Sweeney slate calls for unity

WASHINGTON (PAI) — Stressing the need for labor unity in the face of an anti-worker federal government and business hostility, AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney and his ticket formally announced they would seek re-election to labor’s top posts.

Delegates to the federation’s convention, July 25-28 in Chicago, will vote on whether to retain Sweeney, Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and Executive Vice-President Linda Chavez-Thompson for another four years. At their June 20 press conference, the three claimed support from unions representing 63 percent of the federation’s 12.9 million members.

But if the three win at Chicago, they face potential withdrawal by up to four unions: the Service Employees and the United Food and Commercial Workers, which have already voted to leave should their reform demands fail, and UNITE HERE and the Teamsters. Combined, those unions have just over 4 million members.

“We have done what we promised we would do” when their team ousted former AFL-CIO President Thomas Donahue a decade ago, said Trumka. He ran through a list of achievements and initiatives ranging from establishing an organizing institute to increasing labor’s share of the electorate to leading campaigns against trade treaties and corporate greed.

To succeed in both organizing and politics, he added, unions must be unified — the theme of the re-election announcement. “I have no intention of backing down” from fighting for workers “just because the fight is getting tougher,” Sweeney said. “As long as I am president, our solidarity will never be sacrificed.”

Sweeney urged the dissident unions to concentrate their criticism and efforts on both anti-union companies — he named Wal-Mart and Verizon Wireless — and the Bush administration. Sweeney said the AFL-CIO has already been “through a thoughtful and intensive process of discussing change, and our proposal is evolving and not a final document.

“When we aim our guns, it shouldn’t be in a circle” at each other, said Sweeney. Doing so would only aid labor’s political enemies, he warned.