Gerald McEntee

It's not often that in-house elections for union leadership positions have nationwide political ramifications, but the one held yesterday in Los Angeles to elect a replacement for Gerald McEntee, the very-longtime president of the 1.3 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, almost certainly did. For starters, of course, AFSCME has found itself very much at the front lines of the Republican move against public-sector unions.

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Disorganized

In September 2009, I was in Pittsburgh covering the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention when word arrived that Max Baucus, then-chairman of the Senate finance committee, had released his version of the Democrats’ universal health care legislation. It included a hefty tax on the high-priced health care plans enjoyed by many union members and fell far short of the employer mandate that unions were demanding.

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Now this is the kind of Democratic primary challenge I can get behind: Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy Democrats in safe seats like Kucinich would be insane to vote against this bill. Of course, Kucinich is insane, but that's all the more reason to replace him with a Democrat who isn't. Meanwhile, even non-Kucinich Democrats need some pressure. They all clearly have a strong political interest in passing. The trick is to get House members, especially ones who voted against the first bill, to support it this time around.

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Hard Labor

John Sweeney's name rarely appears in print without the word "militant" attached to it. Sweeney first gained national prominence in 1995, when, as president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), he led striking janitors in a sit-in that blocked morning rush-hour traffic on Washington, D.C.'s Fourteenth Street Bridge for two hours. Later that year, Sweeney burnished his reputation as a confrontationalist by running (and winning) an insurgent campaign in the first-ever contested election for the presidency of the AFLl-CIO. Heavy-set and balding, Sweeney comes across like central c

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The recent Teamsters strike, The Los Angeles Times declared, "has served as a reminder of how much the union's influence has waned." The outcome, The New York Times wrote, showed how the union's "power has shrunk." There is some truth in these statements, but they reveal more about the national press's attitude toward labor than about the Teamsters union. During the twenty-four-day strike, the longest in Teamster history and the first since 1979, the union achieved almost 100 percent support from its rank and file, in spite of violent dissension in its upper ranks. In the provisional settlemen

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