- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Even though Linda Chavez understandably has withdrawn her nomination as labor secretary, an issue remains that has nothing to do with Mrs. Chavez. It has everything to do with the duplicity of the AFL-CIO leaders.

In recent days both the New York Times and The Washington Post reported that the dinosaur which calls itself the AFL-CIO was planning the monster campaign to defeat Linda Chavez.

The AFL-CIO leaders hoped to do so, reported the Times' Steven Greenhouse, by "winning the support of all the Democrats in the Senate, which is divided 50-50, and a handful of labor-friendly Republicans."

Well, well, "labor-friendly Republicans," eh? Well let me tell "labor-friendly Republicans" how AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, a proud socialist no less, rewards "labor-friendly Republicans." (Mr. Sweeney's newly-found political allies in the Democratic Socialists of America to which he belongs are an assortment of dinosaurian leftists like: Pete Seeger, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Hayden, Arthur Waskow, Gar Alperowitz, Roberta Achtenberg, Michael Lerner and the usual others.) Mr. Sweeney and his fellow union leaders at election time ignore the "labor-friendly" record of Republican Congressmen and instead support their Democratic opponents. They are, of course, sorry about that, just like the walrus and the carpenter in "Alice in Wonderland" who wept as they ate the friendly oysters. You see, there's nothing Mr. Sweeney can do about it, even if he wanted to, because today's AFL-CIO is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party. So the AFL-CIO has to oppose "labor-friendly" Republican congressmen for election.

A few days after the 1996 elections, the New York Times ran a news report headlined, "Pro-labor Republicans feel betrayed by union effort." The story recounted how Rep. Bill Martini, a 49-year-old "labor-friendly" New Jersey Republican, had been knifed by the AFL-CIO in favor of his successful Democratic opponent. To beat the "labor-friendly" Republican, hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent on radio and television ads denouncing Mr. Martini, whose "labor-friendly" voting record had been distorted by the unions.

From the cynic's point of view, the AFL-CIO has little to lose by its duplicity. If the Democratic candidate is elected, wonderful. If a "labor-friendly" Republican wins despite labor disfavor, so what the rank-and-file in his congressional district will lobby him to vote for pro-labor legislation. That sort of thinking was responsible not only for AFL-CIO opposition to Mr. Martini but also opposition to other "labor-friendly" incumbent Republican House members Jack Quinn of Buffalo, Bob Ney of Ohio and Peter G. Torkildsen of Massachusetts.

Mr. Sweeney and his cohorts, who are today the most determined force for protectionism in the country, have spent fortunes of union members' money to defeat Republican members of Congress including four with impeccable pro-labor voting records (only two of the four were defeated).

For "labor-friendly" Republican members of Congress there is one lesson to be learned from the past AFL-CIO record: regardless of your pro-labor votes, when election time comes rolling around, the AFL-CIO will thank you and as a reward will try to destroy your political career. Sweeneyism means double-crossing friends and allies in order to promote the Democratic Party left.

Sweeneyism is a far cry from the wisdom of the founder of the American labor movement, Samuel Gompers, embodied in the slogan: "Reward your friends and punish your enemies," meaning that in practice unions should not tie themselves to any one political party but rather should work through existing parties. That is why the United States has been the only industrial democracy which has never had a viable national labor party despite many attempts to start one. In fact, the 1924 AFL Constitution forbade the intrusion into AFL conventions of "party politics, whether they be Democratic, Republican, Socialistic, populistic, prohibition, or any other."

Under Mr. Sweeney, the AFL-CIO has become a force against capitalism, free markets and privatization. The AFL-CIO lobbied Congress against enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement. If one were to believe the heart-rending rhetoric of the AFL-CIO, NAFTA meant drastic job losses by American workers to low-wage Mexican peons. The AFL-CIO supports higher taxes, especially property taxes. In short the AFL-CIO has become a "left-wing interest group." Let "labor-friendly" Republicans beware of AFL-CIO promises.

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