Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is the editor-at-large at The American Prospect and a columnist for The Washington Post. His email is hmeyerson@prospect.org

Recent Articles

Solidarity Creeps Back In

The most acute problem faced by the labor movement in the wake of the disaffiliation of three of the AFL-CIO's largest unions -- the decimation of the local AFL-CIO bodies that run labor's electoral campaigns -- seems abruptly closer to solution this morning with a forthcoming announcement from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney that would permit the locals of the three departing unions to retain their membership in the local labor councils. The announcement marks a change of course for Sweeney, who indicated at the federation's convention in late July that he'd oppose such a solution (though he also made clear he didn't know if he was speaking for his incoming executive council). “The [AFL-CIO] constitution is pretty clear on this [prohibiting locals of unions not affiliated at the national level from belonging to local labor councils], and we will enforce the constitution,” he said at a July 27 press conference. Speaking to a convention of the federation's Building and Construction...

Off Duty, On Notice

They'll be bowling alone at Guardsmark tonight. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) doesn't want the employees chatting it up off the job. On June 7 the three Republican appointees on the five-member board that regulates employer-employee relations in the United States handed down a remarkable ruling that expands the rights of employers to muck around in their workers' lives when they're off the job. They upheld the legality of a regulation for uniformed employees at Guardsmark, a security guard company, that reads, "[Y]ou must NOT . . . fraternize on duty or off duty, date or become overly friendly with the client's employees or with co-employees." The board majority held that the guards probably would interpret this to be a no-dating rule, pure and simple. In her dissent, member Wilma Liebman wrote that the rule plainly specifies both dating and fraternizing, a term that covers a range of activities that go well beyond (or fall well short of) dating. That certainly was the...

Steering and Splitting

CHICAGO -- The AFL-CIO has, as I write, completed just the first day of its four-day convention, but the drama of the event has already run its course. The split -- foreseeable but not easily explicable -- has happened. The rest is footnotes, some of them terribly grim. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Teamsters have left, noisily -- indeed, at the most heavily covered press conference anyone in the labor press corps could recall. Teamsters President Jim Hoffa, speaking without notes, was energized and articulate beyond all expectation, as if the thought of building a new institution, perhaps even some successor to the CIO with which his father long had battled, touched some long-suppressed labor-leader gene. It was Hoffa, more than SEIU President Andy Stern, who began to flesh out the new alliance that his union and Stern's, and several more, are soon to form. Apparently, at least in these early planning stages, the alliance will have organizers and...

Disunion Nears

Unless someone pulls a last-minute rabbit out of an eleventh-hour hat, the biennial convention of the AFL-CIO, which begins on Monday in Chicago, will be radically smaller than originally planned. As things now stand, the four dissident unions that have raised the specter of disaffiliation from the labor federation will announce over the weekend that they won't be attending the convention. The soon-to-be-MIA unions constitute about 30 percent of the federation's membership. They include three of the AFL-CIO's four largest affiliates -- the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and UNITE HERE, which represents clothing and hotel workers. For months the leaders of these unions have been meeting with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and some of his supporters in an attempt to iron out their differences. But the discussions, says UNITE HERE President Bruce Raynor, "have yielded no agreement. There are still sharply...

California's Master Builder

California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown by Ethan Rarick ( University of California Press, 501 pages, $29.95 ) On the rainy January morning in 1959 when Pat Brown took the oath as governor of California, he delivered an inaugural address that today would stun listeners as breathtakingly bold, if not suicidal. Seven times in the first eight paragraphs, notes Ethan Rarick in this engaging and important biography of California's greatest governor, Brown used the words “liberal” or “liberalism.” Brown committed himself to a vast range of progressive policies: banning racial discrimination in employment, limiting consumer-credit charges, expanding publicly funded medical care for the poor, establishing a state minimum wage, improving public schools, doing something about that smog that had settled over much of the state, setting up a state office of research and development, and even enabling workers to have portable pensions. It was an expansive agenda, but “liberalism” still...

Pages