Major rupture in AFL-CIO may lead to more defections
Four major unions decided Sunday to boycott the AFL-CIO convention, setting the stage for one or more to bolt from the 50-year-old federation in a battle over how to reverse organized labor's decades-long decline, The Associated Press has learned.Only time will tell if this is good news for the future of labor in America, but at first glance, it doesn't look good. When labor is under perhaps the most intense effort ever mounted to literally make them irrelevant, I fail to see how refusing to stay united is a step in the right direction. One would think that standing together against this onslaught would be the only rational course.
The unions, representing about one-third of the AFL-CIO's 13 million members, planned to announce the decision Sunday afternoon, a day before the convention opens, according to three labor officials familiar with the failed negotiations to avoid the walkout.
None of the four dissident unions planned to formally severe ties from the AFL-CIO on Sunday, officials said, but they are now poised to do so at a later date.
The protest is led by Andy Stern, president of the federation's largest union, the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union. He is virtually certain to pull his union out of the AFL-CIO in coming days, with hopes of bringing his allies along, officials said.
Joining him in the boycott will be the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers and UNITE HERE, a group of textile and hotel workers, according to the labor officials.
The four unions already had formed the Change to Win Coalition to pressure AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to undertake major changes to the federation.
Two other unions that are part of the dissident coalition had not planned to leave the Chicago convention: the Laborers International Union of North America and the United Farm Workers.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, a member of the coalition, left the AFL-CIO in 2002.
**Note: This morning C-Span's "Washington Journal" is asking callers "Do Unions Matter?" This is pretty stark evidence that things have gotten pretty bad. They're not asking whether Unions are strong, they're not asking if Unions are good or bad, they're asking whether they even matter, in other words, whether they even have a reason to exist. For that question to be asked is not a good sign. And many callers are arguing that they don't matter at all.