AFL-CIO convention 2013: Largest labor union makes plans to get larger
On the first full day of the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles, labor leaders were expected to debate and vote on a resolution that they hope will bring into the fold new non-union groups, adding hundreds of thousands of new members.
The country’s largest labor federation is at a crossroads, seeing its political power wane as union membership rolls decline and state legislatures have curbed collective bargaining.
One strategy labor leaders want to formalize is adding new progressive groups such as the Sierra Club, the NAACP and worker center groups. The hope is to reinvigorate the national labor movement.
Resolution 5, titled “A Broad, Inclusive and Effective Labor Movement,” aims to extend membership to “any worker who wants to join the labor movement and who is not already covered by a collective bargaining agreement,” according to the resolution’s language.
“The AFL-CIO hereby invites every worker in the United States to join the labor movement either through an affiliate or through Working America,” the resolution reads.
The resolution also addresses the issues of dues. Working America, an allied non-union organization working with the AFL-CIO on this issue, would need to adopt a “dues structure ... that make this new form of membership self-sustaining.”
Among other aims for the resolution is to strengthen ties with worker center groups and students.
But divisions have emerged, most notably the International Longshore and Warehouse Union recently cut formal ties with the AFL-CIO, withdrawing its 59,000 members from the affiliation on Aug. 29. In a letter explaining the group’s withdrawal, ILWU President Robert McEllrath complained that other AFL-CIO affiliates were warring with the ILWU, and that the AFL-CIO was not stepping in to help.
During a morning briefing with reporters, labor and worker center leaders spoke about victories they’ve had in the past organizing workers.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, said that resolution will not be unanimously passed.
“Not everyone agrees with this resolution within labor,” he said. But “I think will pass for a lot of reasons. There’s always a goal to find consensus.”
Cohen said it’s critical for this resolution to pass to strengthen the labor movement and reverse some of the losses it suffered recently in states like Wisconsin and Indiana where collective bargaining rights were rolled back.
“This is the only way that we know of that’s going to turn that around,” he said.
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