Labor's Voice for Change (50) July 7, 2009

How the Sweeney-Trumka Cabal Plans
To Steal the 2009 AFL-CIO Election

By Harry Kelber

In the last three elections for AFL-CIO national officers, the Sweeney-Trumka "Unity" team won each of them by default. There was not a single union leader or member who dared to oppose them, not even for a seat on the 43-member Executive Council.

The Sweeney-Trumka faction spread the word that anyone who dared to challenge them would face a crushing, humiliating defeat—and they bragged they had a majority of the convention votes to win overwhelmingly. Their strategy worked: There was not even a sham election. They didn’t have to campaign or make promises about the future.

After 14 years in office, during which the AFL-CIO declined in membership and bargaining power, the Sweeney-Trumka group is using the same pattern of intimidation, that worked so successfully in the past, to gain still another four-year term without an election, with Richard Trumka as their candidate for AFL-CIO president, now that Sweeney will finally be retiring

But this time it won’t work! There will be an actual election! Trumka and his list of candidates will be forced to debate the issues of concern to America’s working families!

But here’s the problem. Trumka can easily steal the AFL-CIO’s 2009 election without half-trying, if he gets the convention delegates to comply with a single sentence in the AFL-CIO Constitution. Here is the final sentence from Article VI—Elections, Sec. 1(f), which reads:

“Each ballot must, to be valid, be voted for 43 candidates for Vice President and must cast the full voting strength of the delegate or affiliate voting.”

Let’s examine the meaning of the first part. In plain English, it says that if you want to vote for an opposition candidate, your ballot must contain the names of 43 delegates to be valid. If it contains fewer than 43 names of delegates, your ballot is declared invalid and is not counted.

In contrast, the Trumka candidates will have no such problem, because their names will be on a slate of 43 candidates. All that is needed to vote for them as a block is one check mark in the upper left-hand corner.

This bizarre, sleazy and probably illegal way to count votes in an election has now been confirmed by the AFL-CIO’s Associate General Counsel, Larry Gold, who says: “The quoted constitutional provision means exactly what it says: any delegate’s ballot cast for Vice Presidents must vote for 43 candidates (every position to be elected) in order to be valid for any of the candidates; ‘bullet voting’ for just one to 42 candidates is not permitted.”

But “Rich” Trumka and his coterie of international union presidents are so obsessed with gaining four more years of monopoly control of the AFL-CIO, they are willing to pay any price to win their prize.

Trumka Has Still Another Way to Hijack the 2009 Election

The current convention voting rules state, in garbled legalistic language, that when delegates cast their ballots, they must indicate their full voting strength. In practical terms, it means that the “full strength” of delegates from the largest unions may give each of their ballots as many as 50 or more votes, while the ballot of a delegate from a state federation or central labor council counts for a single vote each.

Let’s look at it in terms of the math. At the AFL-CIO’s 2009 convention, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) will be entitled to about 1,400,000 convention votes, based on the size of its membership--which is more than 2,300 times the combined convention votes of all the affiliated state federations and central labor councils!

It would be hard to imagine a more undemocratic, lopsided and ludicrously unfair set of convention rules. Yet the Sweeney-Trumka duo has never criticized it. In fact, it remains in its arsenal of tactics if it becomes necessary to use it to demolish opposing candidates.

If Trumka wanted to display his leadership qualities, he should publicly call for reforming the convention voting rules, so that the upcoming election of national officers would be honest and fair, with all candidates being treated equally. But will he?

* * * * *

As a candidate for a Vice President seat on the 43-member AFL-CIO ´Executive Council, I shall call for a review of the AFL-CIO Constitution to ensure that our elections are kept honest and fair, and that all candidates are treated with respect.--Harry Kelber

Article 51 of “Labor’s Voice for Change” will be posted on Thursday, July 9.