Sitting in the office of the AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, one sees books on labor history, economics, corporate crimes and proposals for change piled up everywhere. Perhaps that helps explain why Mr. Trumka, a former coal miner who became a lawyer, presented his besieged organization’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles last week with a fiery visionary “big tent” design to develop more alliances with citizen and worker organizations that are not trade unions.
Dear Mr. Trumka,
You have come to your leadership position of our country’s labor federation of unions with 13 million members the hard way. Starting by working in the coal mines, then becoming a lawyer, heading the United Mine Workers, then becoming the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO before assuming your present position in 2009, who can pull rank on you in the formal labor movement?
Yet, the AFL-CIO’s public leadership in three major areas has been far less effective than one would expect. I am referring to your less than assertive response to President Obama: 1) turning his back on raising the federal minimum wage; 2) failing to advance his card check promise to you in 2008; and 3) dropping the ball on backing long-overdue safety and health responsibilities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page
January 17, 2011
Bob King, the new president of the United Auto Workers, whose membership is down under 400,000 from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979 is rolling out an initiative to organize foreign auto plants in the U.S., expand the union’s reach overseas and forge alliances with social justice organizations.
Ordinarily, the response to these ambitions would be “With What?” Few unions have been beaten down as much as the UAW whose workers enduring the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 and a debt-burdened Ford Motor company. During this period the UAW gave up billions of dollars in wages and benefits. Thousands of workers were laid off to save these companies.