T Nation

AFl-CIO Split


This article is from the Finanical Times. It details the current split up of the AFL-CIO. Much of the membership does not feel they are being represented. As specific reason given is the lobbying efforts on behalf of the Democrats.

Unions have been a core base of the Democratic Party for many years. This can't be good for them in the short run.

Any thoughts on the split. I am not in a union but folks who work for me are. I have never had any big issues with their Local but I am a pretty steady employer and the Business Agent has more important things to worry about then my company.


US Democrats speak out against union split
By Dan Roberts in Chicago
Published: July 25 2005 18:38 | Last updated: July 25 2005 18:38

Union leaders and Democrat politicians on Monday warned the US labour movement against tearing itself apart as eight of the largest unions prepared to leave the national federation in its worst power struggle since the 1930s.

Two groups leading the rebellion, the Teamsters and service workers union, were expected to confirm their formal split from the AFL-CIO late on Monday. Other smaller groups, most of whom are already boycotting the AFL-CIO's 50th anniversary convention in Chicago, are expected to follow suit shortly.

Together, the rebels represent some 40 per cent of the AFL-CIO's 13m national members, but they argue that its leadership has failed to prevent a decline in its influence and power.

Instead, they wish to see more money spent on recruiting new members rather than on political lobbying in Washington.

Their split threatens to pitch the union movement into bitter internal battles at a time of growing tension with US business over a range of issues from pensions and healthcare, to outsourcing and trade with China.

Democrat senator Richard Durbin urged the AFL convention to maintain its unity: ?There are people in corporate boardrooms who are smiling today, they think we are weakened we are not going to let that happen.?

But a splintered union movement may also pose greater challenges for companies such as General Motors which is desperate to reach a compromise agreement with autoworkers over healthcare. Rebels also plan a renewed push to unionise workers at Wal-Mart, threatening a more aggressive campaign against the retailer in future.

The split also poses severe challenges for the Democratic party, which relies heavily on unions for support and election organizing. ?This is a challenging time for the labour movement,? said Democrat senator Barack Obama. ?The labour movement must confront the fact that the economy is changing, we must adapt.?

Union leaders echoed the fear on Monday, as efforts to reach a compromise with the rebels appeared to have failed.

?It's far easier to tear down a union movement than to build one,? said John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president. ?America's working people cannot afford for unions to declare it's my way or the highway' when workers are under the biggest assault in 80 years.?

Many AFL-CIO leaders regard the split as a power struggle rather than a substantial difference over ideology. ?The real issue for these unions is not one of policy or direction, but rather who controls and leads the federation,? added Mr Sweeney.

But rebels denied their split would weaken the movement. Andy Stern, leader of the service sector union SEIU said: ?We are not trying to divide the labour movement we are trying to rebuild it. There will be people who question our motives but time will prove us right.?

Anna Burger, chair of the coalition of rebel unions called Change to Win, added: ?We have different strategies, but we are not into competition, we are going after the 87 per cent of the workforce that wants a union but does not have one.?

As well as greater budgets for recruiting campaigns, the rebels also wish to see more consolidation among smaller unions. But recent announcements on mergers by the AFL-CIO mean the rhetorical difference between the two groups has shrunk and many commentators regard the battle as more about feuding personalities within the movement.


I think it's going to help the unions. I'm a member of the steelworkers union, and were a bunch of regular guy?s that believe in gun rights and family values. Theses left wing nut's that have infiltrated the democratic party, and the AFI-CIO have really give the democratic party a bad name


It's interesting to look at the difference in coverage between the San Diego Union-Tribune and the NYT on the split.

The U-T focused on the dissenting unions and why they were leaving - most notably on how they were fed up with the AFL-CIO's extravagent spending on political races (read that as extravagent contributions to Democrats and against Republicans). BTW, the U-T tends to lean more left than the general San Diego population, but it's relatively centrist.


On the other hand, the liberal NYT focused its coverage on a clash of egos among the principals, and very much downplayed how pissed the union members were that their dues were being spent to fund Democratic campaigns while actual union organization was not being pursued strongly:


Just a little illustration of how one can slant coverage based on the biases of the authors -- even if both stories are technically correct, the decision on what to emphasize produces a vastly different narrative.