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Date: Sat, 7 Oct 1995 01:56:16 GMT
Reply-To: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Organization: PACH
Subject: AFL-CIO CampaignTalk (3)
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 141.0 **/
** Topic: AFL-CIO CampaignTalk (3) **
** Written 1:17 PM Oct 5, 1995 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>

/* Written 11:25 PM Oct 3, 1995 by hkelber in igc:labr.newsline */
/* ---------- "AFL-CIO CampaignTalk (3)" ---------- */

AFL-CIO CampaignTalk (3): 'Top down' leadership persists

By Harry Kelber
3 October 1995

In a survey which the AFL-CIO commissioned and then quietly suppressed, the federation's top officers learned, to their chagrin, that far too many union members resent their "top-down" leadership.

The March 1994 report, aptly titled "Being Heard," said that a national poll showed that 53% complain that union officers are not responsive to their members. Unions are perceived as "largely undemocratic bureaucracies that impose decisions on their members from the top down." Their officers "make decisions and tell the members what to do," rather than giving them a voice in determining policies.

While both Tom Donahue and John Sweeney, rivals for the AFL- CIO presidency, have made dramatic proposals for positive change on the issues of organizing, political action, diversity in leadership and improving the federation's public relations, neither has come forward with specific proposals to give union members some mechanisms for influencing policies and practices.

A revealing example of their reluctance to provide opportunities for membership participation is the eight-member Committee on Governance which Donahue created to recommend structural changes in the AFL-CIO constitution to make the federation more responsive to the membership. On a subject as important as this, it would appear that state and local union leaders as well as activists would have been invited to give their views on how to revitalize the AFL-CIO. Indeed, there are at least a dozen proposals that rank-and-file groups are promoting that are worthy of serious consideration. Yet, union members who wished to appear before the committee were turned down. In fact, there was no effort made by Donahue and Sweeney, who is also on the committee, to encourage union members to submit their suggestions.

The governance committee, Donahue says, has had two meetings and they are still working on various proposals, but apparently there are differences of opinion within the committee. In the hush-hush atmosphere surrounding the committee, we are denied knowledge of the proposals or the conflicting views of its members. Indeed, it is possible that the committee may postpone its report on its recommendations to the opening day of the convention, with delegates hearing it for the first time.

As an independent candidate for a seat on the executive council, I consider it of utmost importance that union leaders and members be given opportunities to present their views to the AFL-CIO leadership. Without their involvement, the apathy, cynicism and frustration that now prevail within the labor movement will grow worse and imperil whatever organizing and political activity the AFL-CIO undertakes. I have proposed that the AFL-CIO establish a MembersU Correspondence Committee that would receive and respond to letters from union members and refer suggestions, complaints, requests for information and other comments to appropriate committees or agencies for further reply. I have also suggested that the Executive Council set aside one weekend a year when it will hear the views of members of affiliated unions, either at a video-taped public meeting or on cable TV call-in shows. I am sure that there will be other proposals to create a voice for the membership.

Meanwhile, with less than three weeks before the start of the convention, I am still the only announced candidate for a seat on the 33-member executive council. My candidacy guarantees that there will be a contested election with a printed ballot for the first time in 30 years.

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