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Labor Bosses Not So Keen On Next AFL-CIO President

trumka1Bloomberg’s Holly Rosenkrantz has an interesting piece today about the AFL-CIO’s Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, the likely successor to John Sweeney as president of the union.

Trumka apparently does not have much support from union leaders. Sweeney mentioned his support for Trumka as his sucessor in a meeting with labor bosses in April:

Instead of applause there was silence, said two labor leaders who were among about a dozen in the room for the meeting. The lack of enthusiasm reflected doubt about Trumka’s ability to revitalize the U.S. labor movement, according to the leaders, who asked not to be identified describing the April meeting at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington.

The lack of support for Trumka shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The revelation that the AFL-CIO used  “creative accounting”  to mask the union’s deteriorating finances occurred under Trumka’s tenure as secretary-treasurer.

The federation’s net assets declined to a negative $2.3 million as of June 30, 2008, from a $66 million surplus on Jan. 1, 2000, according to union financial records filed with the Labor Department. …

The AFL-CIO used “creative accounting” to hide the deficit as it developed, Buffenbarger, a member of the AFL-CIO finance committee and president of one of the nation’s largest unions, wrote in his report, which he made public on May 27 after Bloomberg News obtained it.

It also doesn’t help that Trumka carries significant political baggage from his past:

In 1997, Trumka invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a federal investigation into illegal contributions to Ron Carey’s re-election campaign as president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Trumka managed to avoid charges. And Trumka evaded the AFL-CIO’s own bylaws that require the expulsion of any official who invokes the Fifth Amendment. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney allowed Trumka to retain his position.

Even labor advocates are wary of Trumka’s likely ascenscion to power. Pro-labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein said that Trumka’s 14 years as secretary-treasurer of AFL-CIO and three terms as president of the United Mine Workers are not the hallmarks of someone who will change how things are run. According to Lichtenstein, “It’s unlikely Trumka will bring a radical shift in direction to the labor movement … He’s not a new, fresh face.” Which means that it’ll just be more of the same with the AFL-CIO.

Trumka, who is running unopposed, will likely be selected when the AFL-CIO meets in Pittsburgh, PA  in September. No word on whether AFL-CIO’s labor bosses are going to make this selection via card check or secret ballot…

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