As part of its new initiative to court younger affiliates and expand its membership, the AFL-CIO has entered into a National Partnership Agreement with the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), touted as “the nation's largest youth-­led campaign organization dedicated to building a student-­labor movement, with affiliated locals on over 150 campuses that run locally and nationally-­coordinated campaigns for corporate accountability and economic justice in partnership with organizations of workers.”

During the AFL-CIO’s annual convention held earlier this month, the organization’s delegates adopted a constitutional amendment that opens up the organizations’ General Board to include young workers, and discussed ways to get younger members more involved in the labor movement. To this end, the new partnership with the USAS seeks to achieve the following goals:

  • Global campaigns to protect and promote the rights of garment and other workers explanted by ruthless multinational corporations.
  • National and local campaigns to organize and improve standards for workers on campuses and workers whose labor is connected to university communities.
  • Campaigns to protect higher education from corporate influence and to achieve a system of higher education that is accessible and fair to all students and workers.
  • Other efforts to build a larger, stronger, more self-sustaining student-labor movement.

These aims will be achieved by, among other means:

  • Promoting USAS, AFL-CIO, and AFL-CIO affiliates’ campaigns through our respective public communication infrastructures.
  • The AFL-CIO assisting USAS’ efforts to secure needed support and resources.
  • USAS continuing to educate students about the critical role of labor unions and the importance of organizing, supporting, and joining unions.

It is expected that the AFL-CIO will enter into similar agreements and/or partnerships with other types of grassroots and community organizations to foster “new forms” of union membership discussed during the annual convention that will appeal to traditionally non-union members. For instance, one of the many resolutions passed during the convention was Building Enduring Labor-Community Partnerships. According to an AFL-CIO press release, the new partnership agreement “outlines new tactics for shared planning, strategizing, and organizing at those levels to strengthen each party’s movements and better advance the interests of both students and workers.”