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

The Battle for Seattle

by Zach Cunnigham

Zach Cunningham

Zach Cunningham

The AFL-CIO’s 2013 convention came with a great deal of fanfare.  Unlike other conventions in the recent past, many felt a sense of revitalization surrounding this year’s proceedings as the federation moved to change strategy in a number of key ways.  Perhaps most indicative of this shift was the passage of Resolution 16.  Titled “Enduring Labor-Community Partnerships,” this resolution noted the “broad macroeconomic transformations” that have “[accelerated] deep divides and inequalities in our society.”  “Unions must work hand in hand with community partners and allies,” it continues, “to reverse these economic trends.”

In the run-up to the convention, Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times wrote that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka “believes that if unions are having a hard time increasing their ranks, they can at least restore their clout by building a broad coalition to advance a worker-friendly political and economic agenda.”  What’s currently happening in the Seattle area could serve as a testing ground for this theory.

These are certainly interesting times for the labor movement in Seattle.  As Paul Bigman recently wrote in Labor Notes, there have been a number of “dramatic actions by and on behalf of workers in the past few months.”  These actions included a victory for the “traditional” movement, as both the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters successfully fought a concessionary contract for many grocery workers in the area.  There have also been a number of victories for workers outside the channels of collective bargaining, such as the passage of a $15 minimum wage in SeaTac (a small airport community outside of Seattle) and the election of Socialist Kshama Sawant to Seattle’s city council. 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

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

Kaiser Aftermath: How About Some Competition to Organize Healthcare Workers?

seiu-victory-200x146Little Rock       Probably surprising none of the organizers involved or anyone looking at the campaign, the vote count on the rerun decertification election between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) produced the same result with a wider margin as Kaiser hospital workers in California overwhelming voted for SEIU by almost a 2 to 1 margin, 58.4% to 40.6%.   In such a landslide both sides had to have known the outcome for many weeks, and the NUHW and its new partner, the powerful California Nurses’ Association (CNA), likely did not pull the petition simply as a talking point for the future as they engage other healthcare workers and try to put a spin on the defeat.  SEIU won this round hands down, but their victory is pyrrhic, if it doesn’t now come with the grace that goes with leadership.

I wouldn’t bet on it, but it would be wonderful, if this closed one chapter for all the unions involved and opened another.   This whole division among unions in California has been a disaster for all involved, undermining the stature and reputation of all of the organizations and their leadership, dividing workers from each other therefore only benefiting employers, costing millions, and reducing the strength of all progressive forces everywhere.  It has to stop now for the sake of the labor movement and workers everywhere, especially in the healthcare industry.

Continue reading

The Future of Work, Unions? Tune into the AFL-CIO Tweet Chat with President Trumka

by Jackie Tortora

The Future of Work, Unions? Tune into the AFL-CIO Tweet Chat with President Trumka

We need to talk—about the future of workers and the union movement.

We’ve all seen the numbers: People are working harder (and have longer hours) and still can’t get ahead. Staggering inequality is on the rise and fewer workers have a voice on the job.

So we’re asking the tough questions:

  • What’s the future going to be for working people?
  • How can we build a real movement for broadly shared prosperity?
  • What should unions look like tomorrow?

That’s where you come in.

Continue reading

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on FY 2014 Budget Proposal

Richard Trumka (April 10, 2013) A president’s budget is more than just numbers.  It is a profoundly moral document.  We believe cutting Social Security benefits and shifting costs to Medicare beneficiaries – while exempting corporate America from shared sacrifice – is wrong and indefensible.

The administration’s budget cuts cost-of-living increases for current and future Social Security beneficiaries by $130 billion over 10 years, and much more in future years.  It shifts $64 billion in health care costs to Medicare beneficiaries over 10 years.  Yet despite closing some loopholes, it calls for corporate income tax reform that is “revenue neutral” – meaning it fails to ask big, profitable corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Continue reading

Trumka’s Turn Around Proposal

by Kas Schwerdtfeger

Kas Schwerdtfeger

Kas Schwerdtfeger

Admitting you have a problem is the first step.  Finding the way to beat it is next.

Taking an honest look at the labor movement, it doesn’t take a genius to find it at a low that hasn’t been seen since the early thirties.  Unions are taking a beating from politicians, who rather than taxing the ultra wealthy, take the “easier” road of demanding cuts on government workers.  At the same time, private sector employers scrape more and more from the workers in order to maintain massive profits.  No-strike agreements and open shop clauses in the private sector, and right-to-work legislation and restrictions on collective bargaining in the public sector, strike right at the heart of what’s left of organized labor’s gains.  In that sense, I applaud the public statements of President Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO in their recent meetings that recognize the fact that labor needs to change course in the US.

Changing course is not only the right thing to do; it has become necessary.   According to the March 3rd In These Times article, the new AFL-CIO plan is searching for “new forms of worker representation,” including Working America, Workers Centers, and a general low-wage worker campaign at Wal-Mart and in the general service industry.  It is a mixing bowl of good and bad ingredients. The approach labor takes with the ingredients will determine if what comes out is any good. Continue reading

The Will to Change

Nissan workers organizing in Mississippi

The depth of labor’s crisis has now been officially acknowledged by Richard Trumka.

That is a good thing.

All of us , inside and outside the AFL-CIO, should welcome the coming discussions leading up to the AFL-CIO convention later this year.

The space to discuss and debate strategy on how to best revitalize, invigorate, and most of important of all save the labor movement has now been expanded. Hopefully this will open the door to those who decline to comment, discuss, or even acknowledge labor’s fight for survival out of a perceived need to “circle the wagons” so as not to feed into anti-union rhetoric. Continue reading

Labor’s Turnaround: The AFL-CIO has a plan to save the movement

by  David Moberg

(March 3 2013)The mood at the meeting, one AFL-CIO top staffer said, was that the future of the labor movement Richard Trumka was at risk if they continued “business as usual.”

As I waited outside the AFL-CIO’s closed-door executive council meeting on Tuesday at a hotel near Disney World, I recalled a conversation at another AFL-CIO meeting some 35 years ago. The Democratic Socialist leader of the machinists union, William “Wimpy” Winpisinger, had called for retirement of the AFL-CIO’s aging, conservative president, George Meany, saying that labor was in crisis and needed to head in a new direction. I approached the teachers union president, Albert Shanker, known as a feisty Cold War liberal, to get his reaction. Wimpy was too impatient, Shanker said. The labor movement was like a battleship. It takes time to turn it around.

Who knew how long?

Continue reading


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