Pyrrhus Sweeney

By May 27, 2005Labor Unions

Under the headline, “AFL-CIO President is Poised for Fifth Term”, the Washington Post’s Tom Edsall reports today on the UAW’s endorsement of John Sweeney for the presidency of the AFL-CIO. This means that by Sweeney’s count, he has just enough to win re-election in July. Here’s a link to an Oakland Press story by Joseph Szczesny on the same topic, i.e., on UAW President Ron Gettelfinger’s glowing endorsement of the 71-eyar old Sweeney, who’s seen labor’s clout and fortunes evaporate during his tenure. As Edsall reports, the dissidents have some 5 million of the AFL’s purported 13 million members under their collective tents. That’s a pretty large splinter group.

Unfortunately the press of business kept us from posting this sooner, and so Andy Stern beat us to the punch, but it’s fair to ask, “Is this really a victory?” We predicted long ago that Sweeney would be unseated, as we picked up more and more whispers of dissatisfaction with his dismal reign. Then we modified our prediction to say that if he were re-elected, he would be king of a much smaller fiefdom. At the moment, it looks as if the latter prophecy might be playing out, but remember, this is a very dynamic situation and could still change. If it does not, the 71 year old Sweeney will ascend to the Presidency of what’s left of the AFL-CIO.

In 281 BC, Pyrrhus crossed into Italy with 25,000 men and 20 elephants, hoping to conquer Rome. After many battles — and many victories — his force was completely decimated. Stop us if you’ve heard this one. At the end, he said, “Another such victory and I shall be ruined.”

Pyrrhus, meet John Sweeney.