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"The era of big government is over. But we can't go back to the era of fending for yourself."

-- President Bill Clinton, in the State of the Union

"President Clinton may well be the rear guard of the welfare state."

--Senator Bob Dole (R-Kan.), in GOP responseEdited by Larry Light, with Oluwabunmi ShabiReturn to top

GETTING ORGANIZED AT THE AFL-CIO

JOHN SWEENEY SWEPT INTO the AFL-CIO presidency in October, promising to revive a near-moribund labor movement. On Jan. 24, he gave the federation's executive council plans to expand shrunken union rolls, get much more involved in congressional elections, and launch a media campaign on workers' falling wages.

Historically, the AFL-CIO has left organizing largely to individual unions. Sweeney wants to spend $20 million, a fourfold increase, on the task--with nationwide multi-union membership drives and the organizing of entire regions or industries. The federation will be a national clearinghouse, dispensing tactics to the field. Sweeney also will create a department to help unions mount pressure campaigns against employers. Individual unions increasingly have scored gains with this approach, making use of ad blitzes, stockholder actions, and safety-related lawsuits.

The AFL-CIO has never before tried to implement a nationally coordinated political campaign. For the Jan. 30 Senate special election to fill the Bob Packwood vacancy, Sweeney has mobilized 35 operatives in Oregon to help pro-labor Democrat Ron Wyden by trying to sway union members, many of whom vote Republican. Sweeney hopes to replicate the effort in 75 key congressional races this fall.

The media campaign on declining wages--TV, radio, print--will feature American families coping with falling living standards. Sweeney's goal: to change the nation's negative attitude toward unions.Edited by Larry Light, with Oluwabunmi Shabi By Aaron BernsteinReturn to top

IF YOU CAN FIND A BETTER VENUE...

WHERE DOES LEE Iacocca live, anyway--California or Michigan? That's a recurring question in court suits.

When Iacocca was getting divorced last spring, he got the case heard in Michigan--not California, where his wife wanted it. In California, where Darrien Iacocca claimed the couple had lived since 1992, the divorce law calls for a 50-50 asset split. But the ex-Chrysler chairman successfully argued that he really lived in a Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) condo. The divorce was later settled for undisclosed terms in Michigan, where there's no hard-and-fast divorce law on property division.

Now, Iacocca says he lives in Los Angeles. And that's where he wants his suit against Auburn Hills (Mich.)-based Chrysler heard, seeking to recoup $42 million in stock options it voided because of his ties to Kirk Kerkorian. Iacocca court filings say California case law is tough on employers who revoke compensation. Also, Iacocca says a Michigan case is inconvenient, since it would distract from his California business and civic activities. An L.A. judge has tossed out his move to hear the suit there, but Iacocca has a Feb. 28 hearing in suburban Detroit to shift venue west.Edited by Larry Light, with Oluwabunmi Shabi By Bill VlasicReturn to top

PILOTS TO DELTA: WE MAY WALK

DELTA AIR LINES FACES ITS first-ever pilots' strike unless negotiations turn around fast. Leaders of Delta's Air Line Pilots Assn. met in Dallas Jan. 24 to discuss mailing strike ballots to the No.3 U.S. carrier's 8,500 pilots.

In December, things looked much better. Delta had seemingly charted a strike-free route to its targeted $340 million in pilot cost cuts, winning tentative union agreement to fly new short-haul routes at lower pay. But the union isn't backing off demands for stock and a board seat. And it has countered a Delta demand for 7% wage cuts with a proposed 5% hike based on earnings, which only returned to the black in 1995's second quarter. Delta's chief negotiator, Harry Alger, calls the proposal "a retreat from reality."

Adding to the pilots' ire: Company negotiators are vowing to employ nonunion pilots to protect Delta's flank in Florida if a contract is not nailed down by mid-February. "We are looking at a time-critical face-off," warns union spokesman Cam Foster. The last major pilot strike: against now-defunct Eastern in 1989.Edited by Larry Light, with Oluwabunmi Shabi By David GreisingReturn to top


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