November 10, 2004


Unions Confront Postelection Reality: In what probably will be a somber meeting, leaders gather today to ponder organized labor's survival in the next four years. (Nancy Cleeland, November 10, 2004, LA Times)

Before election day, AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney called the prospect of a second term for President Bush "too horrible to think about." Today, he and other shellshocked labor leaders will have no choice.

The federation's executive council — made up of presidents of the nation's largest unions — is set to convene in Washington for a postmortem on the presidential campaign and a discussion of possible reforms in the labor movement. And the six-hour meeting probably will be a somber affair.

Unions invested heavily in the Democratic presidential ticket, spending more than $100 million on voter mobilization efforts and sending tens of thousands of paid staff and volunteers to swing states in the final weeks of the race. They said it was a campaign they couldn't afford to lose.

The next four years are "not going to be pretty" for organized labor, said Peter Dreier, a political science professor at Occidental College who closely follows labor. Among other things, the five-member National Labor Relations Board, which will soon have two openings, is pondering changes to case law that would make it more difficult for unions to organize new members.

Even the Labour Party is anti-union--move on.

Largest Union Issues Call for Major Changes (STEVEN GREENHOUSE, 11/10/04, NY Times)

As the nation's union leaders gather today in Washington the labor movement is in turmoil, with the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s largest union hinting that it might pull out of the labor federation and some labor leaders saying that John J. Sweeney may face a challenge for its presidency.

In a sign of the jockeying and soul-searching, Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s largest union, called yesterday in a letter for far-reaching changes in labor designed to increase its membership, proposing a $25-million-a-year campaign to unionize Wal-Mart and a near doubling in the amount spent annually on organizing.

The meeting comes as long-simmering differences in the A.F.L.-C.I.O. have been intensified by President Bush's re-election, with many union leaders fearing retaliation because organized labor spent more than $150 million to try to defeat him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 10, 2004 10:25 AM

It was obvious in January that the labor movement was not even a force in Democratic party politics when Gephardt finished so poorly in Iowa.

The unions would be better served to take their money and build worker education programs.

The members would be better served if the Beck decision were enforced.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 10, 2004 10:30 AM

It's exciting that the institution that most legitimized the idea of communism in America is dying.

Posted by: M. Murcek at November 10, 2004 10:37 AM

If the Service Employees cadre takes over total control watch for organized labor to take a final death spasm to the farthest reaches of the left margin

Posted by: A Anderson at November 10, 2004 10:48 AM

Wal-Mart pretty much contracted out stocking for its Supercenter meat departments several years ago, when an effort was made to unionize the meat market employees, and the company has expanded very tentatively into sections of the country where unionization efforts and laws have been the strongest. If SEIU gets its way, you may be able to tell red states from blue ones a few years from now by seeing which states do and don't have Wal-Marts and which ones don't (and which states' residents pay higher prices due to the union wages in competing stores, which is part of what did in the unionized K-Mart in their head-to-head battle against Sam Walton's juggernaut).

Posted by: John at November 10, 2004 11:07 AM

THe SEIU was Sweeney's union, they already control the shop. The AFL-CIO's membership is mostly public sector unionists today, making them far more parasitic in nature than traditional working class.

They've completely dropped the ball in their failure to adapt to the new economy, where a creative unionism could actually play a role. It will be interesting to see if they've learned anything. Sweeney seems to me like he's ready to be an exhibit in Jurassic Park.

Posted by: Bart at November 10, 2004 11:54 AM

Unfortunately, here in Washington State, unions still hold immense amounts of power, and there is essentially no difference between the unions and the Democratic party.

Posted by: Timothy at November 10, 2004 12:51 PM

Since they don't have the brains to play both sides of the political aisle they deserve to get taken to the shed.

Posted by: Mikey at November 10, 2004 2:24 PM