Nailing Labor's Coffin - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Nailing Labor’s Coffin

On Monday, the AFL-CIO executive committee essentially threw its support and weight behind president John Sweeney leading into his bid for re-election at the national convention in Las Vegas. The executive committee endorsed Sweeney’s reform package, which has failed to gain the support of some of the AFL-CIO’s most influential members, including the Teamsters, and the Service Employees International Union, and which may seal the breakup of the largest organized labor group in the nation.

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.”

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.

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.

But their interests will be secondary to the other keynote speaker, Sen. Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s speech is expected to be a broad discussion of a return to DLC roots, and a re-imagining of the party for a new majority in 2006 and beyond. “People are hoping it’s the kind of speech that becomes the template for what we do down the road,” says a DLC member involved in planning the event. “We expect her remarks to be the ones that really set the tone for the event.”

Clinton is expected to take a more prominent role in the DLC in the coming days, perhaps in a policy development position, which would allow her to make more policy-oriented media appearances. “Right now, she’s doing media because of the fascination and the expectation that she is running, but that’s not enough,” says a consultant for the Glover Park Group, which does work for Clinton. “She needs to sharpen her policy chops, and fronting for the DLC is a great way to reinforce that there is more to her than a well-known name.”

As if there weren’t enough of them, former John Kerry campaign adviser Jim Jordan is starting up yet another 527. This one is targeted at attacking Republican senators and prospective Senate candidates (read Republican House members and state officials) during their off-election-cycle years.

Because 527s are barred from overt activities tied to political parties and campaigns, Jordan’s Senate Majority Project would focus instead on attacking Republicans during those times when they weren’t running for re-election or seeking election to the Senate.

According to a current DNC staffer aware of the project, Jordan envisions an aggressive, down and dirty opposition research operation that would generate negative press coverage in senators’ home states. Jordan is already raising money. According to Democratic operatives and former Kerry campaign staffers, SMP isn’t just focused on run of the mill Republican senators, its mission is to go after Senators with even higher aspirations.

“We’re hearing they are looking at [Sens.] Frist, Brownback, and Hagel, among others,” says a Democratic operative. “If SMP works on some level, it will make it harder for these guys to run for president, because the SMP will talking up the dirt long before they get into national campaign mode.”

No word on who is funding the project, though Democratic Sen. Harry Reid has been briefed on the 527 and given it his blessing.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder‘s SPD Party, which controls the city government of Berlin, approved the bulldozing of a memorial at the former Berlin Wall’s Checkpoint Charlie border crossing. At that site, a local Berlin Wall museum had leased space and installed 1,065 crosses commemorating those individuals who were killed trying to escape communist East Germany.

The lease is up, and the owner wants the land back, but here’s the political rub. The SPD-backed government wanted the tear-down to occur on July 4. Before coming to meet with President Bush earlier in the week, Schroeder was aware of the controversy, but his office declined to intervene. Late Tuesday there was talk that the bulldozing might be delayed until early July 5 Berlin time — which would still be the Fourth of July in the U.S.

Schroeder faces a tough election later this year in which he and his party are expected to lose support. There are rumors that Schroeder — even if he and his ruling coalition hold on — will step down and look for a high profile job in the private sector, possibly with an American bank in New York, where he and his wife have family.

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