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Does Labor Need a Skilled Carpenter?

June 21, 2005

Please follow Paul Weyrich’s example by publishing your own commentary to help educate pro-family union members about the AFL-CIO’s homosexual “marriage” resolution.

“(AFL-CIO President John) Sweeney made a miscalculation which could cost him the election. Approximately 44 pro-family organizations sent a letter to Sweeney asking him to reverse the AFL-CIO position on the Federal Marriage Amendment and the various state marriage amendments. In an unreported move, Sweeney formed a coalition with Gays and Lesbians and had the AFL-CIO Executive Committee approve a resolution against traditional marriage. …The pro-family groups told Sweeney that they would do everything possible to see that rank and file union workers knew about this resolution before the AFL-CIO Annual Convention in Chicago in July. …(I)f enough AFL-CIO members learn about the anti-traditional marriage resolution, they may cast their lot with the dissidents. It could determine whether Sweeney keeps his job.”


FREE CONGRESS FOUNDATION
Washington, D.C.
June 21, 2005

Does Labor Need a Skilled Carpenter?
by Paul M. Weyrich

A banner election year for Democrats was 1958. Before that election there were 47 Republican Senators and 49 Democratic Senators. After that election there were 64 Democratic Senators and 34 Republican Senators. It took Republicans 22 years to surpass the Senate majority they held in 1958. The House of Representatives produced a similar Democratic majority in the 1958 election.

How did the Democrats triumph? First, there was a mild recession. Second, it was the sixth year of Dwight David Eisenhower’s eight-year Presidency and voters punished the party in power. Third, and most important for Democrats, the AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (COPE) went into full swing for the first time. Andrew Biemiller, a Wisconsin political operative, was in charge of COPE.

The alliance between the labor unions and Democrats has outlasted almost all other political marriages. The current President of the AFL-CIO, 71 year-old John Sweeney, defends that alliance. In 2004 he doubled union dues so he could spend more on the Democratic Presidential and Congressional campaigns. It was a controversial move. Had Sweeney something significant to show for it things would be just fine. But he doesn’t. The President was re-elected. Republicans increased their margin in the Senate by four seats and increased their margin in the House by three seats.

Except for new Democratic Senators in Illinois and Colorado (Barack Obama and Kenneth Salazar, respectively) Sweeney has no trophy on his wall. Moreover, many believe that Obama, the Democrat in Illinois, would have won without union support. This lack of accomplishment has become an issue as the AFL-CIO prepares for its annual meeting, in which Sweeney is running for re-election.

Sweeney’s opponents charge that he has spent too much time and money on non-productive politics and not enough on organizing. The percentage of union members in the workforce has dropped annually. Union members claim that Sweeney has done little about that. Unions represent 12.5% of the workforce now. Remove public sector unions (the largest) and unions represent 8% of the workforce.

Union dues are obviously compulsory for an employee who belongs to a union. Union dues also are compulsory when an employer and a union contract in such a fashion as to require an employee who does not join the union to pay the equivalent of the union dues the employee would pay were he a union member. However, in that situation the non-union employee is not required to pay that portion of union dues which goes to political and certain other activities other than collective bargaining, union management and the like – or, if (as is more common), the employee pays them, the employee is entitled to a pro rata refund. This has been the law since 1988, when the Supreme Court decided the Communications Workers of America v Beck case.
Too few non-union employees working in what often is called “closed shop� employment are aware of their rights. Neither Bush Administration has spread the word as widely as it should have. That is one reason why Sweeney had even more millions of dollars to spend in the 2004 elections.

Currently five unions, consisting of 40% of the AFL-CIO membership, threaten to desert the AFL-CIO if Sweeney, as expected, is re-elected. Whether or not they actually will desert is speculation. This may be an election ploy to try to defeat Sweeney. Yet, the unions have taken the appropriate steps to withdraw. That would be a further blow to Sweeney. First, it would give him less money with which to play politics. Second, more union dues would be needed to pay the outrageously high overhead for the parent union. Fellows like Sweeney may rail on behalf of the average worker but they themselves live well.

With respect to the average worker Sweeney made a miscalculation which could cost him the election. Approximately 44 pro-family organizations sent a letter to Sweeney asking him to reverse the AFL-CIO position on the Federal Marriage Amendment and the various state marriage amendments. In an unreported move, Sweeney formed a coalition with Gays and Lesbians and had the AFL-CIO Executive Committee approve a resolution against traditional marriage. Without coverage in homosexual publications the resolution might have been unnoticed.

The pro-family groups told Sweeney that they would do everything possible to see that rank and file union workers knew about this resolution before the AFL-CIO Annual Convention in Chicago in July. The AFL-CIO resolution concludes with a broad endorsement of homosexuals. It reads, “The AFL-CIO reiterates its long standing support for the full inclusion and equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace and in society.�

(In Michigan, one of the few heavily unionized states in the nation, a state marriage amendment passed with nearly 60% of the vote.)

The organizations which sent the letter to John Sweeney collectively represent millions of pro-family people, many of whom undoubtedly are union members. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association (AFA), which has an extensive mailing list, is producing materials for AFA members to read.

To date, Sweeney has not replied to their letter nor is he expected to reply. But if enough AFL-CIO members learn about the anti-traditional marriage resolution they may cast their lot with the dissidents. It could determine whether Sweeney keeps his job. Either way the demand is to spend more money organizing. Sweeney’s opponents in March demanded that $60 million be spent to organize a drive for new members. They were defeated. Instead the AFL-CIO Executive Committee approved $22.5 million for that purpose. The Sweeney re-election effort is the classic case of trying to hang, even if he is presiding over wreckage. Regardless of who wins, the days of the unions pouring endless sums into the coffers of Democratic candidates may be over. If they were over the Democrat Party would suffer greatly even though George Soros and other billionaires would attempt to rescue it. The difference is that the union members know how to win elections. The Leftist money bags do not. It’s been nice for the Democrats while it lasted. But the unions simply don’t have the influence they once had. Where is Peter J. McGuire, former union leader and founder of Labor Day, when he badly is needed?

Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
http://www.freecongress.org/commentaries/2005/050621.asp

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