hold this view, because it will be refuted in later testimony?
Mr. KIRKLAND. Yes, Senator.
The consideration that the AFL-CIO has been giving to the treaty negotiations does go back a good many years.
Two years ago, the AFL-CIO Executive Council reviewed the status of the issues involving working conditions and labor conditions in the zone in the event of the consummation of a treaty.
The council, after representations to the council by representatives of the unions of employees in the Canal Zone, set forth certain criteria or objectives that it felt should be met in any treaty that was negotiated. Those provisions and those objectives were laid out at the urging and in consultation with the representatives of the workers in the Panama Canal Zone.
It was the position of the council-reiterated again at an executive council meeting that took place in February of this year, where we gave a committee of representatives from the Canal Zone unions an opportunity to appear before the council at their request, arguing again as to these specific points—the council took the position that the achievement of those objectives would be determinative with regard to our support of the canal treaty. In other words, our position was that those issues had to be satisfied.
Senator, they were satisfied. It is our view that that represents the degree to which and the extent to which we were obligated to give, and did give, direct consideration to the immediate concerns of the representatives of the organizations in the Canal Zone, as distinct from the general interests of our membership at large.
Our view of the importance to this country of these treaties represents an assessment, after extensive consultation and considerable debate, of what is the proper position for labor representing the worker citizens of this country at large.
Senator PERCY. Another question has been raised by constituents of mine. PANAMANIAN PREFERENTIAL EMPLOYMENT WITH
PANAMA CANAL COMMISSION We have high unemployment in this country. It is the No. 1 economic problem of this Nation. Article X of the treaty is entitled “Employment with the Panama Canal Commission.” Paragraph 2(a) reads: "The regulations shall establish a system of preference when hiring employees, for Panamanian applicants possessing the skills and qualifications required for employment by the Panama Canal Commission."
If we are to jointly operate the canal, how, then, would you explain our agreeing that preference goes to Panamanians, rather than a 50-50 ratio, or something like that? I would ask for your answer for the record.
Mr. KIRKLAND. I assume that that looks to the long-range phasing in of Panamanian control of the canal, which is contemplated in the treaty.
LABOR WRITE-IN CAMPAIGN SUPPORTING TREATIES Senator PERCY. I would like to ask you another question. In view of the fact_that the position you represent today is that of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, is this position reflective of the broadbased membership of the AFL-CIO, and, if so, how do we account for the fact that as of now my mail and the mail of many of my colleagues is running at around 7,000 against the treaties and 250 in favor?
You are here representing the AFL-CIO, a broad base of labor support, and we also have the UAW here today. Thus we have the wo largest labor organizations in the country represented here today. Just where is your membership? Have they lost the ability to write ? You know more about writing to Congress and putting the heat on us han anyone I know. How do you account for the fact that the mail sve receive on this issue is so one-sided? Are we supposed to assume hat this mail reflects what the country believes and feels?
Mr. KIRKLAND. I don't think there has been any organized effective campaign in support of the treaties. There clearly has been one such
campaign against the treaties. There have been widespread efforts to solicit opposition to the treaties.
I don't know that in this particular case, in the absence of the kind of dedicated campaign in favor of the treaties that there is against them, that the relative weight of the mail is necessarily indicative of the public feeling. I do believe that the public is divided on this ques. tion at the moment. I have no doubt about that. I would suppose that, generally speaking, that division exists in our ranks as well
But it is the responsibility of leadership to examine things a little more deeply and a little more carefully, I think, and to determine where the longrun best interest of members lie. That is tempered, of course, by the democratic processes, very clearly. I don't think that many of our people who have served in trade union office would feel disposed to extend their necks terribly far if they thought they would be in grave danger thereby.
We have a constitutional mechanism, which I think is democratic, of arriving at policy positions. They involve first a convention consideration, and this is an issue that been before every convention that I can recall of the Federation for the past decade. The issues have been heatedly debated in committee and elsewhere. This has been an item on the agenda of the executive council of the Federation for a very long time and watched very closely.
The specific objectives, as I said before, and criteria have been met. Beyond that, one has to make a broad judgement in the position of leadership on the impact of these treaties on the general welfare anwell-being of the United States. It was the unanimous conclusion of the council, made up of presidents of a number of major unions of the AFL-CIO, that the net best interests of the country would be served by the approval of these treaties.
Senator PERCY. I would think, in view of the fact that many of the members of the AFL-CIO were not reluctant to write us about situs picketing and a few other things, that they might do so again on this issue, I mentioned this yesterday to the members of the clergy who testified here. The Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant clergy were all unanimous in favor of this treaty. I said that prayers were not enough, in a sense, and that maybe their people ought to sit down and write us with their views.
Mr. Kirkland, I want to thank you very much indeed for your testimony. Again, I commend you on taking a forthright position. It will be refuted by others who are testifying today, but I think this is a very significant body of testimony.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
AFL-CIO MEMBERS EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM
Senator PEARSON. I agree with Mr. Kirkland. I think more and mom there are issues coming before the Congress that require those with the responsibility of acting in a representative capacity to also act in s leadership capacity on matters ranging from international monetar: