Friday, April 29, 2005

AFL-CIO Has Money Problems

"AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, who is facing challenges from some of the labor federation's largest member unions, yesterday acknowledged that the organization is financially squeezed and may have to lay off a quarter of its workforce....

In the nearly 50 years since the AFL-CIO was created by a merger of two labor federations, union membership fell from about 33 percent of the workforce to 12.5 percent...

From 1995, when Sweeney took office, to the present, the AFL-CIO's reserve fund has dropped from $61 million to $31 million.

Sweeney became increasingly testy during the question-and-answer period of the teleconference, dismissing warnings of deteriorating finances that have begun to appear on union Web sites as "rumors . . . ridiculous and irresponsible."

Sweeney said reluctantly that he will meet with unions representing AFL-CIO staff members to discuss layoffs. "We are looking at every department and every program of the AFL-CIO," he said.

"I really can't be too specific about reorganization plans," he said, and when pressed further, he declared: "The bottom line is I will not give you any more information...

Denise Mitchell, AFL-CIO communications director, said the federation "is not in bad shape at all." She said the reserve fund is smaller than it was a decade ago....She noted that the reserve fund is to be used when labor faces difficulties, and "George Bush is a rainy day."

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