Bureau Of National Affairs
O'Sullivan Urges Delegates to Organize, Protect Jurisdiction, Immigrant Workers
By Brian Lockett
Wednesday, September 26, 2001
Addressing the convention of the Laborers' International Union of North America, Terence M. O'Sullivan, president of the 800,000-member union, called for activism on all fronts, especially in organizing, immigrant worker rights, and protection of jurisdiction. LIUNA is not looking for members "who are just dues-payers," Sullivan told delegates to the union's convention, meeting in Las Vegas.
Appointed by the union's executive board in 1999 to take over as president when Arthur A. Coia resigned from the position, O'Sullivan was elected by convention delegates to a full five-year term Sept. 18 (180 DLR A-7, 9/19/01).
LIUNA is "waging a war for our very survival ... what we need are warriors" to organize, to be politically active and to protect workers from "unscrupulous employers, anti-union and anti-worker politicians, and shrinking market share," he said.
O'Sullivan also took a strong position on the rights of immigrant workers. "If an undocumented immigrant is in this country for a specified period of time, is working for an employer, is paying taxes and abiding by the laws of our land, that person should have the same fundamental rights as anyone else," he said. Guest worker programs should be restructured to provide immigrants "a clear path to earned legal status," he said.
Following up on a program announced earlier this year (77 DLR C-1, 4/20/01), O'Sullivan said organizing and related market-share issues are vital to the union's future. LIUNA will collectively commit "$40 million or more" to organizing annually. Organizers must be hired "who look and speak like the workers we are organizing," he said, pledging that the union will "do our share" to fulfill AFL-CIO's target of collectively organizing 1 million new members per year.
In a resolution laying out principles for the next five years, delegates said "our world cannot be limited to collective bargaining." The union's "Tri-Fund" programs promoting safety, training, and promotion of union construction "have now matured into critical assets" available to advance union interests, resolution said.
A controversial resolution that would have stripped Coia of the emeritus status he was granted in 1999 and a reported $84,000 annual retirement premium was defeated in a voice vote on the floor. Delegate sources said the resolution committee recommended against adoption of the proposal.
Under the terms of Coia's retirement package, the union agreed to add $84,000 to his annual retirement income to make up the difference between his vested pension and his then-current salary.
A resolution on immigration called for "legalizing undocumented workers" and opposing current guest worker programs. LIUNA backs criminal sanctions for employers who recruit undocumented workers "for the purpose of exploiting them for economic gain."
Copyright © 2001 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.