Aaron Bernstein reports that some labor leaders are dissatisfied with Lane Kirkland and would like to see someone else as president of the AFL-CIO ("Why Lane Kirkland looks like a lame duck," News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 13). So what's new? As far back as I can remember--during the Meany and Kirkland years--there have always been such rumblings before election time. None of the critics ever gathered enough support to make a run.
The story is downright wrong in a number of respects. Bernstein couched my statement--that I support Kirkland 100% but will look at any other candidate--in such a way as to imply I am looking for change. Naturally, as a representative of 850,000 members, I owe it to them to look fairly at all candidates. But as I told Bernstein, any new candidate would lack credibility unless he had proposed alternative courses of action in recent years. Nobody has.
As for the charge that the AFL-CIO spends one-third of its budget on its four international affairs institutes, it actually spends less than 1% on them. The one-third figure was arrived at by including millions of dollars in the National Endowment for Democracy, USIA, USAID, and other government funds that the AFL-CIO uses to administer programs abroad. These are dollars the AFL-CIO would not have if it didn't do such work. In a period of fierce international competition and trade problems, every affiliated union of the AFL-CIO has benefited from the federation's and Kirkland's involvement in international affairs.
President, American Federation
of Teachers, AFL-CIO