WaPo Publishes Glowing Article About Incoming AFL-CIO Leader; Ignores Sleazy Background

The Washington Post has published a glowing article about likely incoming AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka (photo), titled "Trumka Hopes to Mend the AFL-CIO." Writer Chris Cillizza asks in the very first sentence of his Monday Fix story, "Can Richard Trumka reunite the labor movement?"

Cillizza portrays Trumka as genuinely puzzled over the reason for the big split in the labor movement:

With Trumka's election virtually ensured, the central question is whether he can heal the rift that occurred four years ago when the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters (among others) left the AFL-CIO to form a new labor coalition known as Change to Win.

Trumka, in a recent interview with the Fix, was puzzled over the reasons behind the fracture. "First they said it was because we did too much political action [and] that obviously wasn't the case since everyone spent a lot of time on political action," he said. "Then they said we didn't spent enough time on organizing."

Regardless of the reasons for the split, Trumka says his background prepares him well for the task of reunification. Elected as the head of the United Mine Workers in the early 1980s, Trumka helped unite warring factions within the group and bring it under the AFL-CIO umbrella. "Over the years, I've had a fairly successful record of bringing people together," he said.

Um...actually Trumka is probably the worst person around to reunite the warring factions of labor because of accusations over his part  in a money laundering scheme in order to fix a Teamsters election...a huge point completely ignored by Cillizza.

And what is the source of this information? Some "vicious rightwing" website or periodical? Nope. This information comes from the very liberal New Republic which takes the Washington Post to task for failing to note this big problem in Trumka's background as a "mender." 

John B. Judis of The New Republic is the one who rakes the Washington Post over the coals for their incredibly incomplete reporting: 

The story, headlined “Trumka Hopes to Mend the AFL-CIO,” reports that the “central question is whether he can heal the rift that occurred four years ago when the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters (among others) left the AFL-CIO to form a new labor coalition known as Change to Win.”  Trumka says, in the words of reporter Chris Cillizza, that his “background prepares him well for the task of reunification.”

Really?  The story fails to mention that Trumka himself was one of the reasons for the split.  In 1996, James P. Hoffa ran for president of the Teamsters against the incumbent Ron Carey.  Carey won the election, but the results were thrown out when federal officials discovered that Carey campaign people were illicitly using Teamster funds for his campaign.  Carey’s campaign would send the money to individuals in other organizations ostensibly for other purposes and the individuals and organizations would arrange for the money to be donated back to the Carey campaign.   

According to a statement made by Carey’s former campaign manager, Trumka and the AFL-CIO were involved in this money-laundering scheme.  At Trumka’s request, $150,000 was sent to the AFL-CIO for get-out-the-vote efforts in the 1996 general election.  The money was then sent to Citizen Action, a community organizing group, which passed it back to the Carey campaign.  While Trumka was mentioned in the federal complaint, he was not indicted.  And he refused to testify in the federal investigation on fifth amendment grounds.  So nothing has been proven, but you would probably have a hard time finding a labor official – and particularly one at the Teamsters – who doesn’t believe Trumka was laundering money for Carey.  

Cillizza failed to ask Teamsters president Hoffa his opinion on whether Trumka could "mend" the labor movement. According to Judis, that possibility seems to range somewhere between nil to none with Trumka as leader of the AFL-CIO:

Hoffa, of course, went on to win a new election, and has remained president of the Teamsters.  He and SEIU President Andy Stern were prime movers behind the split in the AFL-CIO.  And it is very unlikely that Hoffa would be willing to return to an AFL-CIO with Trumka at its head. Very, very  unlikely.   By elevating Trumka, the federation is pretty much insuring that the AFL-CIO, which lost a quarter of its membership in the split, will not be mended.  But you wouldn’t know that from reading this morning’s Washington Post.

In fact, the crucial name "Hoffa" appears nowhere in Cillizza's Washington Post story. A rather bizarre oversight seeing as how Hoffa is the one whose approval is needed for any labor mending to happen. 

Washington Post Chris Cillizza Richard Trumka
P.J. Gladnick's picture