Unions not really feeling the AFL-CIO’s push to regain clout with expanding progressive alliances
posted at 4:01 pm on September 9, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
Big Labor is plenty aware of their movement’s increasing loss of political clout relative to their glory days of yore, with union membership on a steady decline across the country. The state of Michigan’s recent right-to-work switchover and the White House’s oh-so-intolerable delay in acquiescing to Labor’s request to extend ObamaCare’s subsidies (meant for low-income individuals sans insurance through their employer) to workers in multi-union, non-profit sponsored plans, among other ObamaCare-related requests, are just some recent examples contributing to their growing sense of defeat.
Expect the decline in influence to serve as a major theme of the big AFL-CIO conference this week, on which President Obama already bailed to deal with the ongoing Syria debacle and at which president Richard Trumka already lamented to reporters, “We are in a crisis right now and none of us are big enough to change that crisis. None of us are big enough to change the economy and make it work for everybody. It takes all progressive voices working together.” Specifically, the AFL-CIO is considering a resolution that would formalize certain partnerships with outside, non-member liberal groups in an attempt to broaden their base as a larger progressive movement — and a bunch of individual unions are emphatically not on board with the idea. Via The Hill:
Union leaders told The Hill that they have questions on how the nation’s largest federation plans to include environmental and civil society organizations under the AFL-CIO banner. …
“However, to say that we are going to grow this labor movement by some kind of formal partnership, membership, status, place in this federation, I am against. This is the American Federation of Labor. We are supposed to be representing workers and workers’ interests,” [International Association of Fire Figthers (IAFF) Harold] Schaitberger said. “We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.”
Others in labor, especially in the building and construction sectors, have aggressively pushed back against the proposal. Those unions have clashed repeatedly with environmental groups over building the Keystone XL pipeline.
“Does that mean we are going to turn energy policy of the AFL-CIO over to the Sierra Club? I have concern about that, as well as I should,” said Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). …
“Giving people a seat where they have governance, and they don’t represent workers, that was a bridge too far for lots of folks,” Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department, told the Journal.
To keep some of their traditional sway over the Democratic party, they evidently feel the need to bring in outside interests, even when those interests risk directly clashing with their own members (the Keystone XL pipeline is a perfect example of usually Democratic contingents perfectly ready to throw one another under the bus); it kind of smacks of semi-panicked survivalist mode, no?