Trumka: AFL-CIO to undergo wide-scale revamp

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The AFL-CIO will examine and create a new and different internal and external structure, to be considered at its convention in Los Angeles in September, federation President Richard Trumka says.

The revamp is necessary, he added, to meet the conditions of changing workplaces, extend labor's reach to allied and community groups, and to shift its emphasis within the federation to more inter-union and regional cooperation.

"We'll use our sessions" in meetings nationwide "to see how we need to change to meet the needs of today's and tomorrow's workers," Trumka told reporters covering the federation's Executive Council meeting in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 26. "We have to be honest with ourselves." The revamp meetings will be open to all.

Since its founding with the merger of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1955, the nation's largest labor group has been an amalgamation of unions - now 57 after Actors Equity received a charter on Feb. 25 - state federations, central labor councils and specific departments.

Some departments and unions have come and gone, notably those that left in 2005 to form Change To Win. Constituency groups became part of the federation. But until recently, the AFL-CIO has not had ties to non-union worker and community groups, though several have joined the federation in coalitions.

Trumka says the fed will hold open community meanings, inviting unionists, non-AFL-CIO unions, youth, academics, community allies and others to discuss ways to change that structure and to more widely represent workers.

"The AFL-CIO was designed to prevent us from hurting one another, not necessarily to help one another," Trumka explained. Now its leaders want to reach out beyond unions themselves to appeal to workers, as workers, on a wider scale. "We have to design new forms of representation," Trumka said.

Those new forms include chartering more worker centers, expanding Working America - the fed's 3.2-million member community affiliate for workers who can't or won't join unions - and other "non-collective bargaining forms of representation."

But the ideas won't be top-down, and the federation wants to integrate legislative, collective bargaining, politics and organizing all into one process. "The state feds and central labor councils will change and there'll be one strategic plan," not 50, Trumka stated.

Photo: Jobs with Justice // CC BY-NC 2.0 

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  • "The AFL-CIO was designed to prevent us from hurting one another, not necessarily to help one another," is that true? Is that what solidarity meant to the founders? If so, it was a massive nail in the coffin.

    Posted by HenryCT, 03/03/2013 2:31pm (1 year ago)

  • sounds good idea and one overdue

    Posted by garyro, 02/28/2013 9:50pm (1 year ago)

  • the greatest loss to labor is the exclusion of retirees and their input. They have fought the battles and bear the scars of experience and knowledge. The unorganized thurst for a contract and protections. Corporate america has unonized to destroy the workers unions. They had laws passed to get taxpayers jobs sent out of the country and the taxpayers pay them for that.They brought in foreign workers to destroy the wages and working conditions for profit. 12,000,000 and no one knows they exist or where they work. The search for cheep labor goes on , even in the federal buildings in DC. Tax payer funded projects are building in every major city with undocumented workers. Don't wait till election time , Prosecute now! I'm just sick of the chicken s*it BS.

    Posted by Bob Schmetzer, 02/28/2013 7:11pm (1 year ago)

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