AFL-CIO Demands Wall Street Reform

Volume CII, No. 9September, 2002

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney came to Wall Street on July 30 to demand sweeping new protections for stock market investors and full severance pay for laid-off former Enron, WorldCom and Arthur Andersen workers.

“American consumers can shop with more assurance of quality and safety at their corner grocery store than American investors have when they shop for equities in our stock market,” Sweeney said, unveiling a five-point action plan to curb “crippling greed.”

Hundreds of members of the city’s unions, including a contingent from Local 802, turned out despite sweltering temperatures to demand “No more business as usual.”

Sweeney said Congress should write new corporate governance standards into law, enact pension reforms and “put workers in the front of the line” in bankruptcy proceedings. He said the AFL-CIO will file suit on behalf of 17,000 laid-off WorldCom workers to get the severance they are owed. (The labor federation provided legal counsel to former Enron workers, who had to go to court to force the company to make modest severance payments. They subsequently won an unprecedented $34 million in severance pay.)

The AFL-CIO will use the power of the more than $6 trillion in workers’ pension funds – the country’s single largest source of investment dollars – to insist on higher standards of corporate governance and behavior, Sweeney said. It will go “company by company, beginning with the S&P 100,” to “demand corporate accountability,” using shareholder action and other tactics. Sweeney said the AFL-CIO will also demand political accountability by using the influence of union voters and their family members “to change the way business is done in Washington.”