Labor Leaders Prioritize Social Security; Call for Defeating Bush's Privatization Plan

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 2, 2005 | Go to article overview

Labor Leaders Prioritize Social Security; Call for Defeating Bush's Privatization Plan


Byline: William Glanz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

LAS VEGAS - Labor leaders will make privatization of Social Security their key political issue this year.

"Nothing would be a bigger blow to working people than the privatization of Social Security," AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney said yesterday on the first day of the annual winter meeting of labor leaders.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said his union already has spent $1 million to lobby against President Bush's proposal to privatize Social Security.

AFSCME, which represents 1.4 million people, has made phone calls to 2 million people in 13 states urging them to oppose privatization, Mr. McEntee said.

While they develop plans for their political campaign, labor leaders also are using a series of closed-door meetings at a Las Vegas hotel to discuss strategies to reform the stalled labor movement. About 13 million workers are union members. That represents 12.5 percent of all workers, down from 35 percent 50 years ago.

A strengthened labor movement will boost the Democratic Party, said Howard Dean, newly elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

"We are in this together," he said. "It is in both of our interests to work together." Reform talks are plodding along, but a range of union officials said the talks are productive.

They also downplayed rumors that meetings included friction among union officials.

"I see a lot of ideas being exchanged," United Steelworkers of America President Leo Gerard said.

Talk of reform has been driven largely by Andrew Stern, president of the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union. Mr. Stern has threatened to leave the federation unless a series of reforms are put in place to invigorate the labor movement. …

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