The AFL-CIO held its quadrennial convention before more than 1,000 union delegates in Pittsburgh on September 13-17. Notable developments:

Leadership:

  • Former AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka was elected to succeed John Sweeney as Federation President, Liz Shuler was named Secretary-Treasurer, and Arlene Holt Baker was re-elected as Executive Vice President.

Legislative Efforts:

  • Delegates approved a wide-ranging resolution seeking continued support for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and large-scale organizing efforts once the bill is enacted. AFSCME pledged $500,000 to a fund for a media campaign promoting the EFCA and USW stated it will seek approval of an additional $500,000 donation. Delegates also reached out to their congressional representatives calling for support of the EFCA.
  • The federation also called for raises in the federal minimum wage, strengthening the Family and Medical Leave Act and passage of the Health Families Act, which would provide employees with paid sick leave.
  • Financial market regulation and reform was also promoted and demonstrated by the federation’s recent collaboration with Americans for Financial Reform, a group of national and state organizations seeking greater regulation of financial markets.
  • In addition, delegates passed a resolution calling for the labor movement to pressure local, state and federal governments to put more than seven million unemployed workers back to work by rebuilding the manufacturing sector through a series of Works Progress Administration jobs, tax credits, and tuition-free training programs.

Speakers:

  • President Obama pledged to fight for a public option as part of any health care overhaul and passage of the EFCA. Obama also committed to helping jump-start American manufacturing and promote job creation in clean energy and other industries that cannot be outsourced. Following Obama’s speech, Trumka stated that the union federation would quickly undertake campaigns to hold insurance companies accountable and counter the messages being spread by opponents of health care reform.
  • Senator Arlen Specter announced that a group of senators had reached a compromise on the EFCA that he believed would secured enough votes to move the bill to the senate floor. The compromise would not contain card check recognition but provides for quick certification of elections, tough penalties on employers that break the law, and binding arbitration on last, best offers. Specter stated it would be impossible to pass a version of the Act that did not maintain secret ballot election.

Membership:

  • UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm announced that the union’s 265,000 membership would be rejoining the AFL-CIO and pledged to bring other unions with them.
  • The AFL-CIO announced that its average membership during the last two years was 8.4 million members. This total does not include Canadian members, associate members, for which affiliates pay a reduced monthly per capita tax, or members of its Working America affiliate. The federation claimed to have increased its membership by approximately 300,000 members when accounting for the numbers lost when six large affiliates left to form Change to Win.

Federation Cooperation:

  • Unity of the labor movement was a major topic of discussion as delegates called for all unions to decrease inter-union organizing competition and refrain from raiding each others’ members largely in response to the SEIU’s efforts to get involved with the internal affairs of UNITE HERE.
  • Similarly, Workers United members called on Trumka to help end the ongoing dispute with UNITE HERE as UH prepares to reaffiliate with the AFL-CIO.