Today, on my 98th Birthday (June 20, 2012), I, Harry Kelber, editor of The Labor Educator, am announcing that I am a candidate for the position of President of the AFL-CIO.

My candidacy guarantees that there will be an actual election, with a printed ballot and serious debates on the issues confronting American workers and their unions at the AFL-CIO Convention on September 8-12, 2013 in Los Angeles

Think of it: For more than 100 years, no officer or member of any State AFL-CIO or Central Labor Council or local union has ever been elected to the policy-making Executive Council. The AFL-CO has had a "frozen" leadership for decades, limited to a handful of international union officers that run the organization as though it was their private property.

After 100 Years, Isn’t it Time for a Change?

We now have a wonderful opportunity to reclaim the AFL-CIO where it really belongs — to our union members. We now can have honest elections, instead of fraudulent ones. We can now elect leaders who respect our rights, not those who ignore them.

My candidacy registers a firm belief that a vast majority of our members want the AFL-CIO to be a democratic organization, and they will join in the struggle to make it one — if they feel it can be done.

Yes, it can be done! AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and his bureaucratic group have no plans to rebuild the Federation. They have a record of legislative failures. Trumka makes crowd-pleasing speeches, but he has avoided any direct action that will command the attention of either Congress or the White House.

Worse still, he has almost no support from working women, who represent 42 percent of the AFL-CIO membership and he dismisses issues like planned parenthood and birth control that are important to working women.

Nor does Trumka have a following among Black trade unionists or Latinos or Asian Americans because they are not part of his social set. Nor has he shown any public sympathy for the millions of union members who have lost their jobs and their homes.

Trumka’s Presidency Is Based on a Corrupted Constitution

Trumka relies on a corrupt clause in the AFL-CIO Constitution to guarantee him re-election without having to face a rival candidate in the quadrennial presidential election. That clause gives international unions as many votes as their members, but it incredibly limits State AFL-CIOs and Central Labor Councils to only one delegate and one convention vote apiece.

Thus, at the AFL-CIO’s 2009 convention, each of the 20 delegates from the huge American Federation of Teachers had 50,000 convention votes, while the 2-million members of the New York State AFL and California AFL were awarded only one convention vote each.

It sounds incredible, but it’s true: The Federation of Professional Athletes had 2,111 convention votes, which was 6 times greater than the votes of all State AFL-CIOs and Central Labor Councils — combined!

This outrageously undemocratic provision is what keeps Trumka and his cronies in power. If this poisonous clause is eliminated from the Constitution and replaced by a guarantee for honest and open elections, Trumka would be virtually powerless. He has no significant base to rely on.


If a 98-year-old unionist is willing to spend his remaining time to fight for an honest, democratic AFL-CIO, there must be hundreds, probably thousands, of labor activists with the skills and experience to challenge Trumka and his hand-picked Executive Council. The AFL-CIO’s 2013 convention will be held in Los Angeles on September 8-12. That is 15 months away and there is a lot to be done in the interim.

Let’s start by getting the names of union members who are willing to join in a campaign to rebuild the AFL-CIO as a democratic organization that believes in honest elections, democracy and worker rights.

If you are interested and willing to be a candidate for either of the top three AFL-CIO positions or the 51 Vice-Presidents that make up the Executive Council, please send your name, e-mail address and a brief message to the campaign web site below.

  • Greg Mowat

    Harry: As was said about another famous Harry, Give’m H#*$ – I’m with you in spirit – As a “young” trade unionist (64 in Dec.), having spent my whole working life working for working people, I could not agree more that the AF of L- C I O has totally lost its way. I was honored to know an experienced UFCW organizer who was fond of saying, when ever he was in a group extolling the failures of some labor hack, ” Aww, why you picking on him, He ain’t never done nothing!!” – So it can truly be said of many of the leaders in the AFL-CIO – My best wishes and my admiration go forth with you as you “Keep On Keeping ON!! — Peace,Greg

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