AFL-CIO Head Agrees with 'Right-Wing Media' Speech

July 7, 2008 - 8:20 PM

Las Vegas (CNSNews.com) - Organized labor's top leader agreed with Jesse Jackson's charge that the government is using "leaks" to "right-wing media" as a weapon against them.

Also, a California based union affiliate of the AFL-CIO picketed this week's convention, demanding an end to union "dictatorship" and "corruption."

John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, told CNSNews.com that "there are examples where it appears that they are [leaking.] There are indications, there is no question about that."

Sweeney, who was re-elected this week to another four-year term as president, did not offer any specific examples of government leaks to the media.

"I think that in many cases there are indications that the media are not the strongest supporters of the labor movement," he added.

These remarks follow Jesse Jackson's speech to the AFL-CIO's 24th Biennial convention in Las Vegas. Jackson accused the Bush administration, namely Attorney General John Ashcroft, of using leaks to the "right-wing media," like the Washington Times and FOX News, as a "weapon" against organized labor. (See earlier story.)

"Ashcroft is using the FBI as one weapon, the IRS as another weapon, and leaks to the right-wing media as another weapon," Jackson said. "Suppose a labor leader protests a policy... raise(s) a question about war policy, even for debate -- you are a suspect.

"Suppose you then give a donation to a peaceful organization. They then trail your money and then they tap your phone and then IRS and then Washington Times and then FOX... (the) time they spend tying up labor leaders will keep you too busy to fight back in year 2002," he said..

Sweeney cautioned against grouping all the media with the "right-wing media."

"I don't think you can blanket criticize the media," Sweeney said. "The working press certainly [is] more progressive than their employers or their bosses."

Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, told CNSNews.com that Jackson had a valid point.

"We often see articles and commentaries and the way the news is covered and it seems to us that a lot of it is one sided," she stated.

Asked specifically whether government leaks to media outlets like Fox News were occurring, she demurred.

"Honestly, I don't watch Fox News a lot," she said.

She did reiterate that she agrees with Jackson's charge that John Ashcroft's policies are violating civil liberties.

"When you talk about civil liberties and you deny them to some, then who's next?" Chavez-Thompson asked. "As much as the Bush administration has not necessarily been our friend, would we be next?"

"Are they going to use those laws against the unions because they don't like what we stand for and they don't want to answer the working families of America?" she asked.

Peter Jones, executive director of the Labor Heritage Foundation, also agreed with Jackson. He referred to Ashcroft's anti-terrorism measures as an "attack from the right" that is "actually more dangerous in many ways" than the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We were attacked on September 11, and then there has been a second attack from the right in this country against the American people," he said.

Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, declined to respond to Jackson's charge about government leaks to the media. "You need to ask [Jackson] that," he told CNSNews.com.

He did acknowledge, however, that organized labor has "been the brunt of many attacks" in the media.

Doug Dority, vice president of the executive council of the AFL-CIO, was open to Jackson's "right-wing media" accusation.

"I am inclined to believe it's true," Dority said. "I have had the opportunity to see some things that make us believe there is a certain element out there that wants to control organized labor."

Jerry McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), believes organized labor "gets hit with black eyes once in a while" by the media.

"There are many papers and parts of the media that are conservative and right-wing, but whether or not there is a conspiracy, I have no idea," he said.

Protests to End Union 'Dictatorship'

A California branch of the AFL-CIO affiliated AFSCME union is demanding an end to the "dictatorship" of the national union leadership. Members of AFSCME Local 3299 picketed in front of the Paris Casino Hotel, where the convention is being held.

In a press release, the union challenged the AFL-CIO "to bring real democracy to the rank and file workers of this country" and called for "an end to top down union leaders who wallow in absolute comfort and corruption at the expense of the workers."

The union also demanded "an end to the oppression that union corruption brings to all workers."

ANWR Drilling Supported

The controversial issue of oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), was sidestepped at the convention.

Sweeney said there would be "no changes" to the AFL-CIO's 1993 resolution, which called on the country to "explore [ANWR] for oil with safeguards to protect the environment."

"We have a long standing resolution on that... and we will continue to stand by that resolution," Sweeney said.

Earlier this year, Teamsters union president James Hoffa endorsed drilling for oil in ANWR.

"By tapping into petroleum resources in Alaska, we can create jobs and stabilize our economy by lessening our dependence on foreign oil," Hoffa said.

However, delegates here were mixed on the prospect of drilling in Alaska.

"There is not enough oil there to make it worth the effort or disruption," said Ron Richardson, executive vice president of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE).

Dority, however, supports drilling.

"With all the environmental controls we got, I am sure we are not going to do something up there that is going to break loose the oil on Alaska," he said.

Dority pointed out that there is much misinformation regarding drilling in the arctic.

"I don't know how many people have seen Alaska. They talk about maintaining this pristine thing. It's massive," he explained.

Revenue Shortfall

A revenue shortfall of $28 million for the AFL-CIO's political spending next year might require a dues increase for rank and file members.

The budget shortfall is being blamed on the thousands of layoffs of union members due to the slowing economy and the loss of 300,000 dues paying members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America earlier this year.

A new political action committee to fund campaigns of union workers running for office is being created as well. 'Target 5000' has a goal of electing 5,000 union members to public office across America.

On Wednesday, the delegates passed 'Resolution 44: Preserving American Values in a Time of Crisis.' The measure "commits union activists to standing up against the government's attempts to threaten civil liberties..."

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), both addressed the conference from Washington, and pledged their support to organized labor's political agenda.

See Earlier Stories:

Jesse Jackson Calls 'Right-Wing Media' A Government Weapon (December 5, 2001)

'Conservative Conspiracy' Hurting US Workers, Says AFL-CIO President (December 4, 2001)