Sweeney has bent a bit to Teamster and SEIU demands to focus more AFL-CIO money on local union membership drives and political outreach, but not enough to satisfy them. As a result, SEIU and the Teamsters earlier this month started the Change to Win Coalition, with the express goal of forcing Sweeney’s hand on reform measures, forcing Sweeney out of his job, or pulling their unions out of the AFL-CIO coalition.
With Sweeney’s power play Monday, a split now appears set. The Change coalition pulled a power play itself on Monday with the announcement that United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America has signed on with the group. That brings the coalition’s membership to more than 6 million.
The Carpenters’ move is also a slap in the face of Sweeney. The Carpenters union left the AFL-CIO more than fours years ago, complaining about Sweeney’s stewardship. More recently, Carpenter’s president, Doug McCarron, brought former AFL-CIO labor organizing consultant Richard Bensinger onboard, after Sweeney had removed him from the AFL-CIO’s organizing director position. Under McCarron and Bensinger, the Carpenters have grown, while Sweeney’s crew has fallen deeper and deeper into disrepair. Sweeney appears unperturbed by leaks from his labor group that indicate that the umbrella labor group lost more than $2 million in the 2004 fiscal year, and that the AFL-CIO’s reserves have shrunk from $56 million in 1996 to less than $31 million today.
“Sweeney had an opportunity to at least make a gesture toward [the Teamsters and the SEIU], and he chose not to do it,” says a labor lobbyist in Washington not part of the AFL-CIO. “He’s set the stage for an interesting convention and vote next month, but he seems bent on doing this his way. It’s power politics pure and simple.”p> BAYH AND MS. AMERICAN PIE br> While union guys are in Vegas, the Democratic Leadership Council is holding its annual “national conversation” in Columbus, Ohio. “Gee, no symbolism there,” says a Republican lobbyist. /p>
Beyond what doubtless will be multiple remarks about Ohio’s role in the 2004 election, political drama will be on display. Current DLC chair Sen. Evan Bayh will hand the gavel over to incoming chair, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Both men have made it known that they are exploring presidential runs for 2008.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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