[World History Archives]

History of AFL-CIO leadership

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   History of the AFL-CIO in general

Era of Lane Kirkland

Struggle bubbles up at AFL-CIO
Editorial from Workers World, 2 March, 1995. At Bal Harbour, dissatisfaction with President Lane Kirkland's style of leadership.
AFL-CIO leadership in turmoil: labor needs new strategy
By Scott Cooper, in The Organizer, 6 March, 1995. Leaders conclude Kirkland's policy of getting into bed with management has crippled the labor movement.
Toward a more militant AFL-CIO?
By Hy Clymer, in People's Weekly World, 10 March, 1995. Report of stormy discussion of AFL-CIO leadership at Bal Harbour on February 21st.
Jobs with Justice slates rallies to break "Contract"
By Hy Clymer and Judith LeBlanc, in People's Weekly World, 8 April, 1995. George Becker, USW, tells local Jobs with Justice (JwJ) meeting of need for new leadership and committment to struggle.
Kirkland dumped from AFL-CIO office
By Fred Gaboury, in People's Weekly World, 4 August, 1995. The post WWII era of passive unionism, associated with the leadership of George Meany and Lane Kirkland, comes to an end as Thomas Donahue becomes interim president.
AFL-CIO CampaignTalk (3): 'Top down' leadership persists
By Harry Kelber, 3 October 1995. Re. the March 1994 report which said that unions are perceived as "largely undemocratic bureaucracies." Both Tom Donahue and John Sweeney, rivals for the AFL-CIO presidency, have made dramatic proposals for positive change, but not specific proposals to give union members mechanisms for influencing policies and practices.
Albert Shanker and the AFL-CIO in support of U.S. imperialism
By Kim Scipes, former AFT member, 28 September 1997, reacting to the 1997 AFL-CIO convention veneration of this agent of US imperialism under Kirkland. This shows that the division in AFL-CIO policy remained alive years after the new top leadership had come in.

Era of John Sweeney

Sweeney Dumps 30-year AIFLD Director
From Working Together, January-February 1996.
William Doherty, executive director of the American Institute of Free Labor Development, is out. The AIFLD has a long history of supporting repression against trade unions and is wedded to the U.S. State Department and the CIA, and promotes free trade. It remains to be seen what Doherty's firing indicates for the future of AFL-CIO international policy.
The 'New' AFL-CIO still looks like the old
By B.B., in The People, October 1996. John Sweeney's election represents a restoration of militancy, but from an ultra-left viewpoint, the capitalist union, the AFL-CIO, is not what unionism must be to protect and advance workers' interests.
A Challenge to Convention Delegates
By Harry Kelber, 5 September 1997. Preparatory to the Pittsburgh convention in 22-25 September. Clearly, organized labor has begun to rebound after years of steady decline in membership and influence, but is still burdened with a few undemocratic features, relics of the past.
Hard Labor: John Sweeney, moderate militant
By Jonathan Cohn, in New Republic, 6 October 1997. Evaluation of Sweeney's character. Sweeney is labor's Mikhail Gorbachev: the man who rose through the ranks of a hidebound organization, accumulating allies and information along the way, until his chance to take over and do things differently finally came. Caught between reactionaries and radicals, he managed to enact just enough perestroika to destabilize the Soviet Union forever.
AFL-CIO Executive Council meets: New organizing runs into political attack on unions
Shelly Ettinger, Workers World, 2 April 1998. Re. Las Vegas meeting of the AFL-CIO Executive Council on March 18-20, 1998. Labor's renewed emphasis on organizing and its revived fighting spirit has alarmed the capitalist class and intensifed attacks by the bosses.
Will Organizing Suffer? AFL's Top Organizer Ousted
By Leah Samuel, in Labor Notes, August 1998. Re. removal of his organizing director, Richard Bensinger. Bensinger alienated some old guard union leaders by his constant emphasis on organizing--and the implicit criticism that many unions were not doing a good job of it.
Which side is John Sweeney on? Labor Notes exposes AFL-CIO leader's partnership with GE CEO
By Leah Samuel, in Labor Notes, 17 September 1998. John Sweeney is planning top-level private meetings with one of corporate America's most anti-worker CEOs, General Electric's Jack Welch. Sweeney has never made a secret of his preference for labor-management cooperation over militancy.
Top AFL-CIO Salaries
From Institute for Global Communications, 29 January 2000. A table of the salaries and Benefits of top labor leaders.

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