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John J. Sweeney, union leader in crusade, dead at 86

John J. Sweeney, a New York union researcher who rose to the top of the American labor movement in the 1990s, leading the AFL-CIO for 14 years through an era of declining union membership but growing political influence, died Monday at his home. in Bethesda, Maryland, he was 86 years old.

Carolyn Bobb, an AFL-CIO spokeswoman, confirmed the death. She did not specify the cause.

As president, from 1995 to 2009, of the country’s largest trade union federation – 56 unions with 10 million members towards the end of his term – Mr. Sweeney demonstrated political strength with thousands of volunteers and helped in electing Barack Obama as president in 2008. Over the years, he has also helped elect Democrats to congressional seats, governorates and state legislatures across the country.

Its more difficult task, a quest to reinvigorate and diversify the faltering labor movement itself, has had the weight of history weighing against it.

For decades in the 20th century, workers had not welcomed women, African Americans, Latinos, or Asian Americans, often engaging in blatantly discriminatory tactics to preserve the dominance of white men in the place. of work. Substantial but uneven gains have been made since the civil rights era of the 1960s, when unions began removing “white only” clauses from their constitutions and bylaws.

But Mr Sweeney, still faced with an unbalanced demographics, has planned a radical change. He crossed paths to bring women and minorities into the fold, often in leadership positions; made alliances with civil rights groups, students, university professors and the clergy; and championed low-wage workers, abandoning the traditional AFL-CIO focus on protecting the best-paying union jobs.

In Mr. Sweeney’s campaign for the federation presidency, his running mate, for the newly created post of executive vice president, was Linda Chavez-Thompson, the daughter of a Texas sharecropper. She was the first member of a minority group to be elected to the highest ranks of the union executive.

The 1995 ballot itself was unique: it was the first contested election in the history of the federation, which was created in 1955 by the amalgamation of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations after a long separation.

An iconic Sweeney initiative has encouraged the recruitment of thousands of immigrants into his unions. Many members had long been hostile to undocumented workers, accusing them of stealing union jobs and lowering pay scales. Mr Sweeney chided the speech as discriminatory and called for justice that includes better treatment for underpaid immigrants and a path to citizenship for those illegally in the United States.

Critics have argued that Mr Sweeney’s policies are locked into a liberal past, deploying mid-20th century civil rights and labor union strategies to organize 21st century workers with internet skills. Mr Sweeney dismissed the claim, just as he had pushed back against companies moving jobs overseas and denounced the hostilities many young white-collar workers had expressed towards old-fashioned unions.

In a labor movement that has been on the decline since 1979, when union membership peaked at 21 million, Mr Sweeney pushed his constituent unions to dramatically increase spending on organizing. He has often said that his first priority was to reverse the long slide and significantly expand the union base.

But in 2009, when he resigned, his vision of a dramatic unionization surge comparable to those of the late 1930s depression and postwar 1940s had not materialized. In fact, the overall union membership in America had fallen under his watch to around 12% versus 15% of the workforce, a trend that has continued ever since, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Based on the optimism that supporters of the labor movement felt in 1995 when he was elected, I think it’s hard not to be disappointed with the results,” said Richard W. Hurd, professor of relations at work at Cornell University, New York. Times in 2009. “How far back you can trace back to John Sweeney is a whole other question.”

In an exit interview with The Times in his Washington office – looking across Lafayette Park to the White House, where he spoke to President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s and to Mr. Obama more recently – Mr. Sweeney spoke optimistically about the Great Recession, which had been going on for more than a year and had already caused thousands of layoffs, further refining union ranks.

“I think the recession is going to lead people to the conclusion that they can’t solve their problems on their own, and they have to look to organize themselves,” he said. And, noting that his father had been a union bus driver in New York City, he learned a lesson from his childhood.

“Thanks to the union, my dad got things like vacation days or a raise,” he says. “But my mother, who worked as a domestic worker, had no one. It taught me from a young age the difference between workers who are organized and workers who were alone.

John Joseph Sweeney was born in the Bronx on May 5, 1934 to James and Agnes Sweeney, Irish Catholic immigrants whose struggles in America had shaped John’s social perceptions from an early age. The boy had accompanied his father to many union meetings, where he learned about class and work inequalities and union efforts to improve wages and working conditions.

He attended St. Barnabas Elementary School and graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx in 1952. As an adult, he resolved to find a future in organized work. He worked as a gravedigger and building porter (and joined his first union) to pay his way through Iona College, a Catholic school in New Rochelle, New York, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1956.

He briefly worked as a clerk for IBM, but took a big pay cut to become a researcher for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in Manhattan. He met Thomas R. Donahue, a union representative of the International Union of Construction Services Employees, Local 32B, who persuaded him in 1960 to join his union as contract manager. Mr. Sweeney would face Mr. Donahue in a race for the best job job 35 years later.

In 1962, Mr. Sweeney married Maureen Power, a schoolteacher. She survives him, along with their children, John Jr. and Patricia Sweeney; two sisters, Cathy Hammill and Peggy King; and a granddaughter.

The construction workers union was one of the most progressive of its time, representing 40,000 porters, doormen and maintenance workers in 5,000 commercial and residential buildings in New York City. Its contracts guaranteed wage increases, medical coverage, scholarships for members’ children, and demands that employers hire and encourage workers regardless of race, creed or color.

Mr. Sweeney rose through the ranks and in 1976 was elected President of Local 32B of the renowned International Union of Service Employees. Soon, its 45,000 members hit thousands of buildings for 17 days and won major pay and benefit increases. He later merged Local 32B with Local 32J, representing janitors, and in 1979 he went on strike again for contract improvements.

In 1980 he was elected president of the 625,000-member national SEIU and, moving his base to Washington, began to merge with unions of public sector employees and workers in clerical jobs, health care and food services. He lobbied for tougher federal health and safety laws and spent a lot to organize new members. In 1995, it represented 1.1 million union members and was a national power in the labor movement.

Work was at a crossroads. Years of grassroots frustration with Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO since 1979, spilled over into a revolt of union presidents in 1995. Mr. Kirkland, whose internationalist view of work had made him a hero of the Polish solidarity movement but had left him indifferent, even hostile, to the reforms proposed for the unions at home, was forced to resign.

The 1995 election pitted Mr. Sweeney against Mr. Donahue, his old friend from Local 32B, who had become secretary-treasurer of the federation and was the alleged heir to Mr. Kirkland. But Mr Donahue’s ties to Mr Kirkland forced him to defend the status quo, and Mr Sweeney’s progressive calls for growth and change won the presidency with 57% of the delegates, representing 7.2 million. of members.

He was re-elected for four more terms of two to four years each, the last time in 2005, when he broke his promise not to stay in office beyond 70 years. He retired in 2009 at age 75 and was replaced by Richard L. Trumka, his longtime secretary-treasurer and former president of the United Mine Workers.

In a statement posted on the AFL-CIO website Monday, Mr. Trumka said of Mr. Sweeney: “He has been guided into unionism by his Catholic faith, and not a single day has passed. elapsed where he did not put the work needs. People first. John saw his leadership as a spiritual call, a divine act of solidarity in a world beset by distance and division.

Mr. Sweeney has written a memoir entitled “Looking Back, Moving Forward: My Life in the American Labor Movement” (2017), and has co-authored two books: “America Needs a Raise: Fighting for Economic Security and Social Justice ”(1996, with David Kusnet) and“ Solutions for the New Workforce: Policies for a New Social Contract ”(1989, with Karen Nussbaum).

In 2010, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. “He revitalized the American labor movement,” Obama said at a ceremony at the White House, “emphasizing labor organization and social justice, and was a strong supporter of American workers.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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The story of John Young, the original king of buffalo wings

Culinary Arts The Story of John Young, the Original King of the Buffalo Wings His restaurants have closed and his fame faded, but a historic recovery effort brings new attention to the secret sauce he perfected. Wharton and Koren Shadmi

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Video: John Kerry discusses his new role as US climate envoy

new video loaded: John Kerry on New Role as US Climate Envoy

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John Kerry on New Role as US Climate Envoy

John Kerry, the new US climate change envoy, said on Wednesday that the United States would once again become a world leader in the fight against climate change, thanks to agreements such as the Paris Agreement.

The stakes of climate change simply could not be higher than they are now. It’s existential. We use this word too easily – we throw it away – but we have a great agenda ahead of us on a global scale. And President Biden is deeply committed. As he pledged to do during the election campaign, the president announces he will host a leaders’ summit on climate change in less than three months, on April 22, Earth Day, which will include a reconvocation to the level of leaders of major economies. forum. Intellectual Property Theft and Market Access, South China Sea. I mean, run the list. We all know them. These questions will never be traded for anything to do with the climate. It’s not going to happen. But the climate is a critical stand-alone problem that we must tackle, in the sense that China accounts for 30% of global emissions, or about 15% of global emissions. You add the EU to that and you have three entities that are over 55% or so. It is therefore urgent to find a way to compartmentalize, to move forward, and we will wait and see.

Recent episodes of United States and politics

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With John Kerry Pick, Biden chooses a ‘Climate Envoy’ of stature

WASHINGTON – When John Kerry served as Secretary of State to President Barack Obama, he helped guide the negotiation of the Paris Agreement, locking in the commitments of nearly 200 countries – including his own – to start reversing the dangerous global warming.

Now his diplomatic task can be even more difficult.

On Monday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said he intended to appoint Mr. Kerry as his special presidential climate envoy, a cabinet-level position in the new administration. In this role, Mr. Kerry will have to persuade skeptical world leaders, burned by the Trump administration’s hostility to climate science, that the United States is ready to resume its leadership role – and will keep the course, whatever the future of the Biden administration.

Those who know him best say Mr. Kerry is well suited for the role. He has been campaigning for action against climate change since attending the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, where the framework for the United Nations climate negotiations was formed.

He also knows the struggle to persuade his own country to act, having co-drafted climate change legislation as a senator from Massachusetts which ultimately failed. Then, after joining the Obama administration, he made climate change a central part of the State Department.

Mr. Kerry’s appointment to serve on the National Security Council as climate envoy elevates the issue of climate change to the highest levels of government and makes it an urgent threat to national security. “America will soon have a government that will treat the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it poses,” Kerry said in a statement.

In appointing Mr Kerry, Mr Biden exploited his government’s biggest name so far, a seasoned politician able to draw attention to himself and his causes since leading the opposition in the Vietnam War as a decorated young veteran. “John Kerry brings unparalleled stature, a record of effective, tireless and indefatigable negotiator, a record of deep engagement on this issue and an understanding of what the speed and scale of transformation needs to be,” said Todd S Stern, who served as the State Department’s climate envoy under Obama.

As Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Kerry will attend ministerial-level meetings with a cabinet rank. He won’t have to face confirmation from the Senate, according to Mr Biden’s transition team.

The move marks the first time that the National Security Council will include a dedicated climate change official, “reflecting the president-elect’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue,” the transition team said. in a press release.

“It’s an unusual sign, and certainly one that will catch everyone’s attention internationally. Every government from China to the EU to India is going to sit down, “Wow”, ”Stern said.

Paul Bodnar, chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which works on climate policy, and who served on the climate change negotiating team under Secretary Kerry, called it “a dream choice for this type of role ”and“ a strong signal of the importance of the climate to the new administration.

Mr Bodnar described Mr Kerry as someone who “does homework” on politics even as he works in the room as a negotiator. During the Paris climate negotiations in 2015, he recalled, Mr. Kerry “almost alone among the climate“ ministers ”of other countries, spent most of two weeks walking the corridors of the center giant conference day and night, to listen and to defend, to get into the details.

Democratic administrations in the United States have a habit of joining climate pacts like the Paris Agreement (and before that, the Kyoto Protocol of 1997) only to be abandoned by subsequent Republican presidents. Restoring the credibility of the United States once again will be a challenge, but several international leaders have said they look forward to seeing Washington back at the table.

“I think the rest of the world will welcome the United States under Biden and Kerry with open arms and with tremendous relief,” said Saleem Huq, director of the Bangladesh-based International Center for Climate Change and Development, which works in close collaboration with the poorest and the poorest. vulnerable countries.

According to Mr. Biden’s transition team, the president-elect will also appoint a White House climate policy coordinator in December who will help streamline national policies on climate change across federal agencies.

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John Hinckley Can Publicly Display His Works Judge’s Rules

John W. Hinckley Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, can publicly display his writings, paintings, photographs and other works of art, a federal judge said Wednesday.

The decision came in an order relaxing the terms of Mr. Hinckley’s release.

Judge Paul L. Friedman of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia wrote that Mr. Hinckley had remained “mentally stable” since 2016, when he was released from a mental hospital where he was. detained for decades and allowed to live with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Since 2018 Mr Hinckley, 65, has posted his music anonymously online, but he is frustrated by the lack of feedback he has gotten from the small number of people who have discovered his work, his team of treatment in court by asking that he be allowed to use his name in conjunction with his art.

Justice Friedman said in his order that Mr. Hinckley could publicly display, under his own name and without restriction, his memorabilia, writings, paintings, works of art and music.

The judge stipulated that Mr. Hinckley must inform the forensic outpatient department and their care providers of his intention to exhibit his art and must provide them with any feedback he receives, so that they can help treat it. If his doctors believe it is medically necessary, they can revoke his ability to post his work, the judge said.

In an interview submitted to the court as part of a violence risk assessment, Mr Hinckley said he wanted “to make money with my music and my art”.

“I create things that I find good and like any other artist, I would like to enjoy it and contribute more to my family,” he said. “I feel like I could help my mom and my brother if I could make money with my art.”

Mr Hinckley said he heard from other artists that he might be able to sell his art on websites such as Etsy and that he spoke to his processing team about the release of his music on various streaming sites.

He acknowledged “there is a notoriety associated with anything I do under my name” but said he was not interested in fame. He said he had been frustrated with his inability to share his works with others and receive feedback.

It was not immediately clear whether Judge Friedman’s order allowed Mr Hinckley to profit from the sale of his artwork, though the judge said Mr Hinckley had to comply with the terms of several civil lawsuits. .

In 1995, Mr. Hinckley agreed to cede to three of the men who were injured in the assassination attempt up to $ 2.9 million in proceeds from any sale in his life story.

Since 2018, Mr Hinckley’s music therapist has helped him post his music anonymously to SoundCloud and YouTube, but he has been disappointed with the small number of people who have listened to him, the music therapist wrote in court documents .

The therapist said it was important for Mr. Hinckley to have a creative outlet, but added, “I’m afraid he’s a well-known figure and I’m worried someone is dragging him around.

Another therapist, Carl Beffa, also supported Mr. Hinckley’s desire to sell his works.

“I would love for him to be able to earn an income from his artwork,” Beffa said in court documents. “If that happens by chance, his name is attached to it, I don’t see that that would be a problem. I’d be surprised if it got back to that narcissism he had with Jodie Foster, because he wasn’t present in any way.

On March 30, 1981, Mr. Hinckley, who was harassing Mr. Reagan in an attempt to impress Ms. Foster, fired six shots and seriously injured Mr. Reagan outside a Washington hotel.

James S. Brady, White House press secretary, was also shot; Timothy J. McCarthy, a Secret Service agent; and Thomas K. Delahanty, a Washington police officer. Mr. Brady suffered permanent brain damage and eventually died of his injuries in 2014.

In 1982, a jury found Mr. Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity, a decision that shocked the public and lawmakers across the country. He was sent for treatment to St. Elizabeths, a Washington mental hospital, where he was held until 2016, when he was released at his mother’s home.

In his order on Wednesday, Judge Friedman said Mr Hinckley could continue to live with his mother or live independently or with a roommate, as long as he informed the forensic outpatient department and his staff. treatment. He also upheld the ban on Mr Hinckley having contact with Ms Foster, members of the Reagan family or other people he had injured or their families.

Judge Friedman said Mr. Hinckley “will not pose a danger to himself or to others by reason of mental illness if he is allowed to continue to reside in the community” upon the terms of his release.

Mr Hinckley said he had done “very well” over the past four years and that, if given more freedom, he planned to stay in the Williamsburg area, continue working. in an old mall, to attend group therapy sessions and take his psychiatric medication.