FILE – In this March 6, 2012 file photo AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee A. Saunders speaks in Albany, N.Y. A heated battle is taking place inside the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees after its failed effort this week to oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. At stake is the future direction of the 1.3-million-member government workers union following the labor movement’s biggest political loss in three decades. (AP Photo/Stewart Cairns, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — A heated battle is taking place inside a giant U.S. public employees’ union following its crushing failure this week to oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — organized labor’s biggest political loss in decades.
At stake is the direction of the 1.3-million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees after 31 years under retiring president Gerald McEntee. He’s been known for his zeal to build and maintain AFSCME’s clout as a leading liberal voice and political kingmaker in the Democratic Party.
A major question is whether that should continue.
Fresh off losses in the Wisconsin recall election and in California municipal referendums rolling back public employee pension and health benefits, the union will pick a successor to the 77-year-old McEntee in two weeks.
The race is shaping up as a broader debate on whether AFSCME should become more prudent in doling out cash to Democratic causes and candidates and perhaps make itself less a lightning rod for attacks from conservatives.
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