The Note: Carving Out the Carve-Outs?

Stern's opponents in those and other unions acknowledge that he is a vociferous and talented organizer but point out that AFSCME and the AFT have solid track records in that area, too. They argue that only with a strong political program that elects pro-labor candidates to office and fights anti-labor legislation nationwide can the union movement begin to grow again.

"We think the AFL-CIO's core mission is politics and legislation," said Jamie Horwitz, an AFT official.

And that is where Stern and company depart most significantly.

Asked why he opposed efforts to strengthen the AFL-CIO's political program first, Stern said that thirty years ago when unions represented about a third of the American workforce, "work wasn't valued because we counted on people in politics to take care of us. . . . It was because one third of the workers were in unions."

The Laborers' O'Sullivan, who is seen as another potential challenger to Sweeney, agreed that "there needs to be a better balance between politics and organizing."

Said Hoffa, "We believe that a shift in resources to focus on growth in our core industries is the only way to grow."

The dueling factions played out their disagreements in a bit of a theatre in the carnivalesque atmosphere of its venue, Bally's Hotel and Casino, whose employees belong to UNITE-HERE.

Sweeney was initially scheduled to brief reporters at noon Wednesday. So his opponents took a over an empty room in a fancy Bally's Italian restaurant, Al Dente, and asked reporters to attend a 1:30 pm press conference to respond.

But the executive committee ended at 1:20 pm, and by that time, the Reporters Who Cover Labor had decamped to the rival press conference site.

The executive committee meeting was not without its moments of agreement.

Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO's secretary and treasurer, said that the executive committee had unanimously agreed to require state federations and labor councils to better coordinate efforts.

One official called it the most "transparent" internal labor debate she had ever seen.

But another labor official sympathetic to Stern said that Sweeney and unions supporting him had managed the debate in Las Vegas so effectively that popular ideas presented by the Teamsters and other unions had no chance of passing.

On to the clips.

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein has more on the Sweeney proposal that passed the executive committee: "The proposal that passed and was introduced by the president of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney, will allow for rebates of up to 17% of dues to underwrite organizing efforts. Mr. Sweeney¹s plan also calls for at least 50% of dues to be spent on political activities. That would effectively increase the federation¹s spending on politics by $50 million over the next four years. LINK

"While much of the talk at the sessions was of rebates, percentages, and mechanisms to make sure organizing funds were not diverted for other purposes, Mr. Hoffa said the import of the discussion was far broader. 'The current debate is not about dollars. It¹s about a vision of the future for the American labor movement,' he said."

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