Labor's Voice for Change (15) March 5, 2009

AFL-CIO Council Authorizes Continuing
Talks to Reach Agreement on Labor Unity

By Harry Kelber

The AFL-CIO Executive Council, sounding an upbeat note at its winter meeting in Florida on March 3-5, issued a statement that said “the labor movement is poised to make significant strides in turning around decades of decline,” and that “now is the time to bring the labor movement back together.”

Why the optimism? The Council statement explains: “The election of President Barack Obama brought about by the efforts of organized labor and the probable passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, as well as other changes in our political and economic environment provide us with unprecedented opportunity. And the economic crisis facing American workers provides us with clear authorization to act.”

The Council disclosed that in recent weeks, AFL-CIO and Change to Win leaders met in informal discussions on how to unite the labor movement. It noted that representatives of the National Education Association (NEA), with more than two million members, attended the meetings.

No decisions have been reached, although we are told that issues have been identified and discussed, including such matters as “governance, mission, jurisdiction and organizing responsibility, programs and finances.” That’s quite a plateful!

The Council heard President Obama on video, telling union leaders that “you will always have a seat at the table.” Citing several accomplishments of his administration, he said America needs a strong labor movement, calling unions a “big part of the solution” to the economic crisis.

Hilda Solis, the newly appointed Secretary of Labor, held an hour-long meeting with Council members and met with hundreds of trade unionists at an AFL-CIO forum in a Miami church. In her speech to the Council, she promised to enforce the wage and hour and workplace safety regulations. She was one of the first members of Congress to endorse the Employee Fair Choice Act.

Vice President Joe Biden, the last speaker, as the meeting was winding down spoke about the Middle Class Task Force that he chairs and the opportunities for green technology jobs.

Strong Manufacturing Sector Would Aid Job Growth

The Executive Council statement emphasized that America needs a strong manufacturing sector for its economic and national security and as a major source of job growth. It approved the strong Buy America provision in the stimulus bill that would ensure that iron, steel and manufactured products used in stimulus projects will be sourced domestically.

It also stated: “The survival and revitalization of the domestic automotive business is just as important to the nation’s economy as the health of financial companies like AIG and Citicorp.”

* * * * *

Clearly, the terms and conditions for labor unity will be decided exclusively by the nation’s top union leaders. They really don’t need — or want to involve union members, except as dues payers, The seven Change to Win leaders never consulted their members when they decided to quit the AFL-CIO and they won’t consult them if and when they choose to return.

Are AFL-CIO’s top leaders much different? Not much. They operate as a private club, using sham elections to freeze out any “outsider” from a state federation or central labor council from holding a national policy-making position.

What the AFL-CIO Needs Are New Leaders
With Fresh Ideas and an Inspiring Vision!

Article 16 of “Labor’s Voice for Change” will appear on Tuesday, March 10.

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