Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

One Year after AFL-CIO Election, Labor Is a Different Movement

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

One Year after AFL-CIO Election, Labor Is a Different Movement

Article excerpt

One year ago today, the new leadership of the AFL-CIO won the federation's first contested election, amid pledges by President John Sweeney and his ticket to enact bold changes that would revitalize the American labor movement and improve the status of workers.

Campaign promises, it seems, generally are made to be broken.

So what's happened in this case? The American labor movement appears in many ways, though not all, to have been rejuvenated. It has captured a central spot in the political arena, both nationally and in state races. Several indexes suggest an upward shift in labor's long dormant role: the sheer amount of money it's pouring into key races; the new-found desire of candidates for labor's support; the effectiveness of its ads as indicated by the efforts of those targeted to persuade television stations not to air them; the anger of the House Republican Conference at labor's unprecedented electoral involvement. Labor appears to have put its opponents on the defensive with accusa tions that they have abandoned middle-class values on education and various social programs. Legislatively, labor has scored some victories on minimum wage and health care. Those trying to retaliate have at times done so ineptly, such as the House committee that examined corruption in the Laborers International Union of North America and whether the White House gave it special treatment. With great fanfare, Republicans paraded a hooded ex-mobster who provided insight into the Mafia-Laborers alliance - though they were apparently unaware that their desired sense of mystery had been diminished by a quarter-page newspaper ad the union ran that morning identifying, and disparaging, the witness. Labor's efforts have both benefited from and sparked the political sentiment moving away from the Republican Congress the last two years. Those who mapped out labor's campaign say it won't cease after the election. Organizing efforts, long a weak point of the AFL-CIO, have assumed a new vigor under Sweeney. Unions have made inroads in tough areas such as among immigrant textile workers and Southern blacks in chicken processing, for example. …

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