Rejecting TPP, AFL-CIO’s Trumka Calls for ‘Global New Deal’

by Bruce Vail

Trumka_Center_for_American_Progress_TPP_TTIP_Global_New_DealAt a March 25 Center for American Progress event, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had sharp words about backroom trade deals such as the TPP.   (CAP)

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today called for a “Global New Deal” to fundamentally rethink U.S. foreign trade policies, especially so-called “free trade agreements” such as the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

These treaties in the works are examples of  “a failed model of global economic policies” based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of the mid-1990s, Trumka said. “We cannot enact new trade agreements modeled on NAFTA. … NAFTA put corporations in charge of America’s economic strategy with the goal of shipping jobs off shore to lower labor costs,” he told an audience at the Washington, D.C., offices of the Center for America Progress, an advocacy group closely associated with the Democratic Party. Echoing common progressive criticisms of the trade deals, Trumka called NAFTA, TPP and TTIP “thinly disguised tools to increase corporate profits by poisoning workers, polluting the environment and hiding information from consumers.” Continue reading

Saving Our Unions: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win?

Steve Early

Steve Early

Any review of the recent ups and downs of U.S. labor must start in Michigan, long a bastion of blue-collar unionism rooted in car manufacturing. Fifteen months ago, this Midwestern industrial state became another notch in the belt of the National Right to Work Committee, joining the not-very-desirable company of Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and twenty other “open shop” states.

The emergence of sun-belt labor relations in the birthplace of the United Auto Workers (UAW) was shocking to some. But this political setback was preceded by high-profile defeats in neighboring states that began in 2005. First Indiana, followed by Wisconsin and Ohio, stripped public workers of their bargaining rights (although the Republican attack on government employees was later repelled by popular referendum in the Buckeye State). Then in early 2012, GOP legislators in Indiana passed a right-to-work law applicable to private industry. It banned any further negotiation of labor-management agreements that compelled workers to make a financial contribution to the cost of union representation, in established bargaining units or newly organized ones.1

In November 2012, organized labor tried to buck the emerging anti-union trend with two ballot questions designed to strengthen public-sector bargaining rights in Michigan. Despite the expenditure of many millions of dollars by affiliates of the AFL-CIO and Change To Win, both measures were defeated.2 In its lame-duck session just a few weeks later, GOP legislators in Lansing took retaliatory aim at union security in Michigan’s private sector. When the region’s latest “right to work” bill landed on his desk, Republican Governor Rick Snyder was most pleased to sign it into law. Continue reading

AFL-CIO Repositions Itself to Speak for All Workers

Fletcherby Bill Fletcher Jr. and Jeff Crosby

The AFL-CIO Convention in September took an important turn to reposition unions toward speaking for all working people in the United States. This was a correction to the narrow focus on its dues-paying members and traditional electoral work that has cursed the movement for most of its history.

To argue that this turn represents an abandonment of current members, as Steve Early does here , is factually false and politically wrong.

It helps to understand what the federation is and is not. It is a collection of unions “held together by a rope of sand,” as a former federation president put it. From the central labor councils to the national organization, affiliates that don’t like the turn of events just quit. Continue reading

10 Important Initiatives Coming Out of the AFL-CIO National Convention

10 Important Initiatives Coming Out of the AFL-CIO National Convention

The AFL-CIO quadrennial 2013 convention in Los Angeles was a flurry of exciting activity that promises to remake the labor movement in the United States and build a movement for all working people to deal with the new challenges and political landscape working families must navigate. While there were many important discussions and plans made at the convention that will be expanded on in the coming months and years, here are 10 important initiatives that came out of the resolutions passed by the convention delegates that you should know about:

1. Opening Up and Broadening the Labor Movement: The delegates recognized the need to expand the labor movement to be more broad and inclusive and to recognize all working families, whose rights have been under assault. No fewer than six resolutions were passed to expand the labor movement and partner with allies in new ways. The first invites every worker in America to join the labor movement, either through affiliate unions or through Working America. Another one provides for supporting political campaigns that protect and expand workers’ rights to organize. A third related resolution calls for expanded efforts to help workers organize around the globe. Other areas of renewed focus would be on organizing in the southern United States, in building lasting community partnerships with organizations that share our values and expanding and protecting voting rights so working families have a say in choosing those who pass laws that affect their rights. Continue reading

AFL-CIO, USAS Establish National Partnership

Building on AFL-CIO Commitment to Broaden Labor Movement

usas_logo (Washington, September 25, 2013)With the goal of strengthening workers’ rights and building power for students as well as workers, the AFL-CIO and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) today entered into a new national partnership. The two groups will collaborate on important global solidarity campaigns, from ensuring safe working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers to protecting the freedom of U.S. workers to organize for better jobs whether they work on campus or for companies with university contracts like T-Mobile .

The new partnership builds on calls for innovation and inclusion at the just-concluded AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles, where delegates agreed to open the door to the labor movement and engage with allies outside unions to tackle the challenges confronting working people. Today’s partnership agreement between the AFL-CIO and USAS is the first concrete step since the convention unanimously agreed to expand community partnerships.

Continue reading

AFL-CIO Announces Plans to Develop an Economics Curriculum Geared for Working Families

Honoring_the_Teachers_of_America_3_cent_stampThe way the media, corporations and the 1% talk about the economy is not only inaccurate, it is a means to maintain power for the wealthiest among us and keep working families powerless, delegates to the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles declared today. The latest resolution passed at the convention describes the scope of the problem and announces a concrete plan to change the conversation.

Despite the way the 1% and their allies describe the economy, it isn’t something that just happens. It is something that is created by the sweat, skill and talent of the country’s workers and is something that is controlled by the wealthiest members of our society, often at the expense of the very workers who create the wealth that those power brokers are taking to the bank. They tell us that the economy is fundamentally unfair by its nature and that to do anything to make it more fair would harm the economy, and the corporate media helps them tell this story. But this narrative is not backed up by the realities that the rest of us deal with, and day after day and year after year, for all of America’s working families, not just the few. Continue reading

Longshore Union Got a Raw Deal from the AFL-CIO

By Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

On August 29, 2013, the 60,000-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) announced it was leaving the 13-million member AFL-CIO.

The ILWU explained it was taking this action because of “the Federation’s moderate, overly compromising policy positions on such important matters as immigration, labor law reform, health care reform, and international labor issues.”

The Longshore union also cited “attacks from other national [AFL-CIO] affiliates, who actively tried to undermine our contract struggle by filing legal claims and walking through our picket lines.”

I was at the Sept. 7-11, 2013 AFL-CIO quadrennial convention in Los Angeles and can attest that the ILWU’s presence was sorely missed, especially when “overly compromising policy positions” were openly laid bare.

Continue reading

AFL-CIO Convention Days 3 and 4: Inspiring Resolutions & Internal Tensions

by Michael Hirsch

Not-at-the-AFL-CIO-Convention-Join-the-Conversation-Online_blogpostimageLOS ANGELES–If you go by a strict reading of the resolutions passed at the AFL-CIO convention that concluded Wednesday, this is a solidly progressive organization ready to speak with brio for all working people and not just its millions of current members and retirees. Calls for a smooth transition to citizenship for new immigrants, an alternative to the politics of austerity, organizing and acting in solidarity globally, significantly improving Obamacare leading to health care for all, ending mass incarcerations, organizing the South, and supporting workers of all sexual preferences are great stands.

So is building up the state and local labor federations as active community organizations, supporting higher education and ending student debt and—most of all—actively and uniformly cooperating with militant social movement organizations on their goals, too. These resolutions marked the just concluded Los Angeles convention. In key ways affiliated unions, especially in the public sector, are already on board in practice. Continue reading

The AFL-CIO and “Alt-Labor”

by Clayton Sinyai

This week witnesses thousands of trade unionists and labor activists assembling in Los Angeles for the 27th Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO.  With union membership continuing to decline, the federation has been seeking new approaches to advocate for American workers.

The labor movement’s reach peaked in the early 1950s, when some one-third of US workers belonged to a trade union. This pinnacle was achieved under labor relations system created by the Wagner Act in 1935: workers voted in government-supervised election campaigns to decide whether they wanted collective bargaining and if so, which union would represent them. Labor and management would then negotiate a contract; the workers, now union members, would enjoy improved wages and benefits and pay dues to support their union in return.

In recent decades this system has broken down. Employers now campaign aggressively to discourage their employees from voting for union representation, often going beyond legal bounds (labor board investigators find this thousands of workers each year suffer such unlawful retaliation). Under these conditions unions have not succeeded in organizing enough workers in the new service sector and technology jobs to offset declines in traditional union strongholds like manufacturing. Continue reading

Trumka’s Ploy: How the AFL-CIO president proposed revolution in order to get reform

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

The AFL-CIO Convention concluded Wednesday, having made some major structural changes in the way labor will operate—though nowhere near so major as the changes that the Federation’s top leader was advocating in the weeks leading up to the convention.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka iterated and reiterated that labor would no longer limit its members to those who had successfully convinced their employers to recognize their union. With employers able to flout labor law with impunity, illegally firing workers who sought to organize and refusing to sign contracts with those whose unions had won recognition elections, the number of workers who actually emerge with a contract grows smaller with each passing year. So the Federation’s unions would welcome workers who had tried to organize their workplace but didn’t prevail. It would welcome workers such as cab drivers, who were misclassified as independent contractors and legally proscribed from forming a union, though they were actually employees. It would welcome domestic workers, who also had been excluded from National Labor Relations Act coverage, and day laborers.

Trumka didn’t stop there. With labor unable to make the fundamental changes to society and the economy that could jump start a new middle class, unions would have to form far closer and more enduring coalitions with other progressive organizations—the National Organization for Women, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club. It would make joint decisions with them in support of one another’s agendas; it would welcome them into labor’s governing body …

            It would welcome them into labor’s governing body?? Continue reading

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