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Forum Post: Corporate Rule Has ‘Infected’ AFL-CIO Leadership, Labor Activist Contends

Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 5, 2013, 7:41 p.m. EST by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA
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By Thomas Hedges

Longtime labor activist Harry Kelber will oppose incumbent Richard Trumka for the presidency of the AFL-CIO at the group’s convention in Los Angeles in September. Kelber feels an obligation to challenge a president who, he says, is pursuing wealth and prestige rather than the true ideals of labor activism.

Kelber contends that under Trumka’s leadership, the AFL-CIO has failed to address the mounting threat against labor in the United States from the loss of bargaining rights to the refusal to adjust minimum wage standards to the push against implementing the “card check” union organizing system.

The federation of labor unions is afraid of backlash, Kelber says. It supported Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections without pressing him on issues that, according to Kelber, should have been at the top of its list such as the Employee Free Choice Act to make union formation easier and single-payer health care.

Members “think there’s no chance of any improvement and so they’re not fighting,” Kelber explains. “In the ’30s they fought. They got Social Security, labor laws, the CIO. Now they’re getting nothing.”

Kelber was at the forefront of the 1930s labor movement, editing two worker weeklies, organizing with the CIO and supporting the Newspaper Guild strike against management in New York City, which caused a 114-day shutdown of papers there.


Now 98, Kelber is frustrated with a movement that, he says, cannot accomplish a fraction of what it did 80 years ago. “Today,” he laments, “union members are passive.”

The corporate structure now is so severe that workers have a lot more to lose, he claims. In the ’30s corporations were nascent, allowing for the passage of sweeping measures such as Social Security and Glass-Steagall that Kelber says would now have a much harder time getting approved.

The intensity of corporate rule has infected the leadership at the AFL-CIO, Kelber asserts.

“Trumka’s forces have hijacked the labor movement,” he says. On the local level, “they’re OK, but they won’t challenge the national leadership, and if you don’t challenge the national leadership, you don’t go places.

“There’s no labor activist stepping forward to say these people are crooks,” Kelber continues. “They’re stealing the labor movement.”

Despite making remarks in the past that were critical of excessive executive pay, Trumka has seen a $90,000 increase in his yearly salary, which is now up to $272,000. His salary is guaranteed, which, Kelber argues, alleviates the incentive Trumka has to push key issues in Washington or make increasing membership a priority.

The nation’s unions lost 400,000 members last year, as the percentage of U.S. workers represented by a union fell to 11.3 percent, down from a peak of 35 percent in the mid-1950s. There is little impetus or pressure compelling Trumka to pay attention to these figures, Kelber points out.

The federation’s leaders have lost themselves in the glow of Washington, he contends. Obama “invites them for dinner at the White House and they love it,” Kelber notes. “That’s their reward.

“I’m 98 years old,” Kelber says. “I’m not the kind of leader that they’re looking for. But no one else is coming up. I’m raising questions that have never been raised before.”

Despite his age, Kelber writes three columns a week and speaks with undiminished clarity.

“There are times that you have to go into battle and know that you are going to lose,” he concludes. “But you have to lay a foundation down for the future.”




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[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 5 years ago

I'm going to try to remember this but I may butcher it. There was a guy that posted here maybe a year ago. I can't remember his name and he was from Wisconsin I think. He drove down to Indianapolis to protest RTW. He said something about someone in Indiana had told him or the union (or both) not to protest it.

That man should be the challenger. That one right there.

This is why every union busting goat roping fucknut should be verbally abused. This is what happens when you let those dipshits get to you.

[-] 2 points by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA 5 years ago

Kelber should be the challenger? While I totally agree with him and what he has said about labor today the guy is like 98 years old. If only he was about 40 or 50 years younger then I'd be on board. For myself I'd like to see somebody a bit younger challenge Trumka like that lady that's the president of the Chicago teachers union. Or maybe rosanne demoro

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 5 years ago

No, not Kelber. This guy was much, much younger. He is the one that drove down. That guy should be the one.

[-] 2 points by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA 5 years ago

Well they should pick somebody better than they've got now or do something different. They've been getting their asses kicked from coast to coast for over 30 years now. Sometimes I wonder if they aflcio is in business to protect workers and represent the working class or just a tool of the Democratic Party

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 5 years ago

Take a real good look at the paid to post trolls that are anti union on this forum. These morons spent the entire time last year saying clever things like......we could get along with OWS but they have to stop siding with the unions. Now, the thing is "they have to represent all people". Multiply that by 10,000 and then go look at the ad campaigns that they run on tv. Then go look at who owns the news papers/media. Then look at ALEC.

That's the problem.

Hence the reason that I say that they should be verbally abused. They obviously don't care one wit for the people. They don't want to treat workers as humans.

[-] 1 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 5 years ago

Labor is in deep do do (much like our troops who were left to fend for themselves for extended periods on South Pacific Islands during WW-2). If leadership was doing great in this neglected Alamo, it would be very suspicious. The oldest and easiest trick in the anti-labor play book is to incite infighting. Right now, more than anything, labor needs Unity, Support and Publicity!! There will always be a "better" leader, so unless Trumpka has been caught with Koch Bros paychecks, and a book of matches with Roves personal number inside, I warn against falling for the wild unicorn chase, which seems quite a popular affliction these days. Frankly the case against Trumpka presented in the above article demonstrates a pernicious political naivete that is also afflicting a few too many.

[-] 0 points by cJessgo (729) from Port Jervis, PA 5 years ago

Labor leaders are the same as our politicians,bought off and paid for.They as our politicians do not represent or advocate for the American workers. Thay are traitors to the American people.