John Sweeney, former AFL-CIO president, gestures during an Aug. 13 interview at his Washington office. Sweeney, 80, recently was honored by the AFL-CIO with the George Meany-Lane Kirkland Lifetime Achievement Award for Global Workers' Rights. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Awards are not what retired labor leader John J. Sweeney is about.
Securing fair wages, preserving benefits and assuring safe working conditions remain a much higher priority even though he retired after 14 years as president of the AFL-CIO in 2009.
Still driven by the desire to improve working conditions and expand organized labor's reach, Sweeney, 80, recently was honored by the AFL-CIO with the George Meany-Lane Kirkland Lifetime Achievement Award for Global Workers' Rights.
Telling Catholic News Service recently that he was surprised by the honor, Sweeney readily pointed to the people and the experiences that guided his career as a forceful advocate for workers, from the Irish Christian Brothers at his alma mater, Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx borough of New York, to Gerry Shea, a longtime assistant at the AFL-CIO.
"I grew up learning much about the labor movement and it was much of the reason that motivated me and drew me to the issues of workers," Sweeney said.