OpinionMeister

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Unions to AFL-CIO "Get Lost"

The Washington Times reports that five unions, representing about 40% of the AFL-CIO membership, are talking of setting up a new umbrella organization that will spend its money on union organizing, rather than on politics. Link.
The new group would include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Unite Here, Laborers' International Union of North America, and Teamsters union. [...]

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney said following an executive committee meeting yesterday that the labor federation must pursue a dual strategy.
"Union growth and workers' political power are fundamentally linked and we must strengthen both simultaneously," he said.
Mr. Sweeney gets credit for boosting the AFL-CIO's political efforts, but critics blame him for failing to stop a decline in membership. The number of people in unions has fallen from 35 percent of the work force in 1955 to 12.5 percent, or 13 million workers, today. Only about 8 percent of private-sector workers are in unions.

European unions, which first organized when workmen did not have the vote, have always been very political, since they had been an alternative to electoral governance. In the US, workmen had the vote long before unions began to organize, and it was the non-political unions, whose only concern was "More", that attracted the most members.

As unions lost their appeal in the private sector and government employee unions became a majority of the AFL membership, political action served the interest of those members, but was unwelcome to the private sector members. The interests of government employee unions and private sector unions are very much at variance and maybe it is time to recognize that a single umbrella organization that tries to represent them both is a dinosaur.

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