The AFL-CIO won’t hold its next convention until September 2013, but president Richard Trumka already has his first challenger, Harry Kelber.
Kelber, the creator of The Labor Educator newsletter, is a staunch unionist – and has been for 70 years. Kelber is 98 years old.
“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,” wrote Kelber in his announcement.
He is seeking candidates for other AFL-CIO offices in order to run a slate. Kelber has a lot to say about Trumka’s policies and the union structure than protects incumbents.
“Think of it: For more than 100 years, no officer or member of any State AFL-CIO or Central Labor Council or local union has ever been elected to the policy-making Executive Council. The AFL-CO has had a ‘frozen’ leadership for decades, limited to a handful of international union officers that run the organization as though it was their private property.
“…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.
“It sounds incredible, but it’s true: The Federation of Professional Athletes had 2,111 convention votes, which was 6 times greater than the votes of all State AFL-CIOs and Central Labor Councils — combined!
“This outrageously undemocratic provision is what keeps Trumka and his cronies in power. 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.”
Here’s his first campaign ad. It’s short, but effective.