LaborTalk for June 1, 2010

Trumka and the Labor Press Bury Scandal
About Removal of ‘Ethical Practices’ Clause

By Harry Kelber


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka kept his determined silence, refusing to explain or investigate how an “ethical practices” clause that had been in effect since the founding of the Labor Federation in the 1950s, had been removed in the 2005 edition of the Constitution.

In 1957, the Executive Council unanimously adopted a constitutional provision that “any trade union official against whom serious charges of corruption are leveled should be removed from office if those charges are true.”

To further protect union members against unethical behavior by officials, the 19 57 Committee on Ethical Practices decreed that “all audit reports should be available to the membership of the union and its affected employees.” It said that the trustees of welfare funds should make a full disclosure and report to the beneficiaries at least once a year. These provisions are designed to protect members from financial abuse, but how many AFL-CIO international and local unions comply with them?

Surely, the mysterious removal of the “ethical practices “ clause in the AFL-CIO Constitution is worth some attention by the labor media. Yet not a single labor publication has even mentioned it, much less discussed it. And the same is true of the labor radio outlets.

This applies particularly to Tula Connell of AFL-CIO Now” and Steve Stallone, editor of ILCA, who were twice given notice of the story and chose to ignore it. They ought to explain their reasons for rejecting this story. Silence will not be a good excuse.

Will Members Be Denied the ‘Ethical Practices’ Clause?

The lifting of a clause in the Constitution clearly was an “inside job,” involving some members of the AFL-CIO hierarchy. It occurred between 1995 and 2005, the years that Trumka was AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer. He or his staff should have known who supervised the publication of the tampered 2005 edition of the Constitution.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council should hold a special session to vote on whether to include an “ethical practices” clause in the Constitution and make whatever other changes are required. We cannot leave this protective feature of the Constitution in a state of limbo.

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This scandal is going to spread in the coming weeks, as new evidence of labor corruption emerges. I can assure union members that I will continue to fight for an ethical practices clause as an essential feature of union democracy. I will not let Brother Trumka, with his reliance on perpetual silence, deter me. I will appreciate your e-mail; comments on this issue—Harry Kelber

LaborTalk (70) will be posted here on Thursday, June 3, 2010 and on our two web sites, http://www.laboreducator.org/ and www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.