John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, has dedicated his life to improving working conditions and fighting for basic human rights for workers. From his early work as a labor organizer to his time spent as President of the SEIU in the 1980s and 90s, Mr. Sweeney has made a profound impact on the lives of working men and women across the country.
As he prepares to retire from his role as President of the AFL-CIO after 15 years, Mr. Sweeney reflects on his life's work and his dedication to social justice, which is rooted in his Catholic education and beliefs. His efforts, as President of the AFL-CIO and with the many other organizations he has served, have always championed the right of all people to be able to live and work with dignity.
John J. Sweeney was elected president of the AFL-CIO at the federation's biennial convention in October 1995 and has been re-elected three times since then. At the time of his election, he was serving his fourth four-year term as president of SEIU, which grew from 625,000 to 1.1 million members under his leadership. He has been an AFL-CIO vice president since 1980.
His trade union career began as a research assistant with the Ladies Garment Workers. In 1960, he joined SEIU as a contract director for New York City Local 32B. He went on to become union president and to lead two citywide strikes of apartment maintenance workers. In 1980, he was elected president of the international. Sweeney is the author of America Needs A Raise: Fighting for Economic Security and Social Justice.