AFL-CIO elections

Scott Marshall Scott at
Thu Oct 26 18:03:00 MDT 1995

**United and fighting -- new AFL-CIO leaders vow to 
revitalize and organize -- AFL-CIO convention says 'no to 
status quo'**

(Reprinted from the October 28, 1995 issue of the People's 
Weekly World. Maybe reprinted or reposted with PWW credit. 
For subscription information see below)

By Fred Gaboury

NEW YORK -- Delegates to the 21st Convention of the AFL-CIO 
elected, on Oct. 25, a new leadership committed to 
revitalizing the labor movement and confronting corporate 
union busting, the export of jobs and the right-wing 
"Contract on America."

The Imperial Ballroom of the New York Sheraton Hotel 
reverberated with applause from the 2,000 delegates and 
alternates, as speaker after speaker fired salvos at the 
"Contract on America" and "corporate greed" during 
discussion of several convention resolutions.

"These resolutions will not count for anything if we use 
them to paper the walls," Ed Grystar, president of the 
Central Labor Council of Beaver County, Pa., said. "We have 
to convert them to action -- action in the streets or 
anywhere else action is called for."

Owen A. Marron, executive secretary-treasurer of 
California's Alameda County Central Labor Council, drew an 
ovation when he called for the convention to march on Wall 
Street in order to "show these guys we mean business. They 
are our enemy," he thundered. He added that despite 
differences on who should lead the AFL-CIO, "our enemy is 
not in this hall."

John J. Sweeney was elected president of the AFL-CIO in the 
first contested election in the federation's history. He 
told delegates the "secret to protecting" the labor movement 
lies in its "revitalization and in opening the AFL-CIO to 
debate. When we do that, the solidarity and unity that are 
at the core of our movement are tempered and trued and made 
stronger," he said.

Liz Bettinger, president of the Schuykill County, Pa. AFL-
CIO was enthusiastic over Sweeney's promise of activism. She 
greeted Sweeney's call for "blocking bridges" with sit-ins 
in defense of the interests of working people, if that's 
what it takes to win. "When we came here, we said we were 
going to represent workers and that's what we are going to 
do," she told the World.

Sweeney, president of the Service Employees International 
Union, won election Wednesday afternoon when he defeated 
Thomas Donahue in a hard-fought campaign. Donahue had served 
as interim president since August 1 when he succeeded Lane 
Kirkland whose forced retirement opened the door for the 
challenge by Sweeney's "New Voice For American Workers" 

Sweeney's running mates were also elected, both with more 
than 55 percent of the vote. Richard Trumka, president of 
the United Mine Workers of America, is the new AFL-CIO 
secretary-treasurer. Linda Chavez-Thompson, a vice president 
of State County and Municipal Workers, was elected AFL-CIO 
executive vice president.

Chavez-Thompson told the convention she is ready to join in 
sit-downs and sit-ins. "I like to get arrested," she said. 
During the campaign she was arrested at a San Francisco 
demonstration in support of hotel workers.

The victory for the Sweeney ticket capped a hard-fought 
campaign in which the candidates crisscrossed the nation, 
walking picket lines and joining mass protest actions. A 
sign of the "New Voice" slate's potentcy was Donahue's "me-
too" embrace of much of the "New Voice" platform -- 
including Sweeney's call for a powerful drive to organize 
unorganized workers.

There were two roll-call votes on constitutional amendments, 
a brutal test of strength on the convention floor, both won 
by Sweeney forces by a margin of two million per capita 
votes. As late as Tuesday night, many delegates told the 
World that although Sweeney had the votes to win, winning 
was "not enough."

"Sweeney and his team campaigned on the promise of change -- 
and we need change," Blair Bertaccini told the World while 
standing in line waiting to cast his ballot. "But we need 
unity to effect that change -- and that's the question we 
have to address now."

Bertaccini said agreement to Sweeney's proposal for an 
increase in the number of vice presidents to 51 and then to 
nominate a united slate was a "hopeful sign that unity would 
prevail after the convention." The agreement, which 
specifically called for setting aside 10 seats to guarantee 
diversity, came after Sweeney and Donahue representatives 
agreed to calm the rhetoric that the campaign had generated.

Douglas Dority, Food and Commercial Workers president, and a 
leading representative of the Donahue camp, and Gerald 
McEntee, president of the State and County Employee and 
spokesperson for the Sweeney coalition, shared the 
microphone to nominate the fusion slate. Both called for 
unity as delegates returned home to fight the common enemy.

Convention debate was dominated by calls for change from 
many of the more than 500 leaders of AFL-CIO central labor 
councils attending the convention. Alan Hughes of the 
Texarkana, Texas Trades and Labor Council told the World, 
"It's easy to see why we are the ones out front in this. 
We're closest to the rank and file and we are the ones that 
are called upon to lead when it comes to dealing with their 

Hughes said his trip was financed by donations from council 
members who felt this was an important convention. "People 
are demanding change everywhere you go," he continued, 
adding that Arkansas and Texas are both right to work (for 
less) states. "We need help from a national AFL-CIO that is 
committed to organizing the unorganized in the south," he 

When asked to grade the convention on a scale of one to ten, 
Chavez-Thompson asked, "Can't I go higher? If we ever needed 
a united labor movement, we need it today," she told the 

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