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

Labor's Civil War

On Tuesday, May 3, 167 of the AFL-CIO's 426 employees reported to work to find that their positions had been eliminated. Whole divisions were being scrapped, publications abolished, programs terminated. Some departments were being consolidated, and 61 new positions being created within them, but the house that Federation President John Sweeney had built was, by Sweeney's own decree, being partially torn down. The Field Mobilization Department -- a nebulous division that employed 67 field reps for disparate assignments across the nation -- was being merged into the political program, with 30 positions eliminated outright. The federation's monthly magazine, America @ Work , was being discontinued. The policy office was being reduced in size and merged into a joint operation with the legislative office. The International Affairs Department, which director Barbara Shailor had transformed from the planet's last bastion of Cold War vigilance into its most effective proponent of global social...

An Unlikely Ascent

If you look at Antonio Villaraigosa's resume line-by-line, you'd conclude that, time and again, he bought that one-way ticket to political Palookaville. It wasn't his doing that he grew up in the projects in East L.A. But after that, his choices : agitating for immigrant workers (in the 1970s, when this interested nobody but the fringe types); the obligatory volunteer work in Cuba (where he learned that Castroism was way too authoritarian for his taste); organizer for the teachers' union; president of the board of the local ACLU. Schlepping this resume, he entered a 1994 race for state assembly in a district just north of downtown Los Angeles. The Latino establishment in that largely Latino district (with significant enclaves of white liberals) had a candidate who happened to be white: the chief-of-staff to the outgoing incumbent. The c.o.s. had more money and endorsements; Villaraigosa had stunning charisma, an ability to make a majoritarian case for progressive ideas, a growing...

Labor's Civil War

By harold meyerson On Tuesday, May 3, 167 of the AFL-CIO's 426 employees reported to work to find that their positions had been eliminated. Whole divisions were being scrapped, publications abolished, programs terminated. Some departments were being consolidated, and 61 new positions being created within them, but the house that Federation President John Sweeney had built was, by Sweeney's own decree, being partially torn down. The Field Mobilization Department -- a nebulous division that employed 67 field reps for disparate assignments across the nation -- was being merged into the political program, with 30 positions eliminated outright. The federation's monthly magazine, America @ Work , was being discontinued. The policy office was being reduced in size and merged into a joint operation with the legislative office. The International Affairs Department, which director Barbara Shailor had transformed from the planet's last bastion of Cold War vigilance into its most effective proponent...

The Man Who Changed L.A.

When Miguel Contreras became leader of the Los Angeles labor movement back in 1996, he inherited a set of time-honored axioms about life and politics under the Southern California sun. The first was that nobody actually worked in campaigns -- walking precincts, making phone calls. The state and the city were too big for anyone to mount a significant field operation. Campaigns consisted of fundraising and advertising: money in, message out, no activists need apply. The second was that it would take years, perhaps decades, for the wave of Latino immigrants sweeping the state to have an impact on its politics. Republican governor Pete Wilson's Proposition 187 two years earlier, which denied public services to undocumented immigrants, may have riled the Latino community, but the payback, if any, would be a long time coming. And the third was that the labor movement, in Los Angeles as everywhere else, was shuffling off to Jurassic Park -- a dinosaur incapable of saving itself, much less...

Cuts and Fissures

“Yesterday was a motherfucker,” one AFL-CIO staffer commented this Wednesday, referring to Tuesday's announcements that the federation would eliminate 167 of the AFL-CIO's 426 positions (61 new positions will also be created). And in a bitterly divided labor movement, that sentiment might be one of the few statements on which all sides can agree. It's a season of blood and knives -- and still, some cautious hope -- within American labor. Under pressure from its critics within labor to bolster its political and organizing programs, the administration of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on Tuesday unveiled the most far-reaching restructuring in decades. For leaders of the coalition of dissident unions, however, the change in program is not enough: They want a change at the top of the AFL-CIO as well. “They're trying to co-opt as much of our program as possible,” one prominent critic said Wednesday morning, “but it's the same old team.” “John Sweeney and the people around him are not...

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