The United Farm Workers union has left the AFL-CIO and will join a group of breakaway unions known as the Change to Win Coalition, in a move the UFW hopes will boost recruiting efforts, officials said Thursday.
The UFW, with about 27,000 members, joins the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, Unite Here and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in forming the dissident coalition. The Laborers International Union of North America also is part of the new federation, but has not left the AFL-CIO.
"We view this as a positive step in fulfilling our twin commitments of focusing more resources on organizing and finding new ways to pursue employers that fiercely resist the right of workers to organize," said Marc Grossman, a UFW spokesman. "No employers more fiercely resist the right to organize than agriculture."
The UFW already was allied with the Change to Win unions, but sent a letter two days ago informing the AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 50 unions, of its plans to leave.
"We regret to see them leave the federation because there's a lot of history there," AFL-CIO spokeswoman Denise Mitchell said. "It's a union with a proud legacy that got a lot of support from the entire movement, especially the AFL-CIO. I hope we will make history together again in the future."
The UFW was founded by Cesar Chavez, an agricultural worker. He died in 1993.
When the AFL-CIO formed 50 years ago, union membership was at its zenith, with one of every three private sector workers belonging to a labor group. Now, fewer than 8% of private sector workers are unionized.
The breakaway movement started last summer with the departure of the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union. The exit of half a dozen unions has left the federation with more than 50 unions representing almost 9 million workers.