A Washington Post article published on Labor Day casts some light onto the AFL-CIO’s next president Richard Trumka. Trumka comes from a long line of coal miners in Pennsylvania. After working in the mines himself, he attended college and then Villanova law school “in preparation for a career of union activism” where he was class mates with Michael J. Lotito one of this blog’s authors. Upon graduating, Trumka began his career in organized labor as an attorney with the United Mine Worker’s union and worked his way up to become its president. Years later, Trumka eventually took the number two position in the AFL-CIO.
The article refers to the 1989 Pittston Coal strike as Trumka’s “crowning achievement.” We are unclear how Trumka measures the success of a strike, but his crowning achievement resulted in a court ordered injunction being levied against his union, his union officials being held in contempt of court and his union being fined more than $30 million dollars for strike related activities. Moreover, some of his strikers engaged in truly abhorrent behavior during the strike which included multiple episodes of violence towards company personnel and their property, a shooting and even a bombing.
The article also talked about Trumka’s agenda and plans for the labor movement. Trumka reportedly met with President Obama and current AFL-CIO president John Sweeney on Labor Day to discuss that “after being elected in part because the AFL-CIO [sic] persuaded its more skeptical members to vote for him, Obama should not disappoint [AFL-CIO] by settling for half measures.” Indeed, the article refers to AFL-CIO’s disappointment with the current status of EFCA which was described as “bogged down amid a distinct lack of enthusiasm from Obama.”
The article notes that “Trumka’s ascent represents a true changing of the guard, ushering in a time of leadership that will be far more muscular than that of the avuncular Sweeney.” Referring to himself in the third-person, Trumka said “It’s true that he’s more aggressive than Sweeney was…but I think that there is a time when you have to be aggressive and only can take so much, when you’re getting it from people who are not looking for a way to resolve a problem but are looking for a way to kill the labor movement.”
Trumka sent a clear message to politicians who accepted organized labor’s support when he said “[m]ore than ever, we need to be a labor movement that stands by our friends, punishes its enemies and challenges those, who, well can’t seem to decide which side they’re on…I’m talking about the politicians who always want us to turn out our members to vote for them, but who somehow always seem to forget workers after the votes are counted.”
Lest we forget, Trumka is the person who defined a corporate campaign, a “top down” pressure tactic used by unions to get companies to concede to union wishes, as a device that “swarm[s] the target employer from every angle, great and small, with an eye toward inflicting upon the employer the death of a thousand cuts rather than a single blow.” It is important for the public to know that the new aggressive head of the AFL-CIO whose crowning achievement was a violent and lawless strike , believes in punishing those he classifies as the labor movements enemies and advocates the slow torture of employers in the hopes of causing their economic death. It is tough for employers that are being subjected to a union imposed economic death to “create jobs” and hire more employees. So much for unions trying to help revive our economy and create new jobs.
What are your thoughts about Trumka and the potential impact he will have in shaping Labor Law reform?