Labor - USA

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AFL-CIO Chief Facing Challenges From Labor's Left (sic)

Critics Say That Under Sweeney, Group's Political Influence, Percentage of Workforce Have Waned
Thomas B. Edsall, Washington Post, January 4, 2005

When John J. Sweeney won his insurgent campaign for president of the AFL-CIO in 1995, he set forth two fundamental goals: to restore labor's political muscle and to reverse the steady decline in union membership.

"Organized labor [has] declined from a political powerhouse to a political patsy," Sweeney, a former Bronx elevator operator, declared as he accepted the presidency. ... AFL-CIO Chief

A midlife 'divorce' for labor?

Steve Early, Boston Globe, January 3, 2005

As it nears age 50, the AFL-CIO is having a "midlife crisis."

Despite declining membership and recent political setbacks, labor officials had planned to spend next year celebrating the golden anniversary of the 1955 merger between the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. That event ended two decades of conflict between craft and industrial unions, during the era of labor's greatest growth and influence.

Now, the labor movement faces renewed divisions and the possible defection of its largest affiliate. Locally, the threatened departure of the Service Employees International Union could deprive the Massachusetts AFL-CIO of 80,000 members.

SEIU has been the driving force behind a dissident group called the New Unity Partnership. The new group's leaders are questioning whether the AFL-CIO, as currently structured, is capable of responding to the challenges facing labor today. In Washington last month, SEIU President Andy Stern unveiled a controversial plan to transform the AFL-CIO based on SEIU's own blueprint for "new strength and unity." If there's not a positive response by February - from the federation's newly created "Committee on Change" - Stern warned that 1.6 million member SEIU might decide to quit.

Labor needs a radical vision

David Bacon, Portside, January 2, 2005

For forty years, AFL-CIO leaders George Meany and Lane Kirkland saw unorganized workers as a threat when they saw them at all. They drove leftwing activists out of unions, and threw the message of solidarity on the scrapheap. Labor's dinosaurs treated unions as a business, representing members in exchange for dues, while ignoring the needs of workers as a whole. ... Labor needs

Unions debate strategy and structure in the face of continuing decline

The question is, How can labor build enough power to take on today's powerful employers
Communications Workers of America Local 1180, January 2005

The American labor movement is in crisis. Each year, the percentage of US workers that are union members - union density - slips further. Union density is now 12.9% overall, and an even more precarious 8.2% in the private sector. Jobs in industries that are traditional union strongholds, like manufacturing, are disappearing due to plant closings, outsourcing and other trends, while the growth areas of the economy are all in sectors with very low union density rates. ... Unions debate

Did AFL-CIO's Total Silence on War in Iraq Hurt Kerry's Chances to Win?

Harry Kelber, LaborTalk, December 22, 2004

Long before the 2004 election, the AFL-CIO decided on a strategic gamble: to devote its campaign exclusively to domestic issues and to avoid any mention of the war in Iraq, terrorism or homeland security.

The AFL-CIO's assumption, on which it was "willing to bet the farm," was that the election would be won on such issues as jobs, health care, education, overtime pay and outsourcing, where President Bush was particularly vulnerable and where unions had strong, convincing policy positions. ... Did AFL-CIO's Total Silence

Proposals for Future of Labor Movement

Labor councils jump into debate on AFL-CIO's future
Michael Kuchta, St. Paul Union Advocate, December 19, 2004

An “open letter” circulated by the presidents of 12 AFL-CIO central labor councils warns that changes in the AFL-CIO at the national level will not work without significant changes that build powerful local union movements as well.

An “open letter” circulated by the presidents of 12 AFL-CIO central labor councils warns that changes in the AFL-CIO at the national level will not work without significant changes that build powerful local union movements as well. ... Proposals for Future

Teamsters' Hoffa urges overhaul of AFL-CIO

Associated Press, December 9, 2004

Detroit - Teamsters union President James P. Hoffa says the 13-million member AFL-CIO needs to undergo a major shakeup to reverse a long decline in membership and restore labor's political influence.

Hoffa said he wants members of the labor federation's constituent unions to increase organizing efforts and concentrate political action on key political battleground states that decided this year's presidential election.

Hoffa said he hopes the Teamsters efforts "will allow us to build a more unified and more effective labor movement as we head into the coming AFL-CIO convention" in July.

The AFL-CIO, led by 70-year-old John Sweeney, sustained a big defeat in last month's election, when President Bush won a second term and Republicans gained strength in the US House and Senate despite strong labor backing of the Democrats.

What’s Wrong with Both SEIU & CWA Plans For Revitalizing Labor Movement

Harry Kelber, LaborTalk, December 8, 2004

For nearly 10 years, labor’s brightest and most influential union leaders, including AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and the 51-member Executive Council, have grappled with the problem of revitalizing the labor movement, but they’ve failed to arrest the continuing decline in membership and bargaining power.

Responding to criticism, they seem to have tried everything. ... What’s Wrong

AFL-CIO Leaders Have Lost Their Spine, Very Little Action, but Plenty of Whine

Harry Kelber, LaborTalk, December 1, 2004

We’ve got a labor leadership that is long and strong on rhetoric, but weak and meek when it comes to fighting for the needs of working people.

Let’s take the overtime pay issue as an example. The AFL-CIO had 17 months to prepare for a winning strategy, from March 2003 when the Bush administration first announced its new overtime rules, until August 2004, when the new rules went into effect.

Surely, with six million workers as potential victims, the AFL-CIO should have mobilized a full-scale campaign to block the Bush administration’s plan to take away the overtime pay rights that American workers have enjoyed since 1938. ... AFL-CIO Lea

Time for A Grand Discussion At Last?

Bill Onasch, Labor Advocate, November 28, 2004

There is perhaps a silver lining in Bush's momentous victory. Discussion of issues vital to the future of the American working class, long simmering on the back burners, can no longer be postponed. The scope and outcome of these discussions at this make or break divide for our unions and social movements will likely determine the fate of our class for a long time to come. It's essential to try to get it right. ... Time for A Grand

12 CLC Leaders Enter Debate With Plan To Rebuild AFL-CIO Within 75 Regions

Harry Kelber, LaborTalk, November 24, 2004

A dozen officers of central labor councils have proposed a plan for modernizing the AFL-CIO’s structure by establishing 75 regional labor federations in the nation’s major metropolitan centers that will have responsibility for union organizing, political action and community relations.

The plan’s “working draft,” prepared by some of the most successful union organizers, deserves serious consideration by the Executive Council when it meets in February to discuss what changes - structural and otherwise - must be made to reverse the decline in membership and bargaining power. ... 12 CLC Leaders

Stern’s Proposals to Restructure AFL-CIO Have Flaws, Raise Many Questions

Harry Kelber, LaborTalk, November 17, 2004

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and the 51-member Executive Council have tried for nine years to reverse the decline in union membership by making union organizing their top priority. They set an example to their affiliated unions by budgeting 30% of their revenue for organizing.

They hired hundreds of bright, young African-American and Latino organizers. They built coalitions with religious organizations and communities. They held numerous training classes, seminars and workshops to develop a cadre of top organizers. ... Stern’s Proposals

Labor Needs "That Vision Thing"

David Bacon, Portside, November 9, 2004

Oakland - There's no question that labor pulled out all the stops to defeat George Bush. Over
2000 members of the country's largest union, the Service Employees (SEIU), left their jobs to go campaign in battleground states, and the organization budgeted $65 million for the campaign. The AFL-CIO itself fielded 5000 fulltime staffers and 225,000 volunteers.

That made Bush's victory a hard one to swallow. For many of the most progressive leaders of US labor, however, it was more than just bitter - it was threatening. ... Labor Needs

After the Elections: What Next?

Mark Dudzic, Labor Party National Organizer, November 2004

There is no question that the outcome of the 2004 elections must be seen as a stunning defeat for working people. Bush will use his "mandate" to attempt to steamroll a series of radical new initiatives aimed at the very heart of working people's ability to survive and to organize on their own behalf. Once implemented, many of these changes will take decades to reverse. ... They have turned the class anger of millions of mostly unorganized, mostly white, workers into a revolt against a bi-coastal liberal "elite". This is the stuff of which fascism is made. ... After the Elections

Seattle at Five: The Future of Labor and the Global Justice Movement

Bill Fletcher, Jr., Cornell Global Labor Institute, September 23-24, 2004

Good afternoon and let me begin by thanking Sean Sweeney and the staff of Cornell ILR for the invitation to address this conference on the topic of the future of labor and the global justice movement.

Organized labor in the USA has had difficulty interacting with the global justice movement not so much because these are different sectors with different traditions - though that is certainly a factor - but because there is no strategic agreement on the nature of the enemy. ... Seattle at Five

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