LaborTalk for January 10, 2012

The AFL-CIO Still Has No Plans to Involve
Its Union Members in the 2012 Elections
Will the Occupy Movement Make Inequality a Campaign Issue?

By Harry Kelber

Despite growing public interest in the 2012 national elections, there is no indication from the AFL-CIO leadership, including the Executive Council, that union members will have a voice in the election campaign as it develops.

Months ago, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka promised we would have an "independent labor voice" that would not be dependent on the Democratic Party. Where is that "voice"? It's nowhere in sight.

The same is true of the pledge to establish year- long political centers so union members would be kept well-informed about the issues that affect working families.

As in past national election cycles, decisions on how much to spend and where to spend it will be in the hands of a small group of top leaders who control the AFL-CIO's political machinery. They will decide the issues the AFL-CIO's delegates will support or oppose at the convention — without any opportunity for rank- and-filers to criticize their proposals or suggest changes.

Some AFL-CIO leaders have noted their differences with the Democratic Party, and asked if it will result in opposition to conservative Democratic candidates. As with other election problems, the labor federation continues its tight-lipped silence.

Let's Have a Poll of Union Members on Major Issues

The AFL-CIO has never conducted a national poll to determine how union members feel about its leadership. In fact, they are not interested in the views of the rank-and-file. They can run the labor federation without members' support. All they need is their dues money.

Dozens of polls are taken every week by organizations to get the views of respondents. Why shouldn't the AFL-CIO poll its members to get their views? What are they afraid of?

Years ago, the AFL-CIO sponsored a secret poll to find out how union members felt about them. The results were so damaging, they decided not to publish them.

* * * * *

A national poll of union members will finally shed some light on how they feel about their leaders, without fear of reprisals that have prevented so many of them from speaking out.

The poll may reveal why the AFL-CIO has failed to recoup the hundreds of thousands of members it lost between 2008 and 2010.

Will the poll confirm what more and more labor activists agree on: that the AFL-CIO is broken and needs a thorough makeover?

LaborTalk will be posted here on January 13, 2012 and on our two web sites www.laboreducator.org and on www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.

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