Labor's Voice for Change (56) July 28, 2009

Machinists Plan to Introduce Financial, Political,
And Structural Reforms at AFL-CIO Convention

By Harry Kelber

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers plans to introduce a number of resolutions and constitutional amendments at the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention Sept. 14-17 in Pittsburgh, that will strengthen the Federation’s political clout, stabilize its budget and financial operations, and restructure the leadership component to make it more efficient.

The Machinists have supplied a detailed rationale for each of their three main objectives in a “White Paper,” which was discussed at a June 2-3 private meeting of leaders of 23 international unions, representing three-fifths of the AFL-CIO membership.

The document, titled “Fed Up! Stand for Change,” calls for “re-engineering the Federation as an instrument to make our members more powerful, enhancing their ability to fight against injustice and enabling them to secure the jobs, health care, education and pensions they so richly deserve.”

The IAM document asserts that the “political clout of the Federation continues to decline.” Since 1993, organized labor has contributed over $294.5 million to the Senators and Representatives of the current Congress. “And what do we have to show for our members’ massive levels of support?” it asks. “Somehow, organized labor has become just another ATM along the campaign trail. And that must change.”

The Machinists will introduce a constitutional amendment to Article X, Section 20 that “would declare a political; boycott of any candidate, committee or national party that fails to support an objective or principle in Article II.”

The “Stand for Change” document shows that those in charge of the AFL-CIO's financial operations were playing a “shell game”, manipulating the income to show stability while the Federation was 'drowning in red ink." In the last eight years, the net assets of the AFL-CIO fell from $66 million to a minus $2.3 million. “The decline in net assets is but one indication that the Federation’s solvency is at serious risk,” the document points out.

The Machinists propose a constit5utional amendment to Article VII, Section 7 by adding the following sentence: “The Secretary-Treasurer shall provide the Executive Council with a monthly budget report that tracks the actual income and expenses on a monthly, year-to-date and annual basis.”.

The IAM also recommends changes in the AFL-CIO’s top leadership. which now consists of a President, Secretary-Treasurer and an Executive Vice President. It would amend the constitution to provide four Executive Vice Presidents, each of whom would have specific responsibilities and assignments from the AFL-CIO President. It would spread the workload and increase the efficiency of the top leadership, the Machinists contend.

The Sweeney-Trumka Folks Don’t Want to Change a Thing

Union membership and labor's political clout are declining; the AFL-CIO is drowning in red ink because of mismanagement, and the Federation leadership is overloaded with problems it is not able to handle. Yet, the Sweeney-Trumka faction see no need for reform.

In the 14 years when they were the AFL-CIO’s top leaders, they never proposed any significant changes while unions were losing their power in Washington and America’s working families were suffering a decline in living standards. The y had nothing to propose when millions of workers were losing their jobs, their homes and the value of their retirement income.

The fact is that Sweeney, Truman and their allies love the status quo. It has enabled them to run the AFL-CIO without worrying about transparency and accountability. They are certain to fight any reform that weakens their monopoly of power.

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I would like to alert all AFL-CIO unions that “all resolutions, constitutional amendments. Petitions or reports must be received by the secretary-treasurer 30 days prior to the convention (deadline: Aug. 14).

And please note: “Resolutions submitted by a state affiliate must be approved at the previous convention or at a meeting of its executive board.”

“Resolutions submitted by a central labor body must be approved at its regularly constituted delegate meeting.”

In Solidarity,
Harry Kelber

Article 57 of “Labor’s Voice for Change” will be posted on Thursday, July 30.