LaborTalk (December 6, 2006)
AFL-CIO Leaders Fail to Denounce Stern
on Health Care and Pensions
By Harry Kelber
SEIU President Andy Stern has been encouraging employers to eliminate the
health-care benefit that millions of workers are enjoying as a result of
collective bargaining by their unions. He says it bluntly in "A Country
That Works," his new book: "It is in the economic self-interest of American
business, now competing globally, to end employer-based health care."
Nor is that all. Stern also recommends that employers stop providing their
workers with a guaranteed level of retirement income. He says: "Only about
34 million workers today are covered by defined benefit pensions?just under
a quarter of the U.S. workforce." Stern is asking "only 34 million workers"
to take far less retirement income than they were promised in order to make
their employers more competitive.
Stern says that unions "need to be aligned with employers' market and
industry structures and flexible enough to respond to ever-changing employer
dynamics and competent enough to be good partners." And Stern adds,
approvingly, that unions should assist employers "in overcoming unnecessary
legislative and political obstacles to their success."
The logical outcome of Stern's pro-business proposals would be to turn the
labor movement into a nation-wide company union in a "partnership," under
which unions main function would be to make America's corporations more
competitive (and more profitable).
There are hundreds of AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions that are engaged in
collective bargaining negotiations for a new or revised contract. As in
recent years, the two issues that are dominant in these negotiations are
health insurance and pensions, with employers demanding concessions in both.
Now, the employers can exploit the dictum of one of the nation's powerful
labor leaders, Andy Stern, as a threat to stop funding health care and
AFL- CIO Ignores Stern's Pro-Business Lobbying
One would expect AFL-CIO leaders to be alarmed at Stern's attempt to
transform the union movement into an appendage of Big Business. But
amazingly, neither Sweeney nor members of the Executive Council have
criticized it or even mentioned it publicly. It won't be found on the web
sites of the AFL-CIO or any of the 53 international union affiliates.
Not a word of critical comment of Stern's partnership proposals has
appeared in any of the progressive labor publications. Labor activists, as
well, have shown no concern.
The net effoct of this universal silence is to give Stern a blank check to
promote his corporatist ideas. Since he is not being challenged, the public
can be led to believe that the AFL-CIO leadership and rank-and-file union
members approve of what Andy is doing.
If you think I've made a convincing case that Stern's partnership proposals
would, if adopted, cause serious damage to the labor movement, please send
me your comments by e-mail. My address is: firstname.lastname@example.org .