Robert Sweeney was born in 1934. Currently he serves as the president of AFL-CIO, the largest federation union in America. His interest in labor relations began when his father took him to the American labor movements. He has contributed largely to the labor relation changes in America. In 1956, he joined UNITE HERE, as a researcher as a way to start his labor movement intentions. He later joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as a director but he was under a contract. He became the president of Local 32B in 1976.
He ensured that the employees had better wage pay and benefits after he led them in a strike disputing with the New York Advisory Board. He also led another strike which won the Local32BJ workers a contract of improvement in 1979. He made sure that base areas and new sectors expanded rapidly. Moreover, he was responsible for organizing workers in the National Association of Working Women. He was also behind the organization of workers in nursing homes. The union further expanded its work in healthcare systems and commercial or business enterprises.
He later led to the organization of public service workers when he took over the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE). This made SEIU to gain more than a million members. The union became very strong and it pushed for better working laws like safety and health, immigrant rights, sexual harassment, raise in salary and wages and civil laws (Stephen, 2005). He fought to be president of AFL-CIO when it was facing failure of labor law reforms under Kirkland. He advised Kirkland to step down as the unions did not like his leadership and policies.
He refused and it led to eleven presidents of specific unions joining hands against him and Sweeney was among them. The joint movement was known as ‘Committee for Change’. The union decided to elect Thomas Donahue to be president but because he had served Kirkland for long he stepped down as a show of loyalty. This made Kirkland to ask for a re-election and it prompted the ‘Committee for Change’ to change their strategies to fight Kirkland. The biggest reform that was made was to make a woman, Linda-Chavez Thompson, the position of women and minorities representative.
Thereafter, the group changed its mane to ‘New Voice’. This saw ten more unions joining the group discouraging Kirkland therefore he resigned because he could not fight against them. Kirkland resignation made Donahue to start campaigning for presidency in the union but the members had lost faith in him. He competed against Sweeney and later he won because of his smart campaign strategy (Stephen, 2005). Sweeney made a lot of changes in AFL-CIO immediately he took office. He planned to increase new members in the union as it had faced a decline and his main focus was on young people.
The union was separated in two giving the Field Mobilization program the responsibility of regional offices. The other sector was the organizing sector. There was need to form a committee which was responsible of coming up with good organizing strategies. It had a union program fro summer which took up very many college students. To ensure that working women were able to fight for their rights, a Working Women’s Department was formed. It formed a political training centre that was responsible it training people who operated in politics.
It helped such individuals in training their staff too. For the organization of unions and helping them to make contracts that will fight against international companies, a transitional research centre was formed (Peter, 2006). Daily at working places women face the problem of sexual harassment. For them to get a job or to be promoted they must satisfy their employers’ sexual needs. This frustrated very many women in the job sector. They had no one to represent them in fighting for their employment rights.
Now, women can take employers who subject them to sexual harassment at the work place t court. It is against the law to ask for sexual favors to give a qualified worker a job. More so, firing a worker because of failure to giving in to sexual advances is an offence (Mara, 2005). The Employment Act is also against any employer who discriminates against qualified individuals because of age and race. It is stated that any individual as long as he or she is qualified has the right to employment. Discrimination against employing young people will be reduced because of this Act.
Some actually avoid employing a certain age of people saying that they are too old. It is evident that Robert was highly against this when he made sure that AFL-CIO had young members straight from college. More so, he believed in young people as he used them in his campaign for presidency in AFL-CIO against Kirkland (Mara, 2005). Conclusion Robert Sweeney made sure that the labor movement had achieved its goals. Though he faced a lot of trials in his journey but he has made a great deal of contributions to the American Labor Relations movement.
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