John Sweeney: Another Big Splash, Another Big Failure

By July 11, 2006Labor Unions

Poor John Sweeney, king of the disappearing AFL-CIO. First the guy presides over the slow withering away of his membership and then stubbornly refused to step down, causing the entire labor movement to split in two. But you gotta hand it to the guy — he’s undaunted.

He’s always been one to rule by press release, issuing a splashy proclamation, announcing some ambitious plan and then hoping like H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks that nobody remembers. And, he’s usually been lucky in that regard as this is not a city blessed with institutional memory. Indeed, every day begins anew.

This was the guy who has promised every two years since 1994 “to win back the House [of Representatives] for the Democrats”, to spend whatever it takes, to flush more of his members’ hard-earned money down the rathole supporting candidates at odds with their views. No matter. When Election Day comes and goes and Sweeney’s failed again, he grumbles and slumps off the stage until he can come back in another two years and make another big threat, another wild promise. He has launched any number of poorly-funded organizing initiatives until finally just effectively pulling the plug on the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute.

And so we shouldn’t have been surprised by his latest failure. A few months back after getting their cronies in the Maryland state legislature to pass “the Wal-Mart bill” (remember, this is the one that Maryland’s assistant attorney general swears doesn’t target Wal-Mart?), Sweeney promised similar initiatives in 33 states. And so, as state legislative calendars grind to a close, it’s fair to ask, “How did he do?”

In a phrase, not very well. As the Wall Street Journal notes in this piece, “Not a single state has followed Maryland’s lead, even liberal Rhode Island.” Even Elliot Spitzer declined to support it. And the Maryland law will almost certainly be overturned on Constitutional grounds.

As the Journal says in conclusion, “Win or lose [in Maryland], the Wal-Mart [bill] has already fizzled as a political cause.” Sadly, it goes on a very big trash heap with the rest of John Sweeneys’ failed legacy.