Idaho AFL-CIO President Randy Ambuehl has resigned to return to a journeyman electrician job.
He said Tuesday he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three children after nearly four years as head of Idaho’s struggling labor movement and six years as business manager for a Boise electrical workers union.
“I have been fighting these battles for 10 years and now it is time for someone else to do it,” Ambuehl said. He said his son and wife both have health problems.
He took over a labor movement, beleaguered since Idaho’s mid-1980s adoption of right-to-work, when former President Jim Kerns became the labor representative on the Idaho Industrial Commission in 1993.
George Millward of Pocatello, who serves on the AFL-CIO’s executive board, said Ambuehl’s decision was not surprising given the stress he has been under.
“There was some infighting among the board,” he said. “It got to a peak and he decided he’d had enough.”
Millward said some North Idaho union members were upset with Ambuehl because of his stand against some candidates and the way he defended the national AFL-CIO’s advertising campaign against Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth.
But Ambuehl said the November election results had nothing to do with his departure.
He also drew fire from some Panhandle union officials for suggesting last February the Idaho AFL-CIO might join with the Idaho Conservation League to propose a bill to balance forest health and new jobs.
At that time, the league was trying to kill a bill to allow the state Land Board to negotiate joint management pacts with the U.S. Forest Service. The Idaho AFL-CIO supported the bill, which eventually became law.
Delegates at the Idaho AFL-CIO’s annual convention subsequently voted to sever ties with the Sierra Club and the league, charging they were unwilling to work in a spirit of cooperation on natural resource issues.
Dave Whaley, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Woodworker Division Local 364 in Lewiston, will serve as interim president.
The executive board will decide on Dec. 21 who will serve out the rest of Ambuehl’s four-year term through June 1999.
Peggy Taylor, national AFL-CIO legislative director, said Ambuehl “does a phenomenal job” given the relatively low number of union members in Idaho.
There were about 37,700 union members in 1995, down from 41,300 in 1983, according to the Bureau of National Affairs. The state had the 12th lowest percentage of union workers in the nation in 1995.
Ambuehl said he will earn the same amount working on a Boise school construction project as he made as president of the Idaho AFL-CIO, about $45,000 a year.