Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kirkland Plans to Step Down from AFL-CIO Power Struggle Erupts after He Announces Support for Deputy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kirkland Plans to Step Down from AFL-CIO Power Struggle Erupts after He Announces Support for Deputy

Article excerpt

A power struggle erupted in the AFL-CIO on Monday after President Lane Kirkland abruptly announced his retirement and threw his support behind his deputy, Thomas Donahue.

Kirkland's move to head off a fractious election campaign did not assuage dissident union leaders, who claim to have enough votes already for a rival slate to take over the federation's leadership at the AFL-CIO's convention in October.

"We're moving ahead with our plans, and that's the wishes of our board members" Ray Abernathy said. Abernathy is spokesman for John Sweeney, president of the Service Employees International Union, who is leading the dissident slate to be announced today in Washington.

The opposition maintained that Donahue's earlier decision to leave the labor movement rather than challenge Kirkland or join him in his re-election bid should disqualify him from consideration. Donahue, 66, said he was the unity candidate and called on the dissidents to put aside their differences now that they had forced a change in leadership, rather than see personality fights pull the AFL-CIO apart.

"This is no time for internal fights," said Donahue, now the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, noting the changing political complexion on Capitol Hill that has put many opposed to labor's agenda in power. "Nobody wants to see a split in the movement."

Just 15 days after announcing his plans to run again, Kirkland, 73, said Monday that he would drop his bid and officially retire Aug. 1 at the AFL-CIO's quarterly executive council meeting.

Kirkland said he would recommend that the council appoint Donahue to serve the remaining two months of his term, permitting Donahue to go into the October convention as AFL-CIO president. Federation officials say votes are sufficient on the 35-member council for Donahue to be elected interim president until the convention. Election to a two-year term would depend on the outcome of the convention in New York, where union leaders will cast votes for president weighted to the size of their membership.

"This decision stems from my own personal preferences, as well as my duty to do my best to see that the future direction of the AFL-CIO will be in the hands of one who places the solidarity and best interests of labor as a whole above other considerations," Kirkland said. …

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