LaborTalk for June 28, 2011

Why Can't Our Unions Organize
Any Wal-Mart or Target Stores?
(Let's Hear from Our AFL-CIO Leaders)`

By Harry Kelber

Wal-Mart has 2,913 stores in the United States (as of April 2011), but not even a single one of them has been unionized. Yet, in the 15 countries where Wal-Mart has a total of 4,203 stores, virtually all of them operate under a union contract.

The same is true of Target, the second largest retailer, with 1,755 stores, which have been immune from unionization. Target defeated Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) by 137 to 85 in a Labor Board election in the only store to challenge the company.

Will AFL-CIO leaders explain these incredible organizing failures and, more importantly, what they intend to do about them?

We see no evidence on the AFL-CIO web site and elsewhere that our leaders have an organizing plan and that there will be a serious attempt to regain the hundreds of thousands of members we have lost in recent years. Let's remember the mantra: "Organize or Die!"

Of course, there are various reasons for an organizing slowdown in hard times, but the National Nurses United (NNU) has shown that dramatic gains can be made by involving its members in recruiting campaigns.

However, there is one reason that deserves special Attention. To put the question bluntly: "Why should unorganized workers be interested in joining the AFL-CIO in its current, broken-down state?

Why the AFL-CIO Urgently Needs to Reform

In a changing world, the AFL-CIO has stuck to its undemocratic principles. It has refused to eliminate the provisions in its Constitution that make it impossible for any union member to run for a national decision-making position. Many of its affiliates have accepted cuts in wages, pensions, healthcare and working rules.

Rank-and-file members get little attention from the leadership. There are no financial or activity reports to members , so they have no idea how their dues-money is being spent.

The AFL-CIO has suffered serious legislative defeats and doesn't have any real victories to brag about. Dissidents are treated as outcasts and can suffer reprisals if they dare to speak out.

* * * * *

Clearly, the AFL-CIO is broken. It needs an overhaul if it is ever to have an appeal to unorganized workers.

LaborTalk will be posted here on July 1, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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