Day 2 at the AFL-CIO Convention: “broad and inclusive” and scripted

by> Michael Hirsch

Not-at-the-AFL-CIO-Convention-Join-the-Conversation-Online_blogpostimageIt’s official. The key resolution committing the giant labor federation to work collaboratively with a host of organization outside of its traditional mandate passed overwhelmingly on Monday morning. “The labor movement must be broad and inclusive,” the resolution read

[It] cannot be confined within bargaining units defined by government agencies or limited to workplaces where a majority of employees vote ‘yes’ in the face of a ruthless campaign by their employer to deny them representation. The labor movement consists of all workers who want to take collective action to improve wages, hours and working conditions. Our unions must be open to all workers who want to join with us. The AFL-CIO and affiliated unions must continue to innovate and experiment with new forms of membership and representation to achieve the ultimate objective of assisting all workers to bargain collectively through an affiliated union.

Given that the AFL was founded as a cluster of craft unions aimed at restricting the number of workers enjoying access to skilled jobs, this statement alone is a revelation. Now the Federation wants to work hand-in-glove with “a diverse group or organizations [that] has emerged to meet the urgent needs and advocate on behalf of the unrepresented, particularly low-wage and immigrant workers.” (See here for the full text of the resolution and here for the text of all resolutions passed.)

One indication of just how keenly the need to reach out to community allies is felt was the pointed response to ending mass incarceration. James Boland of the Bricklayers offered remarks in support of the resolution that targeted the private prison industry for supporting some of the advanced industrial nations’ most punitive prison laws. In what was plainly a fine textbook presentation of what is wrong with the system critics rightly call “the school-to-prison pipeline,” Boland cited massive overcrowding, horrific sentencing laws, prolonged pre-trial incarceration and virtually no system of integrating felons back into the working world.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka damned the practice as “locking up people left behind,” adding that “we’re not locking up individuals; we’re locking up demographics … We have to stop investing in private prisons and start investing in working people.” Continue reading

AFL-CIO Executive Board endorses Obama

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31:  U.S. President Ba...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

March 13. This afternoon, the AFL-CIO’s General Board voted unanimously to endorse President Obama for re-election.

For many reasons, we are pledging to work with President Obama throughout the elections and in a second term. The bottom line is this: As president, Barack Obama has placed his faith in America’s working men and women to lead our country to economic recovery and our full potential. So we’re putting our faith in him.

Please join us in pledging to get to work for working people by supporting President Obama and other working family candidates: [ ].

Although the labor movement has sometimes differed with the president and often pushed his administration to do more–and do it faster–we have never doubted his commitment to a strong future for working families. With our endorsement today, we affirm our faith in the president. We pledge to work with him through the election and his second term to restore fairness, security and shared prosperity. Continue reading

AFL-CIO’s Trumka Acknowledges Labor’s Divisions Over Keystone Pipeline

by Mike Elk

On Wednesday, Jan. 19, President Obama rejected a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline project, a move which has won both praise and criticism from the labor movement. We believe that pipeline, and the broader issue of climate change and jobs deserves a wide-ranging discussion.–Talking Union

Mike Elk

On Thursday January 12, at the UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke publicly about divisions in the labor movement over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico if built.

Disagreements between unions over the pipeline wasn’t news, but the fact that Trumka acknowledged them was. It was the first time I’ve heard Trumka say that unions that were on different sides of the politically sensitive issue—some for, some against. Several AFL-CIO observers also commented that it was the first time they had a president of the labor federation talk about why unions were divided on key issues. (They declined to speak on the record because of the matter’s sensitivity.)

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How the Times Have Changed, Part 386

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

On Wednesday afternoon, within a few minutes of one another, many of America’s leading unions — the Service Employees, the Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers — not to mention labor’s omnibus federation, the AFL-CIO — all released endorsements of Occupy Wall Street and its ongoing demonstrations in New York’s (and the world’s) financial center. Nothing surprising here — other individual unions and numerous local unions had already released statements of support for OSW, and the AFL-CIO itself has held several demonstrations on Wall Street since the financial collapse of 2008.

But for geezers like me, who came out of the student left of the ’60s that found itself in various pitched battles with organized labor, the difference between then and now couldn’t be greater. To review the bidding for a moment, the AFL-CIO under the leadership of George Meany (and later, Lane Kirkland), while an indispensable champion of most domestic progressive legislation, was an ardent supporter of Cold War policies in general and the Vietnam War in particular. Despite some faltering efforts in the early and mid-’60s to keep the Old and New Lefts from splitting, that’s exactly what they did. And it wasn’t just the radicals of the New Left who viewed labor with disdain and contempt; it was also the New Politics liberals who rallied around the anti-war presidential candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972. (The ’70s sitcom “All in the Family” rather faithfully captured the upper-middle class liberals’ disdain for white male blue-collar workers, and that disdain certainly extended to their unions.)
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March 24 Boston Rally for Good Jobs Now! Make Wall Street Pay!

Big Wall Street banks brought on America’s worst financial crisis since the great depression. While their actions destroyed America’s jobs, homes, and hope, the big banks got billions in taxpayer bailouts–and went back to business as usual. It’s time to tell the banks to start paying for America’s recovery by investing in GOOD JOBS NOW!

When: 12:00 PM on Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where: Bank of America, 100 Federal St., Boston

Sponsors: Greater Boston Labor Council, Greater Southeaster Labor Council, AFT-MA, Boston Building Trades Council, Community Labor United, Jobs with Justice, Mass. AFL-CIO, Mass. Building Trades Council, NorthShore Labor Council, SEIU State Council, UNITE/HERE N.E. Joint Board, UFE, DSA, and many more!!!

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