Date: Fri, 12 Sep 97 11:16:54 CDT
From: rich@pencil.CC.WAYNE.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Subject: AFL-CIO Election '97 (Part 5)
/** headlines: 163.0 **/
** Topic: AFL-CIO Election '97 (Part 5) **
** Written 3:27 PM Sep 11, 1997 by labornet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 8:59 PM Sep 5, 1997 by email@example.com in labortalk */
/* ---------- "A Challenge to Delegates" ---------- */
A Challenge to Convention Delegates
By Harry Kelber
5 September 1997
This is the fifth and final posting in the series, "AFL-CIO Election '97."
The delegates who will be attending the AFL-CIO convention in
Pittsburgh on September 22-25 will have several good reasons to
celebrate. Topping the list will be the tremendous victory in the United
Parcel Service strike where, for the first time in decades, the public
supported a striking union, the Teamsters, by a 2-to-1 majority over the
UPS management, despite inconvenience and financial loss.
They can also rejoice that the AFL-CIO is emerging as a nationally-recognized
political force, as it demonstrated in its successful campaign
to win an increase in the minimum wage for millions of workers, despite
strong opposition from a Republican-controlled Congress. Clearly,
organized labor has begun to rebound after years of steady decline in
membership and influence.
It may therefore be easy to forget that the AFL-CIO is still burdened
with a few undemocratic features, relics of the past, which may seriously
constrict its policy-making resources and the development of new leaders.
Consider this situation: there will be two classes of delegates at
the convention: Those delegates who represent international unions will
each be able to cast hundreds--and in some cases, thousands--of votes in
the election for Executive Council and in any roll-call balloting. By
contrast, each delegate representing a state federation or a central labor
council, will be casting only one vote apiece.
What this means in practice is that the combined votes of the state
fed and CLC delegates is a mere 660, a drop in the bucket, compared with
the million votes cast by each of the largest international unions. This
distortion of the voting process, in effect, disenfranchises the delegates
representing state and local labor bodies, except for allowing them the
right to speak.
It is not a mere coincidence that no incumbent state fed or CLC
officer has ever been elected to the Executive Council, since the AFL-CIO's
formation in 1955.
The fair, common-sense way to end this discriminatory practice is
to amend the AFL-CIO Constitution so that each delegate has one, and only
one, vote on any issue coming before the convention.
There is also another equally serious problem for the delegates to
consider. The 51-member Executive Council, most of whom are unknown
to the delegates, expect to be re-elected as a bloc, without having to utter
a word about their qualifications or record. If that happens, the Council
will become a self-perpetuating body, accountable to no one but
themselves, just as it was during the 16-year tenure of former AFL-CIO
President Lane Kirkland. There will be no opportunity for newer, highly
competent and charismatic union leaders to become members of the
There may not even be an election for Executive Council, unless at
least one of the hundreds of delegates dares to become a candidate,
knowing that he or she stands no chance of getting re-elected, but is
willing to take the heat in order to uphold the principle of free,
democratic elections. and the accountability of officeholders.
Are there such individuals among the convention delegates who are
courageous and principled enough to undertake this challenge? We'll find
out on Wednesday, September 24, when nominations for Council members