Thursday October 26, 1995

Coia sticks with Sweeney


Journal-Bulletin Washington Bureau

Arthur A. Coia, general president of the Laborers International Union of North America, ended his wavering over the leadership of the labor movement yesterday, casting the votes of his 750,000-member union for AFL-CIO presidential candidate John J. Sweeney, the eventual winner.

Coia said Sweeney's leadership slate is better able than that of the incumbent, Thomas R. Donahue, "to address the change" that the union movement needs.

Coia, a Providence native, was among the first national union leaders to declare his support for Sweeney, whose leadership of a breakaway group prompted longtime AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland's retirement last summer.

In recent weeks there had been speculation that Coia would be involved in a shift of votes to Donahue, Kirkland's longtime lieutenant and successor.

On Monday, Coia confirmed that he was indeed contemplating a switch - just hours after having signed a "loyalty" letter reaffirming allegiance to Sweeney. Coia said he was considering an offer from the Donahue camp to take a top slot in a Donahue administration, in return for his support.

Coia indicated Tuesday, however, that he had decided to stick with Sweeney and he did so during yesterday's roll call.

Sweeney representatives have not commented on Coia's public flirtation with the other side. But Coia said yesterday that he has spoken to Sweeney, who is "thankful and grateful that I maintained my position."

Coia said Sweeney gave him no inducements to remain in his camp.

Coia, who had voiced concern that a switch would erode his credibility in union circles, was asked whether he thought his credibility had suffered from his willingness to entertain the possibility of switching.

"I don't think that," he said. "Sometimes a perception is ultimately not as important as the actuality. It's action rather than words that counts." KEYWORDS: picture biography Coia Sweeney labor ~ W IBOGZB 0068 END OF DOCUMENT. rl

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