Over the last few weeks, there has been a seemingly-open campaign against AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka coming from within the union movement.
The question is: Why?
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka is likely used to being attacked by corporate interests and, of course, the GOP.
However, over the last several weeks, he has been increasingly under attack from within his own union movement.
In part, it may be due to his treatment of the AFL-CIO’s unionized workforce.
After all, it is not often that a union leader foists an ‘anti-union’ contract on his own unionized employees.
That, however, appears to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
While Trumka’s fight against his own employees has been going on for months, more recently, there have been a number of stories—mostly published by the left-leaning Splinter News—that indicate there may be a coup going on within the House of Labor.
While the majority of Splinter’s anti-Trumka stories are written by Hamilton Nolan (himself a union member of the Writers Guild, an AFL-CIO union), many of Nolan’s sources are coming from inside the union federation itself.
For example, when Splinter’s Nolan broke the story about Trumka’s suspending AFL-CIO’s executive vice president Tefere Gebre over a $117 strip-club receipt, Nolan was given both Trumka’s letter suspending Gebre, as well as Gebre’s letter appealing Trumka’s suspension to the AFL-CIO Executive Council.
Then, of course, there were the criticisms that came from former AFL-CIO officials who claimed that Trumka is ‘arrogant,’ ‘ineffective,’ ‘insular,’ and power hungry.
While those criticisms could easily be dismissed as the complaints of disgruntled ex-employees, Nolan’s next three stories indicated that there are leaks inside the House of Labor that are decidedly anti-Trumka.
The first was the Nolan’s story regarding the leaked AFL-CIO budget which “shows that America’s largest organized labor federation now dedicates less than a tenth of its budget to organizing—down from nearly 30 percent a decade ago…”
Then, there was the more recent story of how AFL-CIO executives are chauffeured to events, with the focus highlighting Trumka’s diet while traveling.
Lastly, there was the transcript of Tefere Gebre’s speech to the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists last week that someone inside the AFL-CIO gave to Nolan.
Normally, there is an unspoken wall of silence when it comes to insiders criticizing union leaders.
However, that wall appears to be crumbling and the question is, why?
Could it be there is a coup afoot in the AFL-CIO?
After all, Trumka himself rose to prominence in the AFL-CIO in 1995 when he (as secretary-treasurer), the SEIU’s John Sweeney (as president), and Linda Chavez-Thompson (as executive vice president) organized a coup against then-incumbents Lane Kirkland and Thomas Donahue.
The 1995 election was the first contested election in AFL-CIO history. And, while it was intended to breathe new life into a failing union movement, unions have continued to their decline since Trumka and his predecessor Sweeney took over at the AFL-CIO.
As a result, the criticism that the AFL-CIO has devoted more to politics and less to organizing is well deserved.
Since 1997 through 2017, the number of petitions filed by unions with the National Labor Relations Board have fallen nearly 63%—from 5,000 in 1997 to 1,854 in 2017.
All of this has been on Trumka’s watch.
“Trumka is literally the face of Labor’s decline,” wrote a commenter on one of Nolan’s posts.
Perhaps that is why no one seems to like Richard Trumka anymore.