Rick Santorum defends fast-track negotiating authority; Local 683
Pres. Charles Tangle grimaces. Pictured from left are Tangle,
Santorum and Ron Rice.
According to the conventional wisdom, the sometimes
surly junior Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, cannot be out-argued. Tell that to Ian Thompson.
The 19-year-old high school senior did just that when a
District Six delegation visited the acid-tongued Republican during
lobbying on Capitol Hill. Thompson, the son of Local 690 Vice Pres. John
Thompson, challenged the Senators support of the discredited and
renamed U.S. Army School of the Americas.
Sen. Santorum stopped by as a UE delegation met with an
aide who had indicated her boss was unavailable. He quickly clashed
with delegates over fast track authority. UE members maintained that
their interests would not be well-served if Congress abdicated its
oversight responsibility on trade deals. There was no agreement.
Then Ian Thompson asked a question about the infamous
School of the Americas (SOA). "Id like to know why you support
this school that has brought such suffering to the people of South
America," the student asked. Sen. Santorum, who sits on the Senate
Armed Services Committee, suggested the SOA is in "our national
"I dont view murder and rape and massacre as
being in our interests," Thompson responded. A discussion ensued.
Arguing with conviction and full command of the facts, the articulate
young man forced the Senator into a hasty retreat from his office.
U.S. Rep. Gerald Kleczka (D., Wis.) meets with
Milwaukee UE members; from right, Bob Granum, Tim Burznyksi and Al
Harhay. This will be the last political action conference for Harhay, a
veteran attendee; he retires later this year.
Donna Cramer, District Six political action co-chair
(along with the elder Thompson), singled the teenager for praise during
the wrap-up session of the Political Action Conference. Hailing him as
"a young man with dedication," Cramer noted that Thompson also
forced an aide to Rep. Melissa Hart (R., Pa.) to "back right
off" on the SOA issue.
Thompson, who was attending his third political action
conference with his father, was arrested last November during protests
at the SOA. With the help of UE artist Gary Huck, he produced a
series of "Wall of Shame" posters depicting graduates of the
SOA and their crimes against their citizens. Hell be attending
Pennsylvania State University in the fall, with Latin American Studies
as a major.
UE has urged the closure of the SOA, now renamed the
"Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation." A
combat training school for Latin American soldiers located at Fort
Benning, Ga., the SOA has trained over 60,000 military personnel in
counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and
psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics.
These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage war against
their own people. Among those especially targeted by SOA graduates are
union organizers, educators, religious workers and others who work for
the rights of the poor.
Many UE delegations raised the question of the SOA in
their meetings with lawmakers.
2001 UE Political Action Conference- Photo
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