Today marks the first day of the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in Pittsburgh. More than 1,000 delegates are expected to be in attendance. They will have their hands full with a packed agenda that includes electing new officers, setting priorities for the federation and debating health care reform, job safety, green jobs, immigration, and the economic crisis, among others. The convention also will be the stage for some top-shelf speakers, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Outgoing AFL-CIO President, John Sweeney spoke to the delegates on September 13. Each attendee will receive a copy of a report (pdf) discussing the state of the federation and some of the major events that have occurred during the last four years.
Candidates for the federation’s three top offices are running unopposed. It is widely expected that Richard Trumka, the federation’s Secretary-Treasurer, will be elected President. Elizabeth Shuler, executive assistant to the president of the IBEW, is running for Secretary-Treasurer, and Arlene Holt Baker, the federation’s Executive Vice President is running for re-election to the same post.
Each day of the week-long convention will have its own theme. Day One will focus on organizing and politics. It is expected that the federation’s top legislative priority, the passage of EFCA, will be discussed.
The second day is devoted to debate surrounding health care reform and will include an address by President Obama.
The third day’s theme is “the power of many” and will focus on diversity, civil and human rights.
On the last day, the delegates will set the goals for the international union movement towards the G-20 summit coming to Pittsburgh later this month.
Two people are notably absent from the gathering. One is Andy Stern, who just last week saw the Carpenter’s Union withdraw from his Change to Win Coalition. It will be interesting to see how much time, if any, is spent by the AFL leadership on bringing the labor movement together and if they extend any olive branches to Mr. Stern. Similarly, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Stern goes out of his way to recognize Mr. Sweeney for his past leadership and to congratulate Mr. Trumka as he takes the reins of the AFL-CIO.
The other absent party is Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Will the Convention go out of its way to congratulate and recognize Senator Harkin for his new position as chair of the Senate HELP committee and what will his reaction be to the EFCA discussions?
The key to the convention’s impact on EFCA will be how firmly the President supports some version of the bill. The same goes for Arlen Specter, who is such a crucial part of the labor reform debate. It will be interesting to see if any of the speakers discuss the composition of the current Labor Board and the Obama nominees.
As always, we will keep you posted … stay tuned.