News: Trumka, Mary Jo, Union Politics

Some recent investigative work by columnist Robert Novak has provided insights into the Bush Administration and AFL-CIO politics. On his Sept. 1 CNN show, he asked Sec’y of Labor Elaine L. Chao if AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard L. Trumka should resign because he invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering investigators questions about corruption on his part. Chao said, “it is certainly very unusual for a top official of the AFL-CIO to invoke the Fifth Amendment, particularly when, in the past, when any high official has done so, they have automatically been terminated or left.” Novak pressed her again if Trumka should resign, and she refused to say yes: “I think this issue is still working, and so let’s see what happens. It’s in the courts, and there are numerous cases associated with it. Let justice take its course.” Does Chao know something about a possible Trumka prosecution that we don’t?

Any such prosecution has to go through, around, or over U.S. Atty. Mary Jo White. In his Labor Day speech to Teamsters in Detroit, President Bush said: IBT boss James P. Hoffa “is running a good union; and in an aboveboard way.” Novak’s Sept. 6 column reported that afterward, Bush asked: “I don’t know why we just don’t end it” referring to the government’s cleanup of IBT. Bush was told that the cleanup is supervised by White. Bush asked, “Isn’t she a [Clinton] holdover?” Novak commented: “That’s a question Teamster officials have been asking.”

In addition to IBT, Bush met with the United Bhd. of Carpenters in Green Bay on Labor Day. Bush and UBC president Douglas McCarron shared kind words. As previously reported in the UCU, UBC bolted the AFL-CIO earlier this year because of a lack of confidence in the Sweeney-Trumka cabal. McCarron has reportedly asked Hoffa to join UBC in a new labor federation. On that point, Novak added, “They conceivably could be joined by the United Mine Workers, whose president, Cecil Roberts, was at the White House [recently] saying his members are interested in jobs and guns and helped Bush carry West Virginia. That sounds like Big Labor splitting.”