Gerald W. McEntee, Union Chief With Political Clout, Dies at 87

Gerald W. McEntee, Union Chief With Political Clout, Dies at 87

Gerald W. McEntee, the longtime president of just one of the country’s major general public staff labor unions, died on Sunday at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 87.

His demise was confirmed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workforce (AFSCME), which he led from 1981 to 2012.

As the union’s president, he aided grow its active membership from about 1 million to in excess of 1.2 million at its peak whilst main essential fights in opposition to the privatization of federal government programs.

But he was possibly ideal known for raising the affect of the labor movement in electoral politics all through an age of mostly Republican rule, as Washington became more and more hostile to unions.

“He’s an crucial figure in repositioning the union in politics,” claimed Joseph McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown College who studies general public sector unions. “I believe his calling card more than just about anything was that he began to use the union’s political electric power to precise points that in an earlier era the union could possibly have turned to strikes to precise.”

After Mr. McEntee became president, the union began shelling out greatly on state legislative races, reckoning that legislators were being crucial each for the funding of public products and services and for the at the time-per-ten years redistricting that can help decide management of Congress.

Then, through the 1992 presidential marketing campaign, Mr. McEntee persuaded the union’s worldwide government board to endorse Monthly bill Clinton, at the time the governor of Arkansas, whom quite a few union officials regarded as significantly less labor-friendly than rival Democratic candidates, including Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.

The official endorsement appeared to appear in the late winter season or early spring, but the union had signaled its assist weeks earlier, when quite a few Democratic voters and parts of the celebration institution were however skeptical of Mr. Clinton. The union’s backing served Mr. Clinton portray himself as an satisfactory nominee in just the get together who could stop 12 many years of Republican command of the presidency.

“Harkin was a really fantastic friend to labor — I really don’t know how any individual could have been a greater labor mate,” recalled Linda Canan Stephens, who labored in the union’s political office at the time. “But McEntee pushed this — you have to be equipped to gain. That is the truth of the predicament.”

Not extensive immediately after backing John J. Sweeney to become president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. in 1995, Mr. McEntee became chairman of the federation’s political committee, effectively formalizing his part as a Democratic kingmaker. Steve Rosenthal, the committee’s top staffer at the time, recalled him as a gruff but supportive manager who was committed to expanding labor’s job in federal elections.

A person of Mr. Rosenthal’s early presentations to Mr. McEntee featured a plan to generate a political mobilization apparatus, which includes organizers and cell phone-banking, that would work 12 months-spherical, not just in the months leading up to Election Day.

As Mr. Rosenthal recalled: “When I completed, he mentioned, ‘That’s outstanding — it’s the most outstanding matter I at any time listened to. And each 5 or 6 a long time, a person comes in with that very same program. I convey to him how excellent it is, and if they can figure out how to fund it 12 months-spherical, go for it.’”

Nonetheless Mr. McEntee moved aggressively to make A.F.L. money out there for political strategies: more than $30 million in the 1996 and 1998 election cycles and a lot more than $40 million in 2000.

“That was a considerably larger plan than the A.F.L. experienced at any time run, and we experienced a substantial sum of success” Mr. Rosenthal stated, pointing to victories by Mr. Clinton and down-ballot candidates in 1996 and pickups for Democrats through the midterm elections of 1998, strange for a get together that controls the White Dwelling. “He drove that train.”

In the 2000 presidential cycle, Mr. McEntee made use of his perch atop the A.F.L.’s political committee to assist secure an endorsement of Vice President Al Gore, who was then facing a sturdy problem from former Senator Bill Bradley for the Democratic presidential nomination. The A.F.L. experienced not often endorsed a prospect through a contested Democratic major, but Mr. McEntee considered it was crucial to consolidate the labor movement at the rear of Mr. Gore.

“Jerry had the watch that you really should be with people today who are with you, and test and be with them early, and they’ll bear in mind, they’ll be grateful for it,” stated Steve Elmendorf, who worked closely with Mr. McEntee in the 1990s as a prime aide to Rep. Richard Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri.

Not all of Mr. McEntee’s political bets labored out. In late 2003, he assisted protected AFSCME’s endorsement of Howard Dean, the previous governor of Vermont, for the Democratic presidential nomination. Dr. Dean was also endorsed by the strong Assistance Staff members Global Union, but his campaign ran aground soon right after his 3rd area end in the 2004 Iowa caucuses.

Nonetheless, Democratic operatives claimed the endorsement mirrored Mr. McEntee’s philosophy that labor wanted to acquire even bigger risks in politics to continue being pertinent. “He comprehended that we desired to be bold,” Mr. Rosenthal claimed. “I feel the Dean thing was an illustration of that.”

Gerald William McEntee was born on Jan. 11, 1935, in Philadelphia to William and Mary Josephine (Creed) McEntee. His father was a sanitation truck driver for the town who helped arrange co-personnel.

Mr. McEntee graduated from La Salle College in Philadelphia in 1956. Following serving briefly in the Military, he went to operate checking site visitors quantity at intersections for the Philadelphia Bureau of Traffic Engineering, through which time he joined AFSCME.

He is survived by his spouse, Barbara (Rochford) McEntee his daughters, Patricia Gehlen, Kathleen Hammock and Kelly Hamlin his sister, Mary Casale 10 grandchildren and five wonderful-grandchildren.

In quite a few months of joining AFSCME, Mr. McEntee grew to become a workers member of the union’s Philadelphia area council. In 1970, Pennsylvania handed a regulation allowing state employees to cut price collectively, and Mr. McEntee helped persuade them to be part of AFSCME.

In 1973, he grew to become the major workers member of the AFSCME council that represented the overall state in that put up he helped negotiate a deal that involved generous overall health insurance coverage and prescription drug benefits. When the condition attempted to pull back from the agreement a handful of a long time later, Mr. McEntee led a strike, a person of the premier at that point in U.S. history involving community workforce. The two sides settled within a handful of times.

Mr. McEntee was preferred to substitute AFSCME’s longtime leader Jerry Wurf after his loss of life in December 1981 he won a comprehensive time period as president in 1984. According to the union, Mr. McEntee produced gender pay out fairness a precedence in deal bargaining for the duration of the 1980s.

Throughout substantially of his a lot more than 30-12 months tenure, Mr. McEntee performed a leading position resisting federal government cuts and privatization sought by Republican officials and some reasonable Democrats. He aided guide a productive marketing campaign to defeat President George W. Bush’s proposal to partly privatize Social Protection in 2005.

In 2011, when Wisconsin’s newly elected governor, Scott Walker, commenced trying to find to roll back collective bargaining rights for general public employees in that state, Mr. McEntee helped spearhead the opposition, which incorporated enormous protests at the state money.

“Jerry led the labor reaction to the assault in Wisconsin,” stated Larry Cohen, the president of the Communications Employees of The united states at the time, introducing, “He was just about like a Paul Revere indicating, ‘If this is not a wake-up contact for all of us, what would be?’”

Partly as a consequence of that alarm, Mr. Cohen explained, his very own union began keeping monthly city corridor conferences involving tens of 1000’s of shop stewards.

The effects of these initiatives have been combined. Mr. Walker was mainly prosperous in curbing bargaining legal rights in Wisconsin, and Republican governors and legislators later on rolled the same for community staff members in close by states, like Michigan. In 2018 the Supreme Court docket dominated that govt staff members in any condition could decide out of signing up for a union or shelling out a union rate, striking down required service fees in extra than 20 states. The determination led to a drop in union budgets.

But the unions undid a Wisconsin-design and style rollback of collective bargaining legal rights in Ohio via a ballot measure in 2011, and these counter-mobilization of labor appeared to construct momentum, generating a wave of more intense labor activism afterwards in the 10 years, specially between lecturers.

“They ended up not totally organized for the kind of militant pushback that would arrive with Walker and other individuals,” explained Mr. McCartin, the historian. “To McEntee’s credit score, he did dig in at the time it turned apparent how that onslaught was happening.”

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