AFL-CIO rallies for further reform after Bush signs bill

WASHINGTON: Even as president Bush was signing the most sweeping corporate reform bill since the Depression era, the nation's largest organized labor group spent last week mounting a multistate publicity campaign to push for even broader measures to rein in corporate malfeasance.

WASHINGTON: Even as president Bush was signing the most sweeping corporate reform bill since the Depression era, the nation's largest organized labor group spent last week mounting a multistate publicity campaign to push for even broader measures to rein in corporate malfeasance.

"While the corporate accounting bill is a very good bill and we supported it, we see it as just the first step, said Denise Mitchell, head of the AFL-CIO's publiac affairs office. "Until we deal with some of the central problems (in corporate America), including holding management more accountable, we're not going to change the way business works in America." The AFL-CIO held three high-profile rallies last week, which garnered a fair amount of publicity. The "No more business as usual" corporate-reform tour made three stops along the Northeast corridor, with each destination designed to symbolize an aspect of the organization's reform agenda. The tour was planned just two weeks in advance, and will be followed by similar rallies throughout the country in August. The organized-labor federation, which claims over 13 million members in 66 unions, said it will use its political and financial muscle to push for change in corporate boardrooms. At each stop on the tour, AFL-CIO officials were joined at the podium by workers who had lost their jobs, savings, and pensions as a result of recent corporate scandals. "I think it's very motivating for other workers to hear their stories," said Mitchell. "When we take Enron workers around the country, it really helps people realize that what happened to the Enron workers can happen to them." On Monday, the group rallied outside the New Britain, CT headquarters of toolmaker Stanley Works, where it decried the company's attempt to reincorporate in Bermuda for tax purposes. On Tuesday, the rally reached New York with a gathering outside the New York Stock Exchange, where AFL-CIO president John Sweeney addressed the gathering with demands for corporate reform, including barring CEOs from selling shares during their tenure. The tour closed Wednesday in Boston, as the group rallied a block away from the headquarters of asset-management giant Fidelity. Fidelity manages a substantial portfolio of worker assets through pensions and annuities. The labor group is specifically pushing Fidelity to change its current policy of refusing to disclose how it votes on individual corporate proxies. While American labor has always been among the strongest critics of corporate America, it now finds the political and media climate is ripe for its message. "All the corporate scandals have given us a chance to ratchet up our message of corporate reform, said the AFL-CIO's Mitchell. "Because now there is a real receptivity to these messages."

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