CONGRATS TO AFGE’S NEW PRESIDENT. IS THERE TROUBLE AHEAD?
Congratulations to J. David Cox who just moved up from AFGE Secretary-Treasurer to National President this week after a four-person election at their Vegas convention. If you have any doubts about how active of a leader he is going to be, take a look at the AFGE web site. Cox changed it overnight. The new site is attractive and highly useful. The home page is not cluttered, the menu bar provides automatic drop down pages without the reader having to click, and it even offers outsiders helpful information. Our favorite feature might be the very easy-to-access news that is organized by major agency under the Agency menu. Within seconds, a reader from these departments can see items of the greatest interest to their agency.
However, we were stunned to see that Cox got only 51% of the vote. Local union leaders from AFGE’s Department of Labor locals and their Bureau of Prison locals both ran against Cox and almost evenly split the rest of the votes. A DOD candidate got only 1%. Obviously, there is an issue causing some division inside the country’s largest federal sector union.
If we had to guess what it is, we would point to the overwhelming political dominance of Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs members inside this union of over 1,100 locals representing employees in over 95% of the unionized federal agencies. The AFGE Council of Veteran Affairs, with over 80,000 members is nearly four times larger than the next largest AFGE Council. In fact, it is larger than the combined membership of the Bureau of Prison, Border Patrol, Social Security, and INS. When you add to the VA’s clout the closely related Department of Defense members, they can out vote the rest of the union.
That is not the worst thing in the world. Most unions are dominated by one industry. However, when those diverse members vote for something as important as who will be their national leader and only elect him with 51% of the vote that is something to worry about. That is not just a few contrarians on the convention floor wanting to keep the front-running candidate from winning by too much or who have an issue of personal concern that the front-runner is ignoring.
We wish Cox and AFGE the best in the days ahead. He is a classy, thoughtful guy, and the union deserves enormous credit for all the new members it has brought in over the last nine years.