Sour Grapes for Stern

Stern not keen on Labor job. Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern took himself out of the running for labor secretary Thursday, telling reporters that he didn’t want the job: “No, I’m not interested,” Stern said, joking, “but don’t tell my mother that.” Stern, one of labor’s most prominent leaders, said the SEIU had several staffers working closely with the transition teams for the Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor departments. “I hear you get shot on site if you say these things,” said Stern, refusing to get any more specific about the work the unnamed SEIU …  employees were doing.

Stern would have faced an uphill battle to be labor secretary, given the likely opposition of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. In 2005, Stern led the SEIU in a bitter spilt from the larger labor coalition, and Sweeney’s opinion still carries significant weight among Democrats.

Still, it’s no surprise that the SEIU is involved with the transition. The 2-million member union endorsed Barack Obama last February in the midst of his tough fight with New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, and spent millions on ads and other outreach to mobilize voters.

Stern said that the union suggested several labor secretary candidates to the Obama team, but most of their picks have taken themselves out of the running.

Former Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) and Rep. George Miller, (D-Calif.), have both said they’re not interested in the job, though Bonior is serving on Obama’s transition economic advisory board. Other possible candidates include former AFL-CIO official Linda Chavez-Thompson and former House Majority Leader Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.).

Lisa Lerer – November 14, 2008 Capitol News Company, LLC

The Fox and the Grapes is a fable attributed to Aesop. The protagonist, a fox, upon failing to find a way to reach grapes hanging high up on a vine, retreated and said: “The grapes are sour anyway!” The moral is stated at the end of the fable as: It is easy to despise what you cannot get.

The English idiom “sour grapes” – derived from this fable – refers to the denial of one’s desire for something that one fails to acquire or to the person who holds such denial. Similar expressions exist in other languages. In psychology, this behavior is known as rationalization. It may also be called reduction of cognitive dissonance.


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