"more pro-labor news than a year of the L.A. Times"


L.A. Labor News * Editor: Jim Smith * Nov. 22, 1995 * #10




New Voices win.

The Roll Call.

Diversity on the Executive Council.

Reporter's notebook.

Dan Lane ends hunger strike.


Working L.A. schedule.


Copyright 1995 L.A. Labor News. To reach L.A. Labor News:

FAX: 310/399-7352 * Voice: 310/399-8685

E-mail: LALabor@aol.com

Postal: P.O. Box 644, Venice, CA 90294

Nov. 22, 1995 * #10




by Andrea Adleman

"You're here with the awesome responsibility to change the American labor movement." With these words, AFSCME's Gerald McEntee set the tone for the historic AFL-CIO convention held in New York Oct. 23-26.

The delegates hardly needed to be reminded that they were making history. Sparks flew, passions flared, and there was no escaping the hopeful talk of rebirth that permeated every nook and cranny of the overflow hotel. A record-setting 1,000-plus delegates became the supporting cast in an unfolding drama, a work-in-progress that just might re-write the script of American history.

Election Committee Chair Albert Shanker closed the first act on Oct. 25, when incumbent Tom Donahue was cast out of the leading role by a 56-to-44-percent margin. Deadpanned Shanker: "I turn this gavel over to the next president of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney." As they had so many times before, delegates brought the house down with thunderous applause for the SEIU president turned AFL-CIO leader. So concluded the first contested election the AFL-CIO had ever known in the 40 years since the labor organizations merged.

While Sweeney's victory followed the prescribed script, the convention was not without its improvisational twists. On Oct. 20, the Carpenters switched sides and threw their support behind Donahue, a move that posed no serious threat to Sweeney and his running mates on the New Voice for American Workers ticket, Mine Workers President Rich Trumka for Secretary-Treasurer and AFSCME's Linda-Chavez Thompson for the proposed Executive Vice President slot.

Just after lunch on Day 1 of the convention, New Voice staff burst into the press room declaring that the election was over. The proof: a statement of New Voice loyalty to end "speculation and confusion," signed by union leaders representing 55 percent of the vote.

Later that afternoon, delegates approved a New Voice motion to postpone voting on the Executive Vice President office until after the President and Secretary-Treasurer had been elected. The bellwether vote foretold a New Voice victory two days later. As the scriptwriters anticipated, delegates closed ranks following the Sweeney-Trumka victory and supported the constitutional amendment to create the third office.

Chavez-Thompson, daughter of a Texas sharecropper, ran unopposed to become the first woman and Latina to hold a top AFL-CIO post. In another dramatic break with the status quo, the Executive Council was expanded from 35 to 54 seats, and one-fourth of the newly elected members are women and people of color.

Street theater played a role at the convention as well. After the Sweeney-Donahue debate on Oct. 24, members of large pro-Donahue unions staged a rally for their man, spilling out into the street under the NYPD's watchful eye. The following day, convention delegates joined HERE strikers on a picketline that ended with civil disobedience, and, on Oct. 25, hundreds of delegates took to the streets in support of New York garment workers.

The protest, sponsored by UNITE, symbolized labor's promise and the key to its survival. In a show of militant defiance, march organizers steered protesters onto busy 7th Avenue after tense exchanges with New York's finest, including threats of arrest. Below towering sweatshops, in the heart of the garment district, 5,000 low-wage workers &endash; an underclass of immigrant women &endash; rallied for dignity and justice. On stage stood Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Sweeney, Trumka, and Executive Council members, personifications of the political and labor leadership with the power to set priorities. These figures became a captive audience for the workers, who spoke in Spanish and Chinese of exploitation, of hope, and of unionization, surrounded by impassioned co-workers who will ultimately become the protagonists of social change.

"This is an exciting day filled with hope and enthusiasm," said Sweeney, pledging that organized labor would "stop the fat corporations from turning America into a sweatshop." As the curtain closed on the four-day drama amidst a sea of marginalized workers, it was hard to doubt that organized labor was ready, willing, and able to battle for center stage in 21st-century America.

Andrea Adleman is an L.A. labor journalist and an eyewitness to the history AFL-CIO convention in New York city.





Total Votes:

42.5 unions 5,716,165 - 43% Donahue

34.5 unions 7,286,837 - 57% Sweeney


Building Trades:

1,536,427 - 64% Donahue

879,834 - 36% Sweeney

Asbestos Workers (D) 12,000

Boilermakers (D) 41,659

Bricklayers (D) 84,000

Carpenters (D) 378,194

Electrical Workers (IBEW) (D) 678,232

Elevator Constructors (D) 20,367

Operating Engineers (S) 297,917

Iron Workers (D) 81,642

Laborers (S) 352,067

Painters (S) 95,000

Plasterers and Cement Masons (S) 29,329

Plumbing and Pipe Fitting (D) 219,800

Roofers (D) 20,533

Sheet Metal Workers (S) 105,521



590,920 - 91% Donahue

58,171 - 9% Sweeney

Communications Workers (CWA) (D) 477,310

Graphic Communications (GCIU) (D) 93,703

Newspaper Guild (D) 19,619

Radio Association (D) 288

Transportation-Communications (S) 58,171



127,453 - 75% Donahue

43,165 - 25% Sweeney

*Actors and Artistes (4A) (D) 39,965

*Actors and Artistes (4A) (S) 39,965

Musicians (D) 35,010

Professional Athletes (D) 1,778

Stage Employees (IATSE) (D) 50,700

Writers Guild East (S) 3,200


Food and Allied:

1,107,092 - 99% Donahue

16,000 - 1% Sweeney

Bakery (D) 95,580

Distillery, Wine (D) 8,010

Farm Workers (UFW) (S) 16,000

Food and Commercial (UFCW) (D) 983,386

Grain Millers (D) 20,116



608,257 - 22% Donahue

2,098,421 - 78% Sweeney

Aluminum, Brick and Glass (D) 36,543

Auto Workers UAW) (S) 751,071

Chemical Workers (D) 33,628

Electronic Workers (IUE) (D) 134,746

Glass Workers (D) 69,000

Flint Glass Workers (D) 19,510

Leather, Plastics, Novelty Workers (S) 4,712

Machinists (IAM) (S) 448,146

Mechanics (MESA) (S) 3,082

Metal Polishers (D) 3,135

Mine Workers (UMWA) (S) 75,010

Needletrades (UNITE) (D) 250,939

Novelty & Production Workers (S) 20,006

Oil Workers (OCAW) (S) 83,042

Paperworkers (S) 232,627

Steelworkers (USWA) (S) 480,725

Textile Workers (D) 15,035

Utility Workers (D) 45,721



161,814 - 72% Donahue

63,207 - 28% Sweeney

Longshoremen's (ILA) (D) 60,523

Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's (ILWU) (S) 36,016

Marine Engineers (MEBA) (S) 27,191

National Maritime Union (NMU) (D) 21,041

Seafarers (D) 80,250


Public, Health Care & Professional:

1,345,048 - 34% Donahue

2,638,613 - 66% Sweeney

Fire Fighters (S) 151,000

Government Employees (AFGE) (D) 153,150

Letter Carriers (D) 210,000

Office & Professional (OPEIU) (D) 85,915

Police Associations (S) 26,177

Postal Workers (APWU) (D) 260,590

Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE) (D) 22,242

School Administrators (S) 10,710

Service Employees (SEIU) (S) 1,027,474

State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) (S) 1,182,987

Teachers (AFT) (D) 613,151



75,884 - 23% Donahue

251,634 - 77% Sweeney

Hotel and Restaurant (HERE) (S) 240,265

Laundry and Dry Cleaning (S) 11,369

Retail, Wholesale & Department Store (RWDSU) (D) 75,884

Service Employees (see Public)



163,270 - 10% Donahue

1,478,056 - 90% Sweeney

Air Line Pilots (D) 35,429

Flight Attendants (D) 30,722

Horseshoers (S) 500

Locomotive Engineers (S) 19,039

Maintenance of Way Employes (S) 30,699

Railroad Signalmen (S) 9,747

Teamsters (S) 1,284,735

Train Dispatchers (D) 2,003

Transit Union (ATU) (D) 95,116

Transport Workers (TWU) (S) 75,000

United Transportation Union (S) 58,336


*Actors and Artistes (4A) split their votes 50-50 between Donahue and Sweeney. All other union votes were unanimous.




Total members: 54

Women: 7 - 13%

Men: 47 - 87%

White males: 37 - 69%

African-Americans: 8 - 15%

Latinos: 2 - 4%

Asian-Americans: 1 - 2%

People of color: 11 - 20%




by Jim Smith


January -

The seemingly "forever" leadership of Lane Kirkland received a shock when the final report of the Dunlop Commission was released this month.

The report of the Clinton-appointed and AFL-CIO-blessed committee focused on eliminating protection against company-dominated employee organizations. It was a complete shock.

When the preliminary report was released six months before, Tom Donahue enthused that the commission's work would "launch a debate that hasn't been held for . . . years on the relationship between workers and owners."

The Dunlop report gave Republicans an excuse to introduce the TEAM Act in Congress. For some top labor leaders, the Dunlop Report was the final straw that move them to publicly opposed Kirkland.

On January 28, the Washington Post broke the story that a group of anonymous international union presidents were plotting against Kirkland.


February -

The Executive Council met as usual in Bal Harbour, Florida, but the meeting was anything but routine. For the first time, McEntee, Sweeney and others told Kirkland of their displeasure and urged his retirement.


April -

After two months of increasingly hostile and public disclosures by the insurgents, Kirkland went on the road. If his aim was to make an end-run around the international presidents by showing his rapport with the rank-and-file, he miscalculated badly.

The first stop was April 21 in Los Angeles. I have to take some small credit (or blame) for Kirkland's downfall. He appeared in front of a packed meeting at the Bonaventure Hotel, made a rambling speech and asked for questions. After he fielded a couple of easy queries, I asked Kirkland what he was going to do about the lack of diversity in the top leadership of the AFL-CIO. Kirkland went on a 20 minute tirade without answering the question.

Next up at the microphone was AFSCME's Gerry McEntee (who deserves a lot of credit for toppling Kirkland). McEntee took Kirkland to task for his failure to support election initiatives on behalf of Democratic Members of congress. It was all downhill for the rest of the evening. When it was over, Kirkland looked like he was ready to retire on the spot.


May -

Surprisingly, Kirkland didn't retire. But the anointed candidate of the insurgents, Tom Donahue, did announce his retirement on May 8. The next day, Kirkland launched his reelection campaign.

A committee &endash; tentatively titled New Leadership &endash; representing 11 presidents of some of the most powerful industrial, building trades and public worker unions in the AFL-CIO promptly announced its opposition to Kirkland's reelection.

Donahue's resignation ended the possibility of a compromise between Kirkland supporters and opposition forces and set the stage for the first contested election since 1894 when Samuel Gompers beat John McBride who had ousted him the previous year.


June -

Another U-turn. Kirkland says he will retire in August, Donahue runs for president. Sweeney, Trumka and Chavez-Thompson announce as New Voice candidates. The campaign begins.


July -

Sweeney and Chavez-Thompson appear at an open-meeting at the L.A. County Federation of Labor. I'm disappointed with Sweeney's response to my question about changes in the AFL-CIO's international department. "We're going to change every department," he quips.

Kirkland's administration had been subject to constant criticism for its preoccupation with foreign policy issues. A real change in the AFL-CIO would mean a repudiation of this policy. But, Sweeney was playing his cards close to his vest. (see "AFL-CIO's Last Cold Warrior," Z Magazine, July-Aug. 1995.)

I interview Tom Donahue at the CWA convention. He impressive one-on-one. Donahue says Sweeney wants to contract-out many of the functions of the federation. This could be a hot campaign issue but Donahue fails to follow up.


August -

The course of the campaign is becoming clear. Donahue is running a typical AFL-CIO top-down operation, trying to sway those with the votes. In contract, Sweeney is running an organizing campaign. He stumps for votes among the rank-and-file who have no vote This turns out to be a smart move since it keeps pressure on leaders who might otherwise flip-flop. The New Voice public relations firm, Abernathy & Mitchell, daily send out hundred of faxes touting the candidates campaign speeches and new organizing victories by Sweeney's SEIU.

In August, Donahue assumes the presidency of the AFL-CIO, but fails to take dramatic action that could turn the election around.


October -

Last minute efforts by Donahue to sway Sweeney supporters result in lots of rumors but only one defection, the Carpenters' Union.

At the convention, the New Voice candidates were able to hang on to the support they gathered at the beginning of the campaign and coast to victory.





Staley hunger striker Dan Lane told L.A. County Federation of Labor delegates, Nov. 21, that he ended his 64-day fast after receiving assurances from newly elected AFL-CIO President John Sweeney that the AFL-CIO will dramatically expand the Staley Workers Campaign for Justice.

At Sweeney's invitation, Lane spoke to over 1,000 delegates at the historic AFL-CIO Convention.

Sweeney later wrote to Lane, "Your struggle is at the top of our priority list, This afternoon we named a special task force that is already at work."

The AFL-CIO will launch a national campaign targeting Pepsi. Pepsi comprises over 30% of the customer base for A.E. Staley, the corn-processing plant which locked-out 762 workers in June 1993. Forty staff members, 12 of which will be full-time, have been initially assigned to kick-off this new phase of the corporate campaign.

For More Information Contact:

- Fast for Justice (21 7)428-1104

- Joe Uehlein, Executive Assistant to President Sweeney in the Industrial Union Department 301/270-5597.





SAGE-UAW will hold a march and rally demanding collective bargaining rights for UCLA workers who are denied this right because they are also students. Thursday, Nov. 30. Beginning at UCLA's Royce Hall at 11:45 a.m. with a march to Murphy Hall. Rally at 12:15 p.m. 310/208-2429.



Supporters of strikers and lock-out victims of Decatur, Il. will meet Friday, Dec. 1 at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, 2130 W. 9th St.



A Hard Hat demonstration and hearing on Wilson's plan to cut the construction prevailing wage standard will take place, Monday, Dec. 11 at the downtown state building, 107 S. Broadway.

Hard Hat demonstration: 7 a.m. Industrial Welfare Commission hearing: 9 a.m.

Sponsored by the L.A./Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.



Every Wednesday

at 4:30 p.m.

Nov. 22 - Reflections on the AFL-CIO Convention with Sumi Haru.

Nov. 29 - Health and Safety in the work place.

Dec. 6 - Attack on Affirmative Action.

Dec. 13 - Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells. Workers Are Going To Hell. Organized labor's holiday effort.

Dec. 20 - New Otani - Old fashioned hospitality - no unions allowed!

Dec. 27 - Nigeria - World unions demand freedom for oil workers.

KPFK 90.7 FM

Host: Henry Walton

Voice Mail: 213/960-4322


Copyright 1995 L.A. Labor News. To reach L.A. Labor News:

FAX: 310/399-7352 * Voice: 310/399-8685

E-mail: LALabor@aol.com

Postal: P.O. Box 644, Venice, CA 90294

NOV. 22, 1995 * #10