LaborTalk for April 12, 2012

The AFL-CIO Executive Council Must Come out of the Shadows
To Provide National Leadership in the Fight to Save Our Unions

By Harry Kelber

Although the Executive Council is the most powerful unit in the AFL-CIO. and is authorized to make decisions that affect the economic and political well-being of. working people, millions of union members know almost nothing about the Council's members or how it operates.

The Council meets at least three times a year behind closed doors. and never divulges differences of opinion among its members. Whatever debates over proposed changes that occur at these meetings are kept secret. If the Council publishes a rare statement about its deliberations, it is always unanimous and never in conflict with the AFL-CIO President. To many critics, the Council is little more than a rubber stamp for the AFL-CIO top officer.

Right now, when unions are under the severest attack in their history, there is no evidence that the current 51 Council members are acting in unison to support unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Florida and other states where unions are defending themselves, without visible, substantial support from AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington.

The Constitution gives the Executive Council the authority to initiate appropriate legislation. It obliges the Council to assist in organizing the unorganized in various industries. But the Council has shirked these responsibilities.

To add m the problem, most union members do not know the names, appearances, backgrounds or records of Council members. At the 2009 AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh, most delegates knew nothing about the handpicked Council members they were voting for in a phony election.

To sum up our desperate situation: we have an Executive Council with questionable legitimacy and total disconnect from the membership. when what need are Council members who are aggressive, strategically inventive and with the ability to inspire and rally the entire AFL-CIO membership in a full-scale mobilization to save our unions.

Council Members Must Become Visible and Active

Let the obvious message sink in: The AFL-CIO will become weaker and irrelevant if its Executive Council remains passive and inert. We will be unable to stop the bleeding of concession bargaining, which robs our members of their traditional rights.

Are there Executive Council members who have the leadership skills to challenge the Republican-rightwing effort to cripple our unions? Are there any who have won the trust and admiration of the AFL-CIO rank-and-file and can inspire a national counteroffensive against the Republicans and their extremist allies?

If there are, let them step forward.

LaborTalk will be posted here on April 17, 2012 and on our two web sites and on

Powered by