spent the first two years of shake-'em-up president John Sweeney's term struggling to overcome internal inertia--"changing to organize and organizing to change." The results began to show last year when 400,000 Americans were added to union rolls (a figure not yet fully reflected in the latest federal statistics, which misleadingly suggested a continued fall-off in union membership).
How did he wrestle the old guard to the ground and become A.F.L.-C.I.O.
"The intellectual community joins the new labor movement in `The Fight for America's Future'" read the program, and students, aging leftists old and new, and union people heard A.F.L.-C.I.O.
president John Sweeney call for "an end to corporate welfare as we know it," Columbia University law professor Patricia Williams deconstruct the conservative romance with "hard work," and Cornel West summon the troops to battle.
's announcement of its plans for the Congressional campaign season was still a week away, but Republicans were not about to wait: Pre-emptively, the House Republican Conference met in March to devise plans for candidates to thwart the union effort.
IT WAS AS EASY TO FIND SYMBOLS OF CHANGE at this year's A.F.L.-C.I.O.
executive council meeting as seashells on the beaches of Bal Harbour, the longtime Florida resort home to this annual gathering of labor leaders.
On August 24 in Los Angeles, John Sweeney and Tom Donahue, the two competing candidates for the presidency of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
, did something unprecedented in federation history: They debated.
Not exactly your standard piece of A.F.L.-C.I.O.
's $4 million advertising campaign for health care reform, which kicks off on September 24 with thirty-second spots on thirty-something and other popular television shows, exemplifies the timidity of the mainstream of organized labor and its failure to be on the cutting edge of social change.
Their number includes many of the delegates to the biennial national convention of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
, meeting in Miami this week, and we hope they will take the occasion to add organized labor' backing to the Arias initiative.
Also on the roster are the presidents of five of the sixlargest unions affiliated with the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
And they are not just the usual suspects.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 29, Ken Blaylock, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, stepped up to a floor mike at the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
's biennial convention to speak in support of the federation's amended resolution on Central America.
Even the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
leadership--after squandering three years and untold millions of dollars in an ill-fated effort to elect Walter Mondale as President--showed some signs of life this spring.