Kentucky state AFL-CIO officials were reportedly scratching their heads after a surprise announcement Aug. 23 that United Auto Workers locals were pulling out of state federations in both Indiana and Kentucky. Ky. AFL-CIO president Bill Londrigan said he and secretary-treasurer Chris Sanders were mystified by the UAW action. He said they have been seeking advice from national AFL-CIO leaders such as president John J. Sweeney and the corrupt secretary-treasurer Richard L. Trumka, and with UAW leaders in Detroit, in an effort to turn the defection around.
UAW Region Three Director Terry Thurman, who called local delegates to his Indianapolis office last week and called for a vote on withdrawal, said the action is an “internal matter,” and not one he cares to discuss except with members. He said the UAW will cooperate with both state federations, but he said withdrawal of dues will cost the Ky. AFL-CIO about $120,000 a year. It will take an even bigger toll in Ind.; UAW Local 862 president Rocky Comito said the UAW financial contribution to the Ind. AFL-CIO is about $680,000 a year.
Asked if he thinks the UAW decision could be turned around, Thurman said, “No.”
Londrigan said the departure is a blow to the Kentucky federation he heads. “We’re concerned about how it’s going to affect our ability to operate,” he said. “It’s a disappointing turn of events for us. It was totally unexpected and basically unwarranted, as far as we’re concerned.”
The UAW locals rejoined the Ky. AFL-CIO just four years ago, after a split that dated to a 1967 feud between then- national AFL-CIO chief George Meany and the UAW’s Walter Reuther. The UAW international rejoined the national AFL-CIO in 1982, but many locals stayed away from state bodies for some years thereafter.
Comito, like Thurman, said he didn’t care to go into detail. But he said “different things that happened” in UAW relationships with one or both state federations “over the years,” and the fact that the UAW “did well all of those years without affiliation” figured in the decision.
“Apparently he had a disagreement over a political endorsement” in Indiana, Londrigan said.”I don’t know why Bill is saying that,” Thurman responded.
Thurman was chairman of a labor committee that rewrote the Ky. AFL-CIO constitution last year, after several bosses and staffers were removed in an scandal that included a burglary, an arson and a suicide, as well as an embezzlement of approximately $285,000. [Courier-J. (Louisville) 8/26/00]