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Old 06-16-2005, 12:12 PM   #1
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Default democrat labor unions breaking up


5 unions move to quit AFL-CIO
By William Glanz
June 16, 2005

Five unions yesterday took a step toward leaving the AFL-CIO labor federation by forming a coalition that will support joint efforts to boost membership.
The unions, frustrated with the strategy of the AFL-CIO leadership to bolster the labor movement, indicated their departure from the federation could occur if President John J. Sweeney is re-elected next month, as is widely expected.
"Each union will decide on its own what to do. Everybody is keeping their options open," said Andrew Stern, president of the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union, the biggest labor group within the 58-member AFL-CIO.
Mr. Stern's SEIU formed the Change To Win Coalition with the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Unite Here, and Laborers. The five unions, which represent about 40 percent of the 13 million workers in the AFL-CIO, are trying to recruit more unions to join the coalition.
Mr. Sweeney said he wants the dissident unions to remain in the 50-year-old federation.
"I sincerely hope that the unions forming this coalition outside the AFL-CIO will continue to join, and help lead, the rest of the union movement from within the AFL-CIO," he said.
The coalition founders made it clear they don't think they can carry out an effective organizing campaign within the AFL-CIO because its leaders won't invest more to attract new members.
The AFL-CIO's executive council on Monday approved Mr. Sweeney's plan by a 17-7 vote to spend $22.5 million to organize new workers. Mr. Sweeney's opponents lobbied for a $60 million organizing budget, but were rejected during the federation's annual meeting in March.
The coalition is prepared to spend up to $1 billion over five years to fund organizing efforts, though the unions didn't identify the amount of money they will spend on organization.
"We believe organization requires massive resources," said Bruce Raynor, president of the 460,000-member Unite Here, which represents hotel, restaurant and apparel industry workers.
Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said his union already has put aside "several hundred thousand dollars" to organize workers.
UFCW President Joseph Hansen said the unions will continue to pay dues to the AFL-CIO until the convention. If they leave the federation, the five unions would take with them more than $30 million in dues paid to the AFL-CIO each year.

That could weaken the federation, which would lose its biggest members and already has laid off 106 workers as it shifts money between political activity and organizing efforts.
But it won't eviscerate the AFL-CIO, said Rick Sloan, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which supports Mr. Sweeney.
"It's not insignificant, but it's not devastating. There are still more than 8.5 million members in the federation," Mr. Sloan said.
Mr. Hoffa said the new coalition is the result of frustration with Mr. Sweeney and the current leadership's refusal to grasp the significance of greater investment in organizing.
"The difference between us and the AFL is that we believe in organizing," he said.
Mr. Sweeney remained steadfast yesterday, arguing that labor's success depends on dual investment in political activity and organizing.
"Organizing capacity and political power are intertwined. Workers need a union movement that succeeds on both fronts," he said.
The rift between Mr. Sweeney and his vocal opponents has become increasingly bitter. As the 71-year-old Mr. Sweeney runs for re-election, he faces unrelenting criticism from the federation's biggest members.
Since the beginning of the year, the boards of three unions -- SEIU, Unite Here and UFCW -- have given their presidents approval to leave the AFL-CIO.
Mr. Hansen said leaving the federation isn't the coalition's goal.
"Our purpose is to get real growth," he said.
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