Kelber Challenges Trumka for Head of AFL-CIO


Harry Kelber will challenge Richard Trumka for the presidency of the AFL-CIO at the labor union’s convention September 8-12, 2013 in Los Angeles. Remember Harry Kelber? He’s a labor activist and writer who runs The Labor Educator. Every week, Kelber evicerates the leaders of the AFL-CIO for not actively challenging the corrupt corporate establishment in Washington, for paying 131 of its executives more than $100,000 a year, and for censoring any criticism of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an interview with Corporate Crime Reporter last year, Kelber said that Trumka was all talk, no action. “Trumka makes speeches to please the membership,” Kelber told Corporate Crime Reporter last year. “But there is no action to do anything. He comes out as an advocate of change, and he ends up without change. He had all kinds of possible opportunity for non violent action to express the discontent of American workers.”

Here’s the thing about Kelber – he has a sense of timing. He announced his candidacy to challenge Trumka June 20, 2012 – on his 98th birthday. He’ll be 99 at the time of the AFL-CIO’s election next September.

“This is not a frivolous decision,” Kelber said today. “My candidacy guarantees that there will be an actual election, with a printed ballot and serious debates on the issues confronting American workers and their unions at the AFL-CIO Convention.”

“Trumka and his bureaucratic group have no plans to rebuild the Federation,” Kelber said. “They have a record of legislative failures. Trumka makes crowd-pleasing speeches, but he has avoided any direct action that will command the attention of either Congress or the White House.”

“I’m going for all of the marbles,” Kelber said. “I’m going to challenge the corrupt, incompetent and self-serving activities of the AFL’s leadership.”

But Kelber said that “Trumka relies on a corrupt clause in the AFL-CIO Constitution to guarantee him re-election without having to face a rival candidate in the quadrennial presidential election. That clause gives international unions as many votes as their members, but it incredibly limits State AFL-CIOs and Central Labor Councils to only one delegate and one convention vote apiece.”

“Thus, at the AFL-CIO’s 2009 convention, each of the 20 delegates from the huge American Federation of Teachers had 50,000 convention votes, while the 2-million members of the New York State AFL and California AFL were awarded only one convention vote each.”

“This outrageously undemocratic provision is what keeps Trumka and his cronies in power,” Kelber said. “If this poisonous clause is eliminated from the Constitution and replaced by a guarantee for honest and open elections, Trumka would be virtually powerless. He has no significant base to rely on.”

“If a 98-year-old unionist is willing to spend his remaining time to fight for an honest, democratic AFL-CIO, there must be hundreds, probably thousands, of labor activists with the skills and experience to challenge Trumka and his hand-picked Executive Council. The AFL-CIO’s 2013 convention will be held in Los Angeles on September 8-12. That is 15 months away and there is a lot to be done in the interim.”

Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.

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