Labor Bigs meet to divide the spoils

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
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At a private meeting tomorrow in Washington, D.C., the most powerful and prominent leaders of the labor movement are planning to finalize the details of a major public campaign to push for what labor is hoping to get from the incoming Obama administration and the new Congress.

The meeting tomorrow morning at AFL-CIO headquarters will provide a glimpse into labor's hopes for the new order in D.C., at a time when a labor resurgence is looking like a real possibility. The big unions played a major role in delivering white union and non-union workers to Barack Obama in the battleground states, and will be expecting a seat at the table next year.

According to a senior AFL-CIO official, the labor leaders -- who could include AFL-CIO head John Sweeney, AFSCME chief Gerald McEntee, and others -- will be putting the finishing touches on plans for a national campaign, including possible TV ads, to press members of Congress for quick passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, one of labor's major agenda items.

The measure, which would give workers the right to join a union as soon as a majority of employees at a workplace say they want to, went down to defeat in 2007 and is likely to provoke huge opposition from business groups again this time around.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

The labor heads will also discuss the Obama team's ongoing transition efforts and evaluate whether they think labor has had an adequate role in behind-the-scenes discussions, the AFL official said.

One key topic: How labor can push harder right now for quick passage of an economic stimulus package, which labor leaders want done even before Obama takes office.

It's unclear whether the labor chiefs will try to coalesce around a choice for labor secretary at tomorrow's meeting. Among the names that have been floated for the gig: Rep. George Miller of California, SEIU president Andy Stern, former Rep. Dick Gephardt, former AFL official Linda Chavez-Thompson and former Rep. David Bonior, though Bonior has said he's not interested.

One sensitive topic likely to be discussed at the meeting: How the big unions can press their agenda aggressively right now, without being seen as publicly pushing the administration too hard at a point when it's just trying to find its footing. Labor's agenda dovetails in many ways with Obama's, but labor, just like every other series of powerful interest groups, is trying to strike the right balance in pressing the administration to prioritize their agenda.

We'll bring you more on the meeting after it happens.


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