Union Gangsters: John Sweeney

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Don’t miss FrontPage’s other Union Gangsters profiles featuring Craig Becker, Richard Trumka, Stephen Lerner, Andy Stern, Jimmy Hoffa Jr. and Daniel De Leon.

Like so many of his fellow union leaders, John Sweeney is more than willing to adopt thuggish tactics to get his way.

Sweeney grew up in a labor family with a father who was a New York City bus driver and a mother who worked as a maid. In 1957, he got his first union job with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union [ILGWU]. Three years he joined the New York City Local 32B of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), working his way up to president of the organization in 1980. During his stint as SEIU president, which lasted until 1995, Sweeney implemented the kind of aggressive tactics that have since been adopted by other unions. Such tactics included planned stoppages of traffic in major cities, and the beginning of “corporate campaigning,” which consists of coordinated intimidation strategies designed to destroy a company’s reputation if it does not accede to union demands.

After leaving the SEIU, Sweeney served as president of the powerful American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) from 1995 to 2009. Serving with him was Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson. The trio called itself the “New Voice,” and the first indication of where that voice intended to take the union occurred during the 1995 campaign when Sweeney refused to repudiate civil disobedience as an organizing tactic. At his inaugural address, Sweeney remained true to that prospect. “We will use old-fashioned mass demonstrations, as well as sophisticated corporate campaigns to make workers’ rights the civil rights issue of the 1990s,” he promised.

In 1996, the union introduced its “Union Summer Program” which was an effort to tap into radical leftist college students who were organized under the banner of United Students Against Sweatshops. The program was designed to teach students how to “develop skills for union organizing drives and other campaigns for workers rights and social justice.” Materials included in the program included a pledge called the “Working Class Commitment,” a testament to class warfare: “I will remember to be proud that we do the world’s work, that we produce the world’s wealth, that we belong to the only class with a future, and that our class will end all oppression.” Thus began Sweeney’s attempt, as noted in his 1996 book, America Needs A Raise, to build a “social movement” not just a labor union. It was a social movement in which Sweeney began making favorable comparisons to Euro-style socialism.

That socialist impulse took an even harder turn to the left in the late ’90s when power trio member Richard Trumka was called to testify in a money-laundering case involving the Teamsters Union. When the AFL and CIO merged in 1955, one of the conditions was that outright communists in the CIO would be purged. In 1957, the AFL-CIO instituted a rule requiring the removal of any union official invoking his Fifth Amendment rights in court. During this case Trumka did exactly that and Sweeney responded–he removed the ban on communists joining the union rather than get rid of Trumka.

The move was hardly surprising. Sweeney himself is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, a communist front group in the United States.

Sweeney retired as AFL-CIO president in 2009. He ws succeeded by Trumka. On February 15, 2011 Sweeney was one of 15 people awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by Barack Obama. One is left to wonder whether the fact that the AFL-CIO under Sweeney’s leadership donated more than $200 million to Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign was a contributing factor.

Yet the defining piece of Sweeney’s legacy came to light as a result of a court case filed against the SEIU by catering company Sodexo Inc. on March 17, 2011 in the Eastern District of Virginia. Introduced into evidence was a work entitled “Contract Campaign Manual” written by the labor leader himself. The first two sentences of “Part 3″ give one an idea of how Mr. Sweeney intended to “persuade” companies to hire union workers. “It is not enough to be right,” Sweeney writes. “You need might as well.”

The exercise of such “might” was apparently egregious enough that Sodexo filed the suit under the auspices of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The 1970 statute was written with the aim of eliminating “the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce.”

The litigation was a response to SEIU’s “Clean Up Sodexo” campaign, a thinly-veiled attempt to intimidate the company into collecting union dues without having fair elections. This strategy outlined in the manual represented a departure from labor’s traditional method of organizing workers on a location-by-location basis. The new strategy was simple: put enormous pressure on corporate boardrooms via a series of strong-arm tactics, and the employers would eventually submit to having all of their workers organized in one shot.

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  • kafir4life

    Avoid union made products whenever possible. It gets easier every day as union run business fold.

    • aliened operator

      Just goes to show you how are society is allowing 'Animal Spirits' and/or 'Irrational Exuberance' (books by Robert Shiller, that I have'nt read yet) flurish. All in the name that Industrial Manufacturing has moved to China because annual average wages there are about $7,000 a year._

  • mojoron

    The most deplorable complication that Mr. Sweeney involves himself in is the Catholic Church's "campaign for human development" (CCHD) that funds money from the annual event to organizations that fuel abortion and social justice involvements by left-leaning organizations. His henchmen are on the secular board of the CCHD and were involved in the church giving money to ACORN. The CCHD stopped giving money to ACORN once their agenda was made public but are still giving money to more than 60 other socialist front organizations. OBTW, the annual collection is this month.

    • Amused

      now just remove the first o and the j from your screen name

  • xlent

    S weeny just another name for commie. The filth and scum of our nation destroying in the name of "solidarity".

  • Herman Caintonette

    Jewish Mobsters: Arnold Ahlert

    Explain to me again why people banding together and pooling their resources with the goal of securinfg a living wage is a bad thing. If all Jews were like him (fortunately, the vast majority have a sense of social justice and the vestige of a conscience, and consider Team Horrorwitz to be the crazy aunt in the attic), I would call for another Krystallnacht.

    • Western Canadian

      And again, we see the projection of a hard left loon.

  • Amused

    Dont miss a chance to slam jews , eh Herman ?

    • Ken

      His/her anti-semitism shows through ALL the time!!

  • Amused

    I hope that was satire Herman . or just a bad corrollary .

  • Amused

    As for you xlent GFY you ignorant bastard .Ahlert threw you the red meat and you jumped , like most ignoramus' , in addition it promotes and evokes imbecilic remarks from true morons like kafi4life 's .

  • Amused

    And now for you Ahlert , yea the Unions use muscle , but I guess in your self imposed state of ignorance , you are oblivious to the labor history of this country . Henry Fords "goon squads " , Matwan , or San Francisco in the 40's when union strikers were shot by the police . Most of the panzies that show up on this blog dont want to acknowledge that FAIRNESS in the workplace is not bestowed by big buisiness on workers , they need to be dragged kicking and screaming , laws had to be legislated in order for a ecent wage , safe working conditions , a 40 hr. week , compensation for overtime and all the things you littlle bitter whiners enjoy routinely .

  • Amused

    The unions set the standards , and STILL DO . Of course big buisiness wrings their hands about high labor costs , and that's because no one can compete against foreign SLAVE LABOR , GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZED FIRMS, MARKET DUMPING , CURRENCY MANIPULATION, all used in UNFAIR COMPETION and EMBRACED BY AMERICAN FIRMS to FATTEN THE BOTTOM LINE . That and failure to modernize , lack of innovation , lobbying of politicians and greed on their part , have driven jobs out of this country . And of course all have forgotten what their fathers have taught them …."there ain't no free lunch "….somebody down the line PAYS .

  • WilliamJamesWard

    It would seem that the outcome of labor and management negotiations depends
    to a great extent on the character of the parties. With the degeneration in moral
    and ethical standards in America and the consequences of destroying the American
    economy in order to build a World economy for greater profits by the elites, there
    may be nothing left but economic upheaval, social strife and a great depressed
    era in our future. Who can point to true social answers with any certainty of
    quality performance and recompense for labor that supports profit for investors.
    The future does look bleak and until extremists are scoured out reason will not
    prevail. I lay the blame on our permissive society raising irresponsible and weak
    individuals unable to take over our Nation and stand up to the rigors of life.
    I have yet to hear anyone address our more serious problems with strength
    and eminent losses with a clear agenda to restore America to prosperity.
    It seems Americans love wooden nickles and have no eye for gold……….William

  • Amused

    I think more a matter of Americans , o9nce recognizing that they are being habded wooden nickels , they're throwing them back at the disingenuous "benefactors " , who wish trhem yto remain dumb and satisfied . __"Profits for investors " has often superceeded the good of the company , and that usually starts with the minimizing of , and abuse of employees .The CEO's are beholden to investors and are rewarded accordingly with with wild and OSTENTATIOUS SALARIES , and to the exclusion of all other concerns . The situation we find ourselves in today financially , has nothing to do with "extremists " and everything to do with avarice and greed , on the part of those you seem to be decribing as the "victims " . Your statement is highly HYPOCRITICAL , since these "exremists " you describe , are exactly those who REFUSE to take "wooden nickels " . So please , do not generalize [with the exclusion of yourself ] in describing "Americans " who love wooden nickels , it goes beyond presumptious and is nothing more than a sneering biased statement on your part .

  • Amused

    And BTW , WARD , "restoring America to prosperity" , doesn't mean just the CEO's and investors , as you have so mindlessly and selfishly stated , but must include those who the former and latter [and yourself ] seem to be purposely oblivious of .
    Americas work force which has contributed greatly to the success of this nation . INCLUDING the victory in WW2 , and still does , in spite of the attempts to destroy in by Big Buisiness and the politicians they have bought lock stock and barrel , and through that same greed attracts lackeys like yourself . Productivity on the part of American workers is among the highest in the world , and that has to do with the workers you so easily denigrate , yet they are the one most responsible for the success of buisiness . After all try getting their without them . It's a two way street Ward , and YOU seem to be part of an "irresponsible and weak " segment of society .

    • WilliamJamesWard

      Amused, take a deep breath, have another shot of what ever you have
      been drinking and go to bed……………………..William

    • ClaireSolt

      I am really sick of this whiney faux middle class. Tell your sob stories to the world who earn a lot less.

  • Amused

    Oh really Ward …..that the best you can do to refute any part of my statements ? I expected as much , your views are narrow , selfish and most likely memorized from anothers thoughts . No real intellectual ability to argue the points , but only able to spout the propaganda you have absorbed . I doubt you have EVER done any physical labor for a living , and suspect you have no desire to ever do so …you're likely poorly equipped to handle an 11 hour day or a six day week .
    You are typical of most critics of Unions …soft hands and hard arses [from sditting on thewm and someone willing to p[ay for it ….run along Ward , you've got nothing .

    • WilliamJamesWard

      That you show yourself incapable of reading without injecting your hostility
      into any statement while missing all salient points gives me a clue to your
      clumsy personal advocacy of chaos. You have missed everything in my
      comment and your rant is indecipherable, the imaginary fairyland you live
      in has nothing to do with me, what I have to say nor is and excuse for your
      misplaced assumptions to overlay my words with vacuous idiocy. Amused
      you are a jerk and unworthy of any debate, that being said you are fun and
      should stick around as a measure of what crazy is doing…………….William

  • Amused

    Very good Ward , you have not defended a single statement you made . So criticism is hostility ? LOL….your statement was not one of content but that of sneering bias , thus your replies contain nothing but ad hominem remarks .In spite of the words you try to pump your ego up with ,. your arguments still remain in the realm of gradeschoolers , who are likely impressed by your bullsheet . They however have an excuse for their ignorance …their age , you have no such excuse .Who do you think you're fooling Ward , with that "rigors of life " , and " labopr that supports profits for investors " crap . If there are any elitists here , you are certainly one , with a tailor-made superiority complex .You offer no debate Ward , just imbecilic statements .

  • WilliamJamesWard

    My statements are to you and imbecile, one who misconstrues what any
    one says with the artistry of a complete dunce, what you say is false and
    misleading and that is as you would have it in your foolishness. What is the
    debate, how stupid you really are, it is self evident and you express it with
    a great glaring disclarity. You are a smarmy little mind with no class but
    amusing, just funny……………..learn how to read and interpret the English
    Language and jump up from dummy to mere dolt…………you are unworthy
    of anymore time………………………………………………………..William

  • Amused

    …….and you are incapable of an intelligent refutation .To an elitist in denial , such as yourself , reality is indeed "foolishness " , but what else could be expected of you ? False and misleading ? Ah , atleast you acknowledge that a statement has been made , one infact you can only meet with ad hominem remarks , and an overused vocabulary . Typical of your ilk . You're a FRAUD . And a deluded one at that . Don't hurt yourself thinking , CHUMP .

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Ah still here spewing your dyspeptic arrogancy, you make no statement but
    attack without and understandable point other than you do not like my
    words while their meaning is above your pay grade. It is as obvious as the
    grotesticle hair hanging from the nasty mole on your fat nose that you are
    a bag of wind without content. You have not refuted my comment as you
    do not understand the language and are empty of all but savage impulse
    and disgusting vitrol. Have a nice day, I will enjoy my elitist hours toying
    with my minions, and if you are upset please do not let it be anything
    I say, you are so easy to play……………………………….William