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Tuesday April 3, 2001

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AFL-CIO President criticizes Bush

Headline Photo

Associated Press

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney talks to the press after being interviewed on the March 18 CBS "Face the Nation."

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - AFL-CIO President John Sweeney accused President Bush of "twisted priorities" and "screwing up" the economy with his proposed 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut.

"My fear is that he is so determined to reward his corporate and ideological backers that he will ignore the needs of the vast majority of (the) American people who make daily decisions between pork chops and peanut butter - as he pays attention only to those who must decide between a $190 and a $125 bottle of Bordeaux," Sweeney said yesterday.

He was addressing a legislative conference of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department, which represents 15 trade unions in the construction industry. About 2,500 union members are attending this week's event.

Bush's tax cut plan is "the biggest example of his twisted priorities," one that will force taxpayers to pick up the tab for the next 20 years while the wealthiest Americans benefit, Sweeney said.

That money also should be used to reduce the national debt and fund education and other priorities, he said. Sweeney favors Democratic plans to give every taxpayer a $300 tax dividend this year that would provide an immediate boost to the economy.

"What it needs is a big boost," he said. "That requires a coordinated plan, a multiple approach - and so far, Bush hasn't a clue."

He also called on Bush to "stop fueling fears of an economic downturn and train his rhetoric on the Federal Reserve," and said interest rates need to be cut more.

Meanwhile, Edward Sullivan, Building and Construction Trades Department president, criticized Bush for revoking a Clinton-era governmental policy requiring bidders on federal construction projects to adhere to labor agreements, called "project labor agreements."

It was one of a handful of governmental policies favored by unions that the Bush administration moved to repeal in his first month in office. The agreement, employed at the discretion of states, is an issue in an expensive proposal to replace the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on heavily traveled Interstate 95 between Virginia and Maryland.

"The executive order targets the very segment of the labor movement that tries the hardest to avoid party labels and to support Republican candidates who support us and our families," Sullivan said. "It should be a lesson to any construction union member who voted for Bush in the first place."

Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and Peter King, R-N.Y., are sponsoring legislation that would again legalize project labor agreements. The AFL-CIO also plans to sue in federal court to overturn Bush's executive order.

Also, Sweeney reiterated his disappointment that the carpenters' union broke its affiliation last week with the AFL-CIO. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America has more than 320,000 members, and officials in a letter said they had differences with the AFL-CIO in the direction of the labor movement.

"I was disturbed ... with the signal such a disaffiliation sends to our political and employer adversaries, as well as for the problems it will cause for union contractors," Sweeney said.

The AFL-CIO is a voluntary federation of 65 unions with about 13 million members.