How Does the AFL-CIO Endorse Without Going to Its Members?

by jhwygirl

At Tuesday’s congressional candidate forum held by the Missoula County Democrats – Pete did a great write-up on it – Dennis McDonald, Democratic primary candidate for congress rattled off a couple of his endorsements during his introduction, finishing off the list with “and tomorrow I expect to have the AFL-CIO (endorsement)”.

I found that interesting, given that the AFL-CIO usually has a go at its members before endorsing, and I hadn’t heard anything.

So I sent out a few emails. It really seemed like a pretty bold move to announce that you would be getting the endorsement of such a large organization.

Then again – it’s that party-insider kind of stuff that not only shocks me, but really kind of turns me off. Deals cut in back rooms. And here I thought that unions (I am the daughter of an AFL-CIO card holder) were open with their processes. Votes and all that good stuff?

What did I find of my inquiries? The AFL-CIO Board has endorsed. No one I contacted had heard, one wasn’t surprised (Helena), and three that were shocked (Billings and Missoula).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the hypocrisy I see to this: At Tuesday’s forum, McDonald was asked about Sen. Tester’s wilderness bill – and he said something to the effect that he did largely support it but the one thing he didn’t like about the bill (“..and I’ve been upfront with Jon about this,” he said) is its lack of transparency or it having gone to the public and how it locked out agriculture and some other group.

So how does McDonald announce that he expects the AFL-CIO endorsement two days before they announce? And how does the AFL-CIO endorse without going out and talking to its members? And shouldn’t they tell their members first, before the candidate?

How does McDonald criticize Tester for lack of transparency while championing an endorsement that has yet to be announced by the organization? To its members?

All the kind of backroom dealings that really make politics stinky.

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  1. Pilot

    I’m currently on a labor union retiree PAC from another state, and used to be on both the PAC for active members, plus I was on the state’a executive board where we could participate on the PAC committee thanks to our ex-officio status.

    The active member PAC, whose members were appointed by the union president (a volunteer position, elected from the general membership) unless they were ex-officio (elected by the whole membership or by subsets according to job classification or geographic location), determined endorsements. The endorsements were not overruled by the e-board, although in one case, 18 years ago, the candidate endorsement was changed to a dual endorsement. The added candidate, a very flaky Democrat, had not responded to a candidates’ questionaire and the PAC endorsed a Green Party mayor of one of the largest cities in the district who had favorably responded to a questionaire. The race was 4-way and won by a Republican with 31% race where all primary winners were close. The governor at the time was from a “third party,” that held on that office plus the Lt. Governor’s seat.

    A specific international’s constitution, or its Councils’ or Locals’, could have different endorsement rules than this, as could independent unions.

    I’m just suggesting that one shouldn’t jump to a conclusion. The proper procedure to make a determination might have been followed by the PAC, without the board members being aware of it.

    A second possiblity is that there was simply a communication problem or other misunderstanding, or a reassurance given by someone who felt they had a well-founded sense of the committee’s likely choice of candidates.

    All three primary candidates might have been found by the PAC to be relatively equal in the sense that their positions on issues of importance to the membership were acceptable, but it may have been apparent that only one candidate had a realistic possibility of raising campaign funds, or perhaps two might have each a record that would have likely caused the voters the reject them no matter whom they were running against in a general election.

    So, there needs to be a further analysis of the facts before any judgment can be legitimately arrived at.

  2. JC

    Interesting that McDonald would voice his concerns about Tester’s bill being directed at the process and not the policy.

    You see, all of the supporters of Tester’s logging bill want to make the bill an argument about process–this whole back room and exclusionary thing–that they can argue, “it really was an open process because…blah, blah, blah…” Then they can ignore all the bad policy it contains, because gosh darnit, it was really was an open process

    Truth is, that those who oppose Tester’s bill on the grounds that it does unprecedented and bad things policy-wise (mandated harvest levels, i.e.) are over with the process question. Can’t go back and change the past, must move conversation from one of process to one of policy. There is nothing to be gained policy-wise by winning (or losing) the process question.

    So when McDonald’s main concern about Tester’s bill is one of process, he is just pandering.

    But if he supports the policy, then that is huge strike against him, and reveals him to be a politician willing to set out a lightning rod on a faux issue (process) and sneak bad policy through undercover.

    And this is the strategy for passing Tester’s bill coming out of his office: mire the debate in one about process so as to overshadow the policy. One just has to look at the letters to the editors, and statements from Tester’s staffers and the “insiders” in the process to see this at work.

  3. Matthew Koehler

    Shhhhhh JC….

    “Good democrats” selling the party line know that we don’t want to talk about the actual specifics of what’s in Tester’s FJRA or what type of unintended policy implications this poorly written bill would create. Nope it’s much better to focus on shallow, nice sounding talking points, even if they defy economic and ecological realities. That’s what the public really wants.

    After all, everyone knows that when it comes to forest ecology, wildlife, Wilderness and Forest Service policy the real experts in our midst are a north central Montana wheat farmer and a rancher-come-lately from California.

    From Under Secretary Harris Sherman, the person who runs the Forest Service, representing the views of the Forest Service and the Obama Administration at the US Senate’s Committee hearing on Sen Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act:

    “If the Committee decides to go forward with a bill, we would urge you to first, alter or remove the highly specific timber supply requirements, which in our view are not reasonable or achievable. 

    Secondly, we like to urge you to amend the National Environmental Policy Act related provisions, which in our view are flawed and are legally vulnerable. 

    Thirdly, we would urge you to consider the budgetary implications to met the bill’s requirements. If we were to go forward with S1470 it would require far greater resources to do that and it will require us to draw these monies from forests within Region One or from other Regions.

    And lastly, there are a number of other issues that I have flagged in my written testimony that we think needs to be addressed and hopefully corrected.”

    “‘The levels of mechanical treatment that are called for in S1470 are likely unachievable and perhaps unsustainable.”

    “There is the likelihood that if Congress were to move forward and pass legislation such as we are talking about today, that other regions will want to do so similarly. Now, if that happens, my concern is that there will be somewhat of a Balkanization that occurs between the different regions in the country. Those who are first in may get funded and those who come later may find there are less funds available. There will be certain “haves” and “have nots” that result from this process. Then in someways there is no longer a true national review, an effort to sift out what priorities ought to exist across the country.”

    • Mr. Koehler -we just aren’t reaching you, are we. The specific contents of a bill are of no consequence. The important thing is the perception that a Democrat proposed it and then passed it. It really helps in the election cycle, assuming the bill has a really good-sounding name. (“Jobs” focus-groups really well.)

      The most important thing to come the Tester bill is the reelection of Tester just as the most important thing to come from the health care bill is the reelection of Obama. All else is incendiary partisan politics.

      BTW,I belonged to a union once – the retail clerks international. I worked in a grocery store. Once a year the union officials would come around and tell us what we were demanding in our next contract. We voted on the back of fig leafs.

  4. mt_guy

    I know alot of the eboard members. Tyler lobbied each of them hard and said some very nasty things about Dennis to the board members. I’m not condoning Dennis’ actions, but Tyler tried his damnedest to ruin Dennis to each eboard member, but he lost and Dennis won.

    Backroom deals suck, but if you can’t stand the heat…

    • Of course I could counter your claims…but I’ll let it go because I see we have agreement on the main topic of the post: Backroom deals suck.

      And neither you nor I condone McDonald’s behavior.

  5. cynic

    I for one am not all that surprised. I’ve talked to Tyler on many occasions, and he does not really understand labor.

    And neither do you Jgirl, if you can’t seem to understand that the Montana AFL at the moment is a one man show. Furthermore, a card carrying member of the AFL-CIO?? Not sure what that means, as most members of the AFL are actually card carrying members of the LOCALS that make up the AFL.

  6. Kevin

    Um, did you actually call the AFL and ask them about their process? Sounds like you didn’t, and are instead just spouting whatever comes to mind.

  7. JMM84

    AFL’s decision to endorse was based mostly on the fact that Dennis McDonald has been a supporter of organized labor since he was Tyler’s age. He has also been behind the scenes of almost every Democratic victory over the last decade. Anyone that has been plugged in to the Democratic Party in this state knows that Dennis has been fighting tooth and nail to revitalize the party while he has been Chairman. He left the party in much better condition than he found it, one only need look at the money the state Dem party is putting into legislative races this cycle to know that. Crying sour grapes over AFL endorsing a Teamster over a lawyer does nothing to change that fact that it was the right decision.

    • I – like Dennis speaking to Tester’s bill – was talking about process.

      BTW, isn’t McDonald an attorney? I mean, maybe he’s a Teamster attorney, or he was an attorney before he was a Teamster, I don’t know – but he is an attorney. Everyone knows that.

  8. cynic

    Oh, and by the way, AFL-CIO members elect a board to represent them and the board voted to endorse Dennis McDonald.

    Its a representative form of democracy.

    Maybe you have heard of it before?

    Stop bellyaching because your kid didn’t get an endorsement that he didn’t deserve.

  9. Quest

    I think the point jhwygirl was making was how the endorsement went down. Usually the members get to hear the candidates during the convention. Also, McDonald just complained about the process that Tester used, yet it seems there really wasn’t a lot of difference between the two. I don’t know that either Tyler or Melinda are crying about the endorsement. Haven’t heard from them. But it was odd that McDonald talked about it before they even voted. Just saying.

  10. Jim

    you obviously don’t know the AFL-CIO’s process, and you obviously made no effort to find out! This is a terrible post. a complete joke. ever heard of picking up the phone?

  11. Jim

    you demonstrate an embarrassing lack of knowledge on this entire subject area. incredible.

    • petetalbot

      Want some cheese with that whine, Jim? Try reading the post again. Jhwygirl thought the AFL-CIO endorsement process was flawed, and I agree. She also pointed out that McDonald didn’t like the Wilderness Bill process, which was strikingly similar to the AFL-CIO endorsement process (in other words, not representative of all the players involved).

      You bring nothing to this discussion.

      And mt_guy, I find it very hard to believe that Tyler said nasty things about McDonald. Now, I haven’t decided who I’m supporting yet. I know Dennis, met with Tyler and heard Melinda speak. Personally, I like all of them. And Tyler certainly doesn’t seem the type to be bad mouthing the other candidates — quite the opposite — he seems to be a very considerate fellow.

      • Kevin

        You guys are the whiners, if you can’t handle these processes work then get out of the game. You’re criticizing the process because you don’t like the result, but for some reason you don’t want to admit it. So strange, and pointless.

        • the “process” was the “backroom deal” – something that we bitch about often here, especially when it comes to government decisions.

          You prefer we leave these decisions to a select few?

        • petetalbot

          Wrong, Kevin. I said nothing about the result. If the AFL-CIO thinks McDonald best represents its interests, fine. I found it interesting, though, it even endorsed in the primary. That’s unusual and doesn’t allow rank-and-file an opportunity to hear the candidates (as opposed to fall general elections that follow the AFL-CIO convention in the summer).

          I also wonder if the AFL-CIO gave Melinda Gopher a fair shake. I was impressed by her passion for the working class at a forum here in Missoula.

          Finally, I just realized that the “Jim” I was criticizing up above might be my friend and AFL-CIO executive secretary Jim McGarvey. Sorry about the harsh words but I stand by my assessment of jhwygirl’s post.

        • klemz

          I think it’s strange that a PAC makes a political endorsement without consulting its member organizations. I hope the AFL-CIO leadership isn’t telling its complaining members “that’s just how it is.” I’m not sure who you are or why someone blew the internet war horn over this post, but your response is highly suspicious.

        • Kevin

          looks like i struck a nerve here. hmmm

  12. Big Swede

    Same melody different lyrics.

    Both the AMA and the AARP endorsed Health Care Reform without the consensus of its members.

    • Pilot

      Got that. The AARP endorsement of the 2003 Medicare “Reform” and Prescription Drug “Improvement” act, which the MT delegation voted for, was a huge steaming pile of crap. Without it, and the tens of millions in commissions AARP “earned” sticking its members and the taxpayers with Medicare “Advantage” insurance, the bill never would have passed.

      AARP used to dun me months in advance for dues, and I paid the whole stack. It wasn’t until 2003 when the National that had a former Nixon staffer as its head, that I realized I was paid up six years in advance. I would have otherwise not renewed. When I got the chance to cancel my membership last year, I took advantage of the situation. I had been a member for 20 years.

      You know what Dubya said, after all.

      “Fool me once.”

      Oops. He didn’t know the rest.

  13. Maybe the AFL-CIO’s mobbed-up as well?

    • Here’s a life-lesson for you: When ordinary every-day people engage in the kind of behavior that Wall Street bankers and large corporations do routinely day in and day out,they are called “mobsters.”

      One class goes to jail for engaging in the ordinary behavior of the other.

      Absorb the lesson, stop being so annoying.

      • I was referring to McDonald’s ties to the mob, but thanks anyway!

        • petetalbot

          Rusty, everyone has a right to be represented by an attorney, don’t you agree? I suppose, in your eyes, an attorney who represents a sex offender is immediately branded a pervert.

          Just because a lawyer represents a suspected mobster, doesn’t mean he has “ties to the mob.”

        • JC

          You think being a defense attorney qualifies McDonald to have “ties” to the mob?

          Sounds like more of the same kind of Lynne “McCarthy” Cheney tactics, where she called out the lawyers who were defending Gitmo prisoners as terrorist sympathizers.

          It’s so hypocritical that these tea baggers think that when a person exercises their constitutional rights, that their lawyer automatically gets linked to the crime.

          Only in extreme right wing America is it ok to tar and feather defense lawyers, equating defense of the alleged criminal with participating in the crime.

          I guess they don’t really believe in our American system of justice.

          Neo-McCarthyism is what Rusty is engaging in here.

  14. jackofallfaces

    Its apparently all been said – jhwygirl – aka a member of Tyler’s dwindling campaign (he’s now run off 3 campaign staffers just in case anyone is counting) is crying because she and Tyler didn’t get their way. You call if back room dealings – the rest of us who understand the process call it loyalty.

    I am not suprised Tyler & his staff know nothing about loyality they’ve never picked up a phone or knocked a door or dropped a piece of lit for anyone but themselves. Its a sad day when these young kids get to march in here and act all entitled. Tyler spend a cycle or two working for the Montana you claim to love so much then try again!

    • I will not allow you to spread lies.

      I am not a member of Gernant’s staff. I also have yet to actively volunteer, unless you call wearing a sticker or putting a bumper sticker on your car volunteering.

      I have spoken to one of Gernant’s staff members (whom I consider a friend, and is a neighbor) about getting to doing some phone calls. As I recall, we had quite a list of calls to make for Jon Tester, and I started with those back in the spring of 2006 – which is why I mentioned my desire to start actively volunteering.

      Let me also say this – I’m only getting PR releases from one campaign, and it ain’t Gernant’s.

      It’s a shame that this post is turning into I’m-glad-I-can’t-definitively-say-who’s doing it hate-fest….and lie-spreader. Is this what politics is about?

      This post isn’t fantasy. Not everyone was happy about the ‘process’…and even the Billings Gazette is reporting that the ‘process’ was not ordinary.

      Finally, jackofallaces? No one – no one – is entitled to the Democratic nomination until the primary is held on June 8th. The sense of entitlement exhibited by your last sentence is pretty arrogant.

      Is that what you say to Melinda Gopher? Or do you add a little pat on the head, too?

  15. petetalbot

    The political shills are coming out early in this campaign and just because jhwygirl’s post questions an endorsement process. Please keep in mind that we’re all on the same team here and we want the best candidate to go forward to defeat Rehberg. These unsubstantiated claims and vitriol from people with no recognizable name are disappointing.

    Klemz nailed it: “I’m not sure who you are or why someone blew the internet war horn over this post, but your response is highly suspicious.”

  16. Kevin

    Endorsements are made by PAC boards, boards are elected by membership. THis is the same in every organization. So you geniuses will probably want to call all PAC endorsements back room deals. Primary endorsements are optional and effective. More PACs should do them. It weeds out weak candidates who can’t win.

  17. Quest

    The main point that I’ve gotten from this discussion is that for some people, it was totally ok for the AFL-CIO to make their decision before talking to all the candidates. Melinda Gopher said Saturday in the Candidate Forum in Helena that they didn’t even talk to her at all. McDonald announced it on Tuesday, robo calls were made inviting folks to a breakfast hosted by AFL-CIO for McDonald and all BEFORE the vote. There are a lot of women in the union, they feel that the board didn’t even consider a woman.

    Mind you if the members are all good with this, then great. But that isn’t what has been heard.




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