4:45 p.m. Has Spector switched sides again? On the official AFL-CIO internal schedule for tomorrow morning, he’s listed as “Senator Arlene Spector.”
3:00 p.m. Wonderful actor-musician-trade unionist-icon Theodore Bikel speaks either in favor of, or in opposition to, the AFL-CIO political resolution. I can’t comprehend what he’s saying, but I’m enthralled by the gravitas with which he says it. He closes with: “I’m not afraid of the working class. We will alter history only when we alter the language as well.”
12:30 p.m. Caroline Kennedy is speaking, delivering a joint tribute to her departed uncle, Ted Kennedy, and to John Sweeney. She looks remarkably untouched by the vice of tragedy that has clamped her family so tightly for so many years. She’s unassuming, gracious, happy, composed. Her smile is genuine as she recounts how Teddy would add up the years of service shared by his brothers, himself, and his nephews and proclaim, “85 years of Kennedy’s voting with labor!” She says, “Senator Kennedy had no bigger friend than John Sweeney,” and you know she’s not handing out a gratuitous platitude. She quotes Yeats on behalf of her uncle, “Think where man’s glory most begins and end/And say, my glory was I had such friends,” and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “Let us rise up tonight with greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, to make America what it ought to be.” Sweeney remembers Kennedy insisting on a visit to the AFL-CIO even as his illness worsened, then introduces a video which wrings emotion from the delegates and lifts them into a prolonged ovationm. A cutaway to Caroline as the house lights come up shows her dabbing one eye. Mine won’t stop watering. See convention webcast and acess other information, including Caroline Kennedy’s full remarks, at http://www.aflcio.org/convention2009
11:45 a.m. Pennsylvania junior Senator Bob Casey speaks, enabling many hungover delegates to take 30-minute naps.
11:20 a.m. Party’s getting rough on the convention floor as debate ensues over a resolution supporting passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. After AFSCME president Jerry McEntee pledges $500,000 to the media fund, steelworker president Leo Gerard hits the mike, tells the gut-wrenching story of a Los Angeles car wash worker who was beaten and hospitalized last week for union organizing, and pledges $510,000. Gerard holds up a full page ad from this morning’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opposing the Act and tells the sponsors of the ad to kiss his ass. AFSCME VP Henry Nicholas from Philadelphia tops Gerard’s pledge by $10,000 more. AFSCME staffers in the curtained off office next to mine begin groaning at the apparent loss of their annual wage increase.
11:05 a.m. Just remembered an interesting story from last night. Pittsburgh was a hotbed of historic organizing, especially for the mine workers, who were beaten, maimed, terrorized and killed by employers who were not thrilled about paying living wages and providing safe working conditions. The workers, rough and ready immigrants from Italy and Poland, wore red kerchiefs around their necks to let co-workers know they were union supporters. Thus, the sobriquet “redneck” was born. And you heard it here.
10:50 a.m. Strange sightings among convention attendees: John Wilhelm, president of the Change to Win union UNITE/HERE, who is in a knockdown-dragout fight to the death with SEIU president Andy Stern; and, Sal Roselli, president of an independent health care union in northern California, who is in a knockdown-dragout fight to the death with SEIU president Andy Stern. Brother Stern has not been spotted, and is presumed alive and well and hunkered down in Washington.
10:05 a.m. Holey moley, did John Sweeney just say, “Any union not busy being born is busy dying?” Did CWA President Larry Cohen just say, “BS” from the podium? Must be the organizers have taken charge.
9:15 a.m. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is waking up the delegates by telling her personal story of growing up the daughter immigrant parents from Nicarauga and Mexico, her father working in a battery plant and organizing for the Teamsters, her mom a Mattel assembly line worker for 20 years before she getting a job and a union card as a rubber worker. She’s straightforwd, serious, and unsmiling as she intones, “My philosphy is that it’s not a good job unless it’s a safe and secure job,” and says she’s hiring 650 new wage and hour inspectors and enforcers, and that since July OSHA has conducted 689 investigations resulting in $1.6 billion dollars in fines. Well into her speech, she promises she and President Obama will make the “best possible case” for the Employee Free Choice Act unions are counting on to help restore their membership ranks. The delegates hit their feet in a standing ovation. She smiles for the first time, a big one.