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Public Workers, Private Anger

Up Front -- Convention Report `96: RANK AND FILE


DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION delegates representing public-employee unions put on happy faces in Chicago, all for party unity. Still, the smiles couldn't hide their displeasure with President Clinton for signing a welfare reform bill. They fear its work requirements will prompt cities to create low-paying service jobs for welfare recipients, shutting out union members. To mollify this bunch--20% of the delegates--Bill Clinton plans to seek $3 billion in grants and tax breaks from Congress to create private-sector jobs for welfare people.

In addition, many unionists left Chicago miffed about the platform, which the Clintonites drafted. The public-worker unions lost their bid to soften antigovernment language such as: "The American people...want a government that is for them, not against them." Longtime Clinton ally Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, contends that such lines aren't a direct attack on his members. Another union official, however, gripes that "the people who wrote the platform are anti-public employee."

Clinton has pleased public-employee unions by lifting restrictions on federal workers' political involvement. But he has also reduced the federal workforce by 10%, to 1.9 million. Nonetheless, the unions will stick with Clinton, preferring him to the Republicans.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT WITH LISA SANDERS By Owen Ullmann

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