Jewish World Review August 28, 2001 / 9 Elul, 5761
"Secretary Chao, you, President Bush ... and all the others who killed these protections are responsible for these injuries. You're responsible for the pain, suffering and devastation to their lives." -- AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, criticizing the Bush administration's decision to rescind an ergonomic rule issued during the waning days of the Clinton administration.
"President Bush has avoided answering all the hard questions, including whose benefits are going to be cut and by how much. We are here to remind him and the commission that working families will not be sold a bill of goods." -- AFL-CIO Exec. Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson, criticizing the Bush administration for daring to suggest that individuals be allowed to invest a small portion of their Social Security contributions in the financial market.
The obvious conclusion to be drawn from the remarks by those and other top officials of the AFL-CIO is that the nation's largest labor union remains in campaign mode some nine months after the 2000 presidential election.
While even Al Gore appears to have put his narrow defeat behind him and moved on to the next phase of his life (even adding a few pounds and sporting a beard) Sweeney, Trumka, Chavez-Thompson and their fellow union bosses continue to wage political war against George W. Bush.
Of course, that is the labor federation's prerogative. But it is an insult to intelligence when the AFL-CIO leadership denies that it engages in political activity. Or when it maintains that its constant harangue against the Bush administration not only on labor matters, but also on non-labor matters (such as the Navy's continued presence on Vieques), is just a normal part of representing the rank and file.
He has Bates Motel potential with the too-coifed hair and pursed lips of a fussy librarian.
Sweeney and his fellow union bosses put on this facade to avoid meeting the legal requirements of the federation's political activity.
Indeed, the Associated Press recently reported that, while unions have spent tens of millions of dollars in recent elections to help elect Democrats (and demonize Republicans), they have routinely reported zero political expenses to the IRS.
By contrast, the business organizations that AFL-CIO so often castigates - such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers -- have been far more scrupulous in reporting their political activity.
In 1996, for instance, the Chamber reported nearly $14 million in political and lobbying expenses. NAM reported $5.2 million. The AFL-CIO spent $35 million to return Clinton and Gore to the White House and to help Democrats try to retake Congress.
There is an obvious reason why the Federation has refused to acknowledge its political activity, as required by federal tax law: because it is loathe to comply with the Supreme Court's 13-year-old Beck decision.
In Beck, the justices declared that union members can be compelled to pay dues and fees that are directly related to the cost of collective bargaining and contract administration only. Workers cannot be forced to finance a union's political and lobbying activity.
Sweeney, Trumka, Chavez-Thompson and their fellow union bosses pretend that the rank and file are a political monolith. That the nation's 16.5 million or so union members are all liberal Democrats like the AFL-CIO leadership.
But the union bosses know differently. They know that one-third of union members voted for Bush the Republican during the last presidential election (according to election night polling by Peter D. Hart Research Associates).
And that those Republican union members are entitled, under Beck, to millions of dollars in refunds on their dues and fees. AFL-CIO General Counsel John Hiatt told the Associated Press that the union's leaders "feel perfectly comfortable" about skirting IRS reporting requirements for political activity and lobbying. "If we're audited, we'll face the music."
Well, the IRS ought to take the AFL-CIO up on its challenge. And, at the same time, the Justice Department ought to investigate the Federation's obvious denial of Beck rights to a third of its
07/18/01: Supreme Court elevates the rights of property owners