LaborTalk for April 5, 2012

Top Labor Leaders Thrive on Corrupt Practices;
They Now Control AFL-CIO Policies and Funds

By Harry Kelber

For more than 100 years, no officer or member of a State Federation or Central Labor Council has ever held a single position on the AFL-CIO Executive Council, whose membership has ranged from 33 to 51 over the years.

Today, Richard Trumka and a small group of international union presidents still effectively control the AFL-CIO, lock stock and barrel. They run fraudulent elections, ban opposition candidates and guarantee their own re-election for as many terms as they desire.

They spend our dues money as they wish, without consulting the millions of union dues-payers, and they do not issue financial reports. They do not have to worry that the wages of their members are stagnant or worse, and that they have little to show for the tens of millions of dollars they spend on political and economic campaigns.

They are not troubled that the AFL-CIO's membership and bargaining power is less than it was 50 years ago. Win or lose, the Trumka group is guaranteed their 6-figure salaries and lavish pension deals when they retire. And they use whatever tactics are necessary to prevent interlopers from challenging their power.

How does this small group of mostly white, middle-to-elderly men get away with this colossal power grab? How do they manage to bamboozle 12 million unionists into accepting this outrageously undemocratic, corporatist takeover? Where are the labor activists to challenge them?

The Source of Power Lies in the AFL-CIO Constitution

To protect themselves from attacks by rival labor organizations like the Knights of Labor, the international unions that founded the AFL-CIO wrote the following clause into their Constitution, that has stood the test of time:

Section 4 (a) of the Constitution states that national and international unions are entitled to as many delegates and convention votes as the number of their total membership.

Section 4 (b) states that "each state, area or central labor council shall be entitled to one delegate and one convention vote."

What this means is that large international unions can have hundreds of thousands of convention votes, while a two-million member New York State AFL can have only one delegate and one vote. Under this arrangement, the big unions overwhelmingly dominate an AFL-CIO convention, while the affiliated state and local bodies, who represent the membership, are little more than wallflowers at the convention.

Here is how this absurd convention voting structure played out at the AFL-CIO's 2009 convention:

A union like the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was awarded 1,107,868 convention votes and more than twenty delegates, while the 48 State Federations and 301 Central Labor Councils were given one measly vote a piece.

Thus, a small union, like the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, had 9,105 votes, more than 10 times the votes of all state and local bodies — combined.

* * * * *

Trumka and his clique have shown no inclination to change the convention's ridiculous voting structure that denies the rights of their union members. They'll cling to their power, even though it has become obvious that the AFL-CIO is on a path of continuing decline.

LaborTalk will be posted here on April 10, 2012 and on our two web sites and on

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