Delegates Commit AFL-CIO to Grow Labor Movement Through Diversity, Inclusion

On the heels of last week’s groundbreaking young worker and diversity conference, delegates to the AFL-CIO 2013 Convention reaffirmed the federation’s commitment to grow an inclusive labor movement dedicated to issues that will build strength for and share prosperity with women, young workers, people of color and LGBT workers.

The trio of first-day resolutions addressing inclusion in the labor movement focused on the need for the AFL-CIO itself to continue and increase its efforts to ensure that the face of the union movement and its decision-making bodies at all levels—national, state and local—reflect the face of today’s diverse workforce.

The AFL-CIO Women’s Initiative Convention resolution says women’s equality is a “shared struggle” and despite a half a century of major gains, “women still don’t have equality.”

From the resolution:

We stand with women and insist on: Equality in pay and opportunity for all; the right of women to control their own bodies and be free from violence; and the right of every woman to meet her fullest potential and the opportunity to serve—and lead—her community. Nothing less.

It also commits the AFL-CIO to work “toward shared leadership to represent the makeup of our membership.” About 45% of union members are women. The resolution outlines four vital strategies to “grow the labor movement, revitalize democracy, respond to the global economic crisis and build durable community partnerships.”

  • At the national, state and local levels, our labor federations will integrate women’s issues in every key strategy to grow the movement, develop leadership, build community partnerships and improve the lives of working people.
  • Women should be engaged at all levels of the federation in the strategy, outreach and implementation of political, organizing and issue campaigns, especially those that have a particular impact or relevance to women and women workers.
  • Public policy and legislative efforts will prioritize issues such as equal pay, paid family and medical leave, workforce development or other key priorities identified above.
  • Political campaigns and mobilization will include women’s issues such as paid sick days as a measure of commitment to labor’s priorities.

Read the full AFL-CIO Women’s Initiative: Shared Values, Shared Leadership, Shared Prosperity resolution.

Young Workers and Youth Engagement

In 2009, delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention approved a unique and wide-ranging outreach to bring young workers into the labor movement and its leadership. That action resulted in the AFL-CIO’s Next UP program, the Young Workers Advisory Council and the Young Worker Leadership Institute, among other young worker measures.

Today, delegates approved a resolution “to build on that foundation…and commit to an even more robust young workers initiative” that includes:

Youth-oriented strategic initiatives and partnerships developed nationally, in workplaces, on campuses and in concert with a broad array of like-minded student, youth, advocacy and community organizations to help expand and strengthen the labor movement and build a just economy for all generations.

The resolution pledges the AFL-CIO’s continued commitment to the Young Worker Program and to a diverse and vibrant young labor movement made up of rank-and-file union members, progressive allies, community groups and students who will advance social and economic justice and ensure that all people have the opportunity to secure a better future.

It also officially recognizes the Young Workers Advisory Council as the “Young Worker Organization” with a seat on the AFL-CIO General Board and with a major advisory role within the AFL-CIO Executive Council, in the areas education, empowerment, organizing and mobilization of the next generation of union members and young workers.

The resolution also charges the Young Workers Advisory Council to partner with the AFL-CIO State Federation and Central Labor Council (CLC) Advisory Committee to fold young worker development into state federation and CLC strategic plans, with the goal of tripling the number of local young worker organizations over the next four years.

The resolution notes that today’s young workers are part of the largest generation to enter the workforce since the baby boomers and suffer the nation’s highest unemployment and have the fewest job opportunities in today’s economy. However:

This generation of young workers is active, engaged and ready to reverse economic and social injustice. The continued strength and energy of the labor movement depends deeply on the ability of younger union members to develop into effective labor leaders.

Read the full Investing in Our Future: Young Workers and Youth Engagement convention resolution.

Diversity and Inclusion  

This week’s AFL-CIO 2013 Convention is focused on revitalizing and building a stronger labor movement and with a diverse workforce where women workers, workers of color, LGBT workers and young workers are the clear and growing majority, delegates today approved a resolution that calls diversity in the labor movement “a higher priority than ever.”

With the workforce getting ever more diverse, it is more important than ever that the labor movement redouble its efforts to build diversity within its ranks.

The resolution also points out that the labor movement’s message of social and economic equality has resulted in a more favorable and positive view of unions by African American, Latino, Asians Pacific, women and young workers. That is also reflected in the fact that a larger percentage of those diverse workers are union members compared to their percentage of the workforce.

Delegates to the two previous AFL-CIO conventions—2005 and 2009—adopted resolutions to promote and build diversity in all parts of the labor movement, from the workplace to local, state and national leadership.

Since then, the number and percentage of women, people of color and young workers in leadership positions and programs such as the AFL-CIO Leadership Institute, the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute, the AFL-CIO’s Lawyers Coordinating Committee and others has grown, the resolution points out:

It is important to acknowledge that progress in diversifying leadership seems to have stalled at the national, state and local levels, making it that much more important to reaffirm the federation’s commitment to diversity and redouble our efforts so that we can continue to move forward and make progress.

The resolution reaffirms the AFL-CIO’s commitment to the previous diversity and inclusion resolutions and calls on the AFL-CIO to “prioritize and deepen its commitment.”

The AFL-CIO itself must lead by example, in its hiring, promotions, leadership development opportunities, purchasing practices and decisions about resource allocation, to ensure that building and retaining diversity in our movement is a top consideration.

Along with growing a diverse labor movement at all levels, the resolution commits the AFL-CIO to actively engage in legislative and policy advocacy on issues of importance to diverse groups of workers to demonstrate its commitment to these communities.

The labor movement’s engagement on issues like voting rights, mass incarceration, student debt, paid sick days and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act shows the labor movement’s commitment to issues important to our members and our allies. We are also committed to addressing racial profiling, which continues to be an egregious form of discrimination in this country. It is essential that we address these and other critically important issues as we work to broaden the labor movement.

In addition, the AFL-CIO will conduct a comprehensive review of diversity in all parts of the labor movement, from the AFL-CIO itself, state and local bodies, constituency groups and affiliates. The study with recommendations must be completed by July 2014 from presentation to the AFL-CIO Executive Council.

Read the full Building a Diverse and Inclusive Labor Movement Now and for the Future convention resolution.

Mike Hall is a senior writer for the AFL-CIO, This post first appeared  on the AFL-CIO Now blog.

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