Monday, July 25, 2005

Union stuff

Well, if you haven't heard by now, a good-sized chunk of unions are pulling out of the AFL-CIO. I won't pretend to have enough knowledge about the inner-workings of unions to really form an opinion, but for some reason I can't help but think it's a good thing. It's not just overall perception...currently only 8 percent of workers are represented by unions, down from the 35 percent represented by the AFL-CIO during the 1950's.

Here's a link to the new coalition of unions, called Change to Win.

And from the Washington Post:
The Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union, the largest AFL-CIO affiliate with 1.8 million members, intended to announce Monday that they are leaving the federation after failing to reform the 50-year-old labor giant, according to several labor officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The unions are part of the Change to Win Coalition, seven labor groups vowing to accomplish what the AFL-CIO has failed to do: Reverse the decades-long decline in union membership. 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.
Also, here's a press release by the SEIU, and a statement by the new Chair of the Change to Win coalition. I'm gonna keep checking out what the blogosphere is saying about all this...

UPDATE: Just found a couple of random blogs (read:stuff I don't read regularly) commenting on the scenario...Marc Cooper writes:
SEIU President Andy Stern, who is leading the split has taken plenty of heat from baying "progressives" who now seem absolutely terrified of change. For two decades they have moaned about the need to shake up the Democrats and jump-start Labor; but now when the largest and most successful union in America decides to do exactly that, these same liberals start to whine about “unity.”


What Stern proposes as an alternative may or may not be the right prescription. What we do know is that the current course of the AFL-CIO is not tenable. It’s stagnant, stalled and mostly a piggy bank for Democrats, many of whom don’t give a damn about labor.
Daily Kos weighs in (a little):
While a lack of unity in the labor movement may seem to bode ill for its future, it's probably the best thing to have happened to it in a long time. The AFL-CIO was bleeding membership and clout and wasn't prepared to enact the sorts of reforms -- heck, any reforms -- designed to reverse the trend.

Among its set of reforms, SEIU has been pushing for redirecting political money back into organizing based on a simple principle -- union members are far more likely to vote Democratic than non-union members. So much so that Mondale actually won the southern, white, male union vote en route to a catastrophic nationwide loss in 1984. So why not make more union members? Rather than invest directly in races (something SEIU clearly still plans to do, given its current efforts to take over the San Antonio city government), it plans on diverting some of that direct assistance into organizing and growing union ranks. That investment will mean 1) more money for future political engagement, and 2) more Democratic-leaning votes.

Whether it works or not remains to be seen, just as whether Teamsters and the other four (dissident) Unite to Win unions (and anyone else) joins a new federation. But fact is, the AFL-CIO is broken and there was no will to reform. And when the status quo won't budge, sometimes it takes drastic measures to shake the establishment out of its inertia.

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