Skip to comments.Largest Union Decides to Bolt AFL-CIO
Posted on 07/24/2005 5:27:37 PM PDT by West Coast Conservative
The AFL-CIO succumbed to division Sunday, with its largest union deciding to bolt the 50-year-old federation and three others poised to do so in a dispute over how to reverse organized labor's long slide.
The four unions, representing nearly one-third of the AFL-CIO's 13 million members, announced they were boycotting the federation's convention that begins Monday, a step that was widely considered to be a precursor to leaving the federation.
They are part of the Coalition to Win, a group of seven unions vowing to reform and modernize the labor movement outside the AFL-CIO if necessary. But many union presidents, labor experts and Democratic Party leaders fear the split will weaken the movement politically and hurt unionized workers who need a united and powerful ally against business interests and global competition.
The Service Employees International Union, with 1.8 million members, plans to announce Monday that it is leaving the AFL-CIO, said several labor officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the developments.
The Teamsters union was likely to disaffiliate at the same news conference, they said. Two other boycotting unions signaled similar intentions: United Food and Commercial Workers and UNITE HERE, a group of textile and hotel workers.
"Our differences are so fundamental and so principled that at this point I don't think there is a chance there will be a change of course," said UFCW President Joe Hansen.
Without directly saying so, coalition leaders seemed to be establishing the group as a newly minted rival of the AFL-CIO. "Today will be remembered as a rebirth of union strength in America," coalition chairwoman Anna Burger said.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, expected to easily win re-election over the objections of the dissidents, suggested the dissidents were spoiled sports, leaving after their demands were not met.
"It's a shame for working people that before the first vote has been cast, four unions have decided that if they can't win, they won't show up for the game," Sweeney said. The rhetoric was unusually personal, in part because dissident leader Andy Stern of the SEIU is a former protege of Sweeney's.
Gerald McEntee, president of a government employees' union with more than 1 million members, accused his boycotting colleagues of aiding labor's political foes. "The only people who happy about this are President Bush and his crowd," he said.
Rank-and-file members of the 52 non-boycotting AFL-CIO affiliates expressed confusion and anger over the action. "If there was ever a time we workers need to stick together, it's today," said Olegario Bustamante, a steelworker from Cicero, Ill.
The boycott means the unions will not pay $7 million in back dues to the AFL-CIO on Monday. If all four boycotting unions quit the federation, they would take about $35 million from the AFL-CIO, which has already been forced to layoff a quarter of its 400-person staff.
Two other unions that are part of the Change to Win Coalition did not plan to leave the Chicago convention: the Laborers International Union of North America and the United Farm Workers. They are the least likely of the coalition members to leave the AFL-CIO, though the Laborers show signs of edging that way, officials said.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the seventh member of the coalition, left the AFL-CIO in 2002.
Leaders of the dissident unions say the AFL-CIO leadership has failed to stop the steep decline in union membership. In addition to seeking the ouster of Sweeney, they have demanded more money for organizing, power to force mergers of smaller unions and other changes they say are key to adapting to vast changes in society and the economy.
Globalization, automation and the transition from an industrial-based economy have forced hundreds of thousands of unionized workers out of jobs, weakening labor's role in the workplace.
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, less than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.
The dissidents largely represent workers in retail and service sectors, the heart of the emerging new U.S. economy. Sweeney's allies are primarily industrial unions whose workers are facing the brunt of global economic shifts.
A divided labor movement worries Democratic leaders who rely on the AFL-CIO's money and manpower on Election Day.
"Anything that sidetracks us from our goals ... is not healthy," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., chairman of the House campaign committee.
In the 2004 campaign, unions ran nearly 260 phone banks and mailed out at least 30 million pieces of political literature in 16 states, mostly on behalf of Democrats.
Experts said the split might deepen labor's woes.
"Employer opposition to organizing might increase and I think that political opponents might feel emboldened, because they would see it as a sign of weakness," said Gary Chaison, industrial relations professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
Others said competition might be good for the labor movement.
Hopefully this is only the first step towards destroying all unions. Once, long ago, unions might have a had a legitimate purpose, but no longer. Good Riddance!
There was never a legitimate purpose.
So many things wrong with this sentence it's hard to decide where to start.
The predator-prey relationship is important in maintaining balance in the system.
Also the Chinese are going to be pissed, when no one is left to buy their crap.
These unions believe they can turn over more extorted cash to the DNC directly without the AFL-CIO. The answer clearly is to double union dues!!
Well, at least we have the honorable, high-principled National Education Association to lead the labor movement in the 21st century, showing everyone what quality work is inspired by union membership.
If she was my daughter, I would have named her Anita Burger.
My real name is Ivan Awfulitch
I'm glad to see this happen. I'm a past chapter president of an SEIU local. This was back in the days when the SEIU was a nuts and bolts, bread and butter union, before they decided that 'social justice' trumped the interests of the members.
They ran off the old time business reps about 13 years ago and replaced them with a bunch of commie fellow travelers. If you want a union obsessed with gay rights, benefits for illegal aliens, reparations and all the rest of the left's touch stones, the SEIU is your kind of place. They are now in a very friendly relationship with ANSWER and the anti-war left.
BTW, these articles seldom mention it, but Sweeney is the past president of SEIU. Stern learned all his double dealing from him. Hopefully they will destroy each other.
Hopefully this is only the first step towards destroying all unions.
Let us hope so. They have become simply vehicles of corporate extortion, run by thugs for thugs. And as long as corporate America panders to them the more we will suffer -- just look at GM just for openers...
They have been on the losing end too long -- I hope the Republicans and President Bush tries to help them, and help their union. The Democrats have not been helping them in the past -- only hurting them...
I don't think unions are entirely bad, but I hope this brings the country a lot closer to a time when the Democrat party and its powerful Left-wing coalition will become extinct. If there's a political party that the country certainly doesn't need right now (besides Communists, Social Democrats, and Nazis), it's the Democrats.
Excellent post telebob! You are dead spot on and then some. The SEIU is a Communist organization plain, simple and a matter of fact. George Meany would have kicked the snot out of these pinkos. Not that Unions have always been on the right side of things but they had always been loyal Americans.
Maybe some of the men and women saw the deals made by Sweeny and Mccauliffe with Global Crossings. They jumped ship and made money while pension funds were left in it and it screwed over the members. The union leaders need a
wake up call, lower perks and pay. The membership needs to
give the union an enema. Flush the crap out ASAP.
Ok here is the bottom line. Young Americans do not like joining Unions. They don't like being told what to do by anyone but they will accept it from the guy who hands them their paycheck. They will not accept it from some dude that wants them to pay protection money.
That is why Union membership is shrinking and partly why manufacturing jobs are going away. When you are unable to hire young workers because you can only hire Union members and over half your work force is on the shady side of fifty you know that you are looking at a serious problem in the making.
This is also why unions are not against immigration illegal or otherwise. That is where their new members are coming from.
The GM brake replacement parts I bought at AutoZone for my Pontiac GrandAm had stenciled across the box in huge letters MADE IN CHINA.
There was never a legitimate purpose.
These kids might have disagreed:
Basically, International=Socialist Agenda to change America from Capitalism, and every national union that answers to an International party has to toe the line.
Or, as I used to say:
"I used to be a union democrat when they were the party of the working man."
"Now they are the party of the man who doesn't work."
A common misconception is that unions changed those things, rather than riding the wave of change.
Those things were changed by socially active Americans from all walks of life who didn't care one whit for union thuggery. - Not that all unions were crooks, but that's the way it went.
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