Sunday, July 24, 2005

AFL-CIO On Verge of Breakup

It's starting to look hopeless for the nation's most powerful labor federation. Four unions that are currently members of the AFL-CIO have decided to boycott the organization's upcoming convention, according to anonymous sources.

The dissidents include the Service Employlers International Union, the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and United Here. These unions comprise roughly 30% of the present AFL-CIO membership.

The four unions have become increasingly vocal about what they view as the wrong path for workers, who are under the leadership of AFL-CIO president John Sweeney. Many believe that the federation has become disillusioned with the concerns of workers because of political distractions.

``I admire Sweeney very much, but I don't believe he's the person to lead the movement at this moment in our history,'' said Unite Here President Bruce Raynor, who helped organize workers at a J.P. Stevens & Co.'s textile plant in North Carolina 30 years ago -- an effort chronicled in the 1979 movie ``Norma Rae.''

Is this the best option for organized labor? What are the political implications of this boycott? John Kerry carried union votes nearly 2-1 in the general election. Could the SEIU's rally against "petty politics" be political in and of itself?


At 8:15 AM, Blogger Xpatriated Texan said...

This has actually been in the works for well over a year. The big dispute is not over the "politics or not" issue - it's what politics to pursue at what level.

By focusing on national politics and trying to influence national races, labor has become a virtual unknown force in local politics. This means that while the AFL-CIO was busy lobbying Congressman B to keep a plant in Ohio, the mayors in his district were telling him they didn't care if it went away.

The SEIU is a very politically astute organization and it's very good at training local organizers. They realize that they cannot gain national power without a local presence (all politics is local) and the first step in gaining effective power is to stop the decades-long slide in union membership.

I think the move will be very good for organized labor. At worst, they will be off the scene for a few years while they work on restructuring their membership and power base.


At 11:02 AM, Blogger Jack said...

Interesting analysis. From your perspective, the SEIU understands reasons that unions were so powerful in certain areas of the country years ago. They built up huge political machines.


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