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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 97 11:16:54 CDT
From: rich@pencil.CC.WAYNE.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: AFL-CIO Election '97 (Part 5)
Article: 17849

/** 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 hkelber@igc.org 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 policy-making Council.

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 are scheduled.

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