Labor Leader Concedes Unions Have Become 'Stale'

By Marc Morano | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

Atlanta ( - A prominent union leader conceded over the weekend that the labor and civil rights movements have become "stale."

Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said both movements have a long way to go to re-establish their relevancy.

"Here is the truth, we got to reinvent ourselves. We became old, we became stale. The world changed and we didn't. That's what you see in our union," Stern told Cybercast News Service on Saturday, during a march honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The march included prominent civil rights groups and labor union representatives, which are calling for extending and strengthening the landmark legislation.

Stern, a featured speaker at the rally, was responding to a question about the current financial and organizational shape of some of the major civil rights groups and labor unions.

A Cybercast News Service review of four of the key sponsoring or participating groups at Saturday's march, reveals that they are currently gripped by financial and organizational difficulties.

The four groups with financial difficulties are Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the AFL-CIO.

"I think with the new leadership in the NAACP and the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), we are beginning to see a new group of leaders who really understand, that in a global economy we have to be different. We can't look in the mirror. We got to look out the window into the future," Stern added.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) also acknowledged that the civil rights movement's influence might be waning.

"One of the great ironies is that the more people succeed, the more some are inclined to leave the movement," Conyers told Cybercast News Service.

"They don't want to recognize or pay homage to the struggle which wasn't neat and people weren't walking around wearing suits and ties like me. It was very ugly at the time, bloody," Conyers added.

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