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Gore, Gephardt Go A'Courting Labor


LOS ANGELES (AllPolitics, Feb. 18) -- Valentine's Day may be past, but courting season has just begun for prospective Democratic presidential candidates and the nation's labor movement.

Both Vice President Al Gore and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri headed out to Los Angeles today to woo the executive council of the AFL-CIO.


Labor, always an important constituency for Democrats, may have its sympathies torn as the next election season gets rolling. Gephardt, the son of a Teamster, has courted the union vote for years. But Gore is the presumptive favorite going into the next cycle, and everyone loves a winner.

Gephardt went first, and took the opportunity to take some swings at the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Clinton and Gore pushed hard and which Gephardt and labor resisted mightily.


"I believe that we should not simply extend a treaty that in my view is not working properly, is not working the way we hoped that it would work," Gephardt said. "And that we need in any further treaty arrangements with other countries to fix those problems -- to improve the NAFTA treaty -- something that we can do, something that we should do."

Gore was due to address the group later in the afternoon.


Also on the agenda for the AFL-CIO's top brass is a new strategy of recruiting harder and encouraging the federation's separate unions to work together better.

"America needs a raise, and one of the most effective solutions is a bigger and stronger labor movement, one capable of acting as a counterweight to the corporate forces now dominating our economy," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Unions enjoyed a net gain of about 12,000 members during 1996, to a little more than 12.9 million, but union membership dropped as a proportion of the total work force, from 14.9 percent in 1995 to 14.5 percent in 1996.

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