Plan to save labor unity

AFL-CIO proposes solidarity charters for disaffiliated locals in CLCs and state federations

WASHINGTON (PAI) — The AFL-CIO created a procedure to let locals from unions that left the federation — the Service Employees, Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Carpenters — stay in state federations and local Central Labor Councils.

The proposal, which AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney will submit to the executive council, lets those locals that want to stay in the state feds and CLCs seek “Solidarity Charters” to do so.

The Solidarity Charter proposal responds to two developments since the Teamsters, SEIU and UFCW left the AFL-CIO at the end of July: Financial and personnel problems that hit the state feds and CLCs, and a desire, Sweeney said, by some locals from the departing unions to stay within those state and local structures.

The Solidarity Charter proposal says that besides paying regular dues based on the number of members they have — just as they did before — the locals from the non-AFL-CIO unions would pay a special 10 percent “solidarity fee” to the labor council or state federation to help offset the cost of services and mobilization systems provided by the national AFL-CIO and supported by its affiliated unions.

The fund and fees are designed to help avoid a crisis facing some state feds and CLCs. Some received at least 40 percent of their dues from locals of the three unions that left the federation in July. The Carpenters left four years ago.

The federation’s proposal also put some limits on participation in state feds and CLCs by members of locals whose parent unions are now out of the AFL-CIO. It banned such members from serving as future state fed and CLC officers, for example. Present unionists in such positions would stay in them through the end of their terms.

“Locals who receive Solidarity Charters will need to honor basic principles of solidarity. They will agree not to raid their brother and sister unions, participate fully in the local political mobilization efforts, and support other working people in their area who are on strike, organizing, or in other struggles,” the federation stated.

The ban on office-holding and the 10 percent fee drew criticism from the “Change To Win” coalition, which includes all four departed unions. Change to Win Chair Anna Burger called the fees “discriminatory.”