This afternoon President Barack Obama bestowed the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on John J. Sweeney. Sweeney served as president of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009. He is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Although the labor movement has always heavily favored Democrats, Sweeney’s predecessor, the late Lane Kirkland, was an anti-Communist liberal who assisted Poland’s Solidarity movement. Sweeney, on the other hand, repealed the union’s longstanding rule banning Communists from meaningfully participating in the union.
Sweeney, a former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), rose to power because he and handpicked successor Richard Trumka believed Kirkland was too moderate. Sweeney became a founder of the AFL-CIO’s Committee for Change, which took the nation’s largest coalition of labor unions in a more radical direction. Sweeney maintained his personal ties to far-Left organizations as a founder of the Campaign for America’s Future and a participant in CAF’s annual “Take Back America” conferences.
Obama may be rewarding Sweeney’s shared commitment to radicalism, or he may simply be repaying a campaign booster. A full five months before the last presidential election, the AFL-CIO’s website boasted, “The unions of the AFL-CIO will collectively devote more than $200 million to the 2008 election,” much of it helping Obama in battleground states like Ohio and Minnesota. The union mobilized more than 250,000 “volunteers,” as well.
Obama has made clear the kind of person he believes is worthy of the nation’s highest non-military award: a socialist and fellow-traveler who dedicated his life to radicalizing the labor movement and promoting Barack Obama’s career.