As expected, the second day of the annual AFL-CIO convention focused on ways to create and promote “new forms” of union membership that would appeal to younger workers and nonunion members. In his keynote address, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka strongly supported aligning labor with non-labor groups. An integral part of this initiative is to promote membership with Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate designed to provide services to nonunion workers. According to the AFL-CIO, “Working America . . . is the fastest-growing organization for working people who don’t have a union on the job.” These efforts to promote “alternative labor groups” are intended to include both workers (such as taxi drivers) who lack the legal right to unionize, and others (like restaurant workers) who have allegedly struggled to earn union recognition.
The ultimate goal of the “alternative membership” movement, according to speakers at the convention session “Anyone Can Join and Everyone Should: Models for Alternative Membership,” is not to replace traditional organizing. Instead, the goal of the movement is to:
[bring] workers into the labor movement on this path [which can open] the door for organizing down the road. For example, Working America’s FixMyJob.com website provides workers with useful resources if they’re having an issue on the job, but it also connects them to organizing tools. Associate membership also provides unions an opportunity to stay in touch with laid-off workers or workers who voted for a union in a losing election. Associate member programs are growing by leaps and bounds as more workers see the value in joining together. And Working America and other programs are growing the labor movement while making it more inclusive.
Resolutions and Constitutional Amendments
Along the same lines, Trumka promoted affiliation with union front organizations (UFOs), which he and the organization delegates refer to as “worker centers.” UFOs are community-based organizations that carry out many of the same functions as unions, such as organizing and mobilizing workers, but without the corresponding reporting obligations and anti-corruption protections spelled out in the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Notably, AFL-CIO delegates adopted two resolutions -- Resolution 5: A Broad, Inclusive and Effective Labor Movement and Resolution 16: Building Enduring Labor-Community Partnerships -- backing closer cooperation between the AFL-CIO and UFOs. As we have reported, two Congressional leaders have already asked Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to issue an official determination regarding UFOs’ union status.
Delegates at the convention voted in favor of several other resolutions and constitutional amendments, many of which are designed to broaden the AFL-CIO’s existing forms of membership. For example, one constitutional amendment expands the organizations’ General Board to include young workers.
Another resolution would require each union in the AFL-CIO to annually submit a confidential organizing plan to President Trumka that “will include areas of focus, resource commitments, strategies and tactics and projected timeline.” Based on the plans, the AFL-CIO leadership will then “prioritize strategic and material assistance,” and identify potential conflicts or cooperative opportunities between unions; the AFL-CIO is also directed to develop “incentives for compliance.”
At 8:30 Pacific, Labor Secretary Perez will deliver the keynote address. A concurrent session on UFOs is scheduled for 12:30 Pacific.