Thursday, July 25, 2013

UFCW to Rejoin AFL-CIO

This is a pretty big deal:
High-level sources within the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions tell Working In These Times that the 1.3-million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is in talks to rejoin the labor federation. These sources say that UFCW leaders have pledged their support for returning to the AFL-CIO and will ask members to vote on the question at the annual UFCW convention in Chicago this August. With the leadership backing reunification, the UFCW membership is expected to approve the motion.

In 2005, the UFCW and several other large unions—the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters, the Laborers’ Union, Unite Here and the United Farm Workers of America—split off from the AFL-CIO to form a rival federation, Change to Win. At the time, the unions said they were departing in order to explore new ways of organizing. However, some critics claim that one of the underlying motives was to cut down on dues—as of 2011, Change to Win charged roughly half of the AFL-CIO’s per-member rate.

The return of the UFCW would be a major victory for AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who has striven since his election in 2009 to reunite the labor movement under the 14-million-member federation.

Several Change to Win members have since returned to the AFL-CIO. In 2009, after a bitter membership battle between rival factions within Unite Here that saw a third of the union’s members depart for SEIU, the remaining 265,000 members of Unite Here voted to rejoin the AFL-CIO. Two more of the original seven Change to Win members departed at that time: the 500,000-member-strong United Brotherhood of Carpenters in 2009 to become independent, and the 500,000-member Laborers’ Union in 2010 to return to the AFL-CIO. 
Considering the UFCW's sise, I'd assume this means the death of change to win, which is something that seemed like it has been on it's way for some time. On a random personal note, two years ago I had the strange experience of attending a meeting in the Change to Win headquarters, a place filled with rows and rows of empty cubicles, surrounded by empty meeting rooms.

This strengthens the AFL-CIO, which is overall a good thing, and probably makes rumored high profile defections from the federation less likely. I'm not entirely sure if this changes anything overall as far as labor's power with elected officials at the national level, but this will probably have a larger impact at the state level keeping state federations coordinated and better organized.

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