President Obama announced this week that he will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor – to John Sweeney, president emeritus of the country’s biggest union, the AFL-CIO.
Sweeney is a socialist activist and a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, the principal American affiliate of the Socialist International. The DSA has demonstrated a close relationship with Obama over the years.
Sweeney is among 15 honorees that include former President George H.W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and poet Maya Angelou.
“These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields,” stated Obama. “But all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place.”
Sweeney is a member of the DSA’s Boston chapter. He served as president of AFL-CIO from 1995 until his retirement last September.
He previously served for four terms as president of the controversial Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. During his administration, Sweeney famously aligned the SEIU with ACORN and other leftist groups.
Activist and author Joel Kotkin, a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, observed how Sweeney brought communists into his union leadership.
“The public-sector unions have pushed the entire labor movement to the left,” he said. “The [SEIU] has embraced organizations with a New Left origin, such as ACORN and Cleveland’s Nine to Five, and has even set up its own gay and lesbian caucus. … The rise of these unions led to the elevation of SEIU’s boss, John Sweeney, to head of the labor federation.
“No George Meaney-style bread-and-butter unionist, Sweeney is an advocate of European-style democratic socialism,” said Kotkin. “He has opened the AFL-CIO to participation by delegates openly linked to the Communist Party, which enthusiastically backed his ascent. The U.S. Communist Party [CPUSA] says it is now ‘in complete accord’ with the AFL-CIO’s program. ‘The radical shift in both leadership and policy is a very positive, even historic change,’ wrote CPUSA National Chairman Gus Hall in 1996 after the AFL-CIO convention.”
Upon assuming the office of the AFL-CIO in 1995, Sweeney was quick to rescind one of the union’s founding rules that banned Communist Party members and loyalists from leadership positions within the federation and its unions. Sweeney welcomed Communist Party delegates to positions of power in his federation.