Monday, August 8, 2005

The schism in the AFL-CIO

There has been a lot of hysteria over the recent defections from the AFL-CIO. I was glad to see the SEIU and the Teamsters break away and am still convinced that this will be good for labor. Yesterday's Indianapolis Star had a guest column by Mike Sullivan, the general president of the International Association of Sheet Metal Workers, Mr. Sullivan is one of the few leaders in the AFL-CIO who will admit that this may be a positive change.

I had been anticipating this breakup for months and I was glad to see it. I thought more people would be excited, but instead I've heard a lot of grumbling. During the week of the break up, there was a virtual funeral march going on at NPR. Rich Trumka (Treasurer of AFL-CIO) was on there everyday whining about finances and NPR broadcasted a lot of alarmist segments all week. Of course, almost all of the newscast, staff, etc are members with AFL-CIO affiliated unions.

I am still excited. I think the AFL-CIO was a bloated, feckless mess of an organization. Will Andrew Stern of SEIU have all of the answers? Probably not. Will Hoffa and the Teamsters? Hell no. I think they have either left or been kicked out of the AFL-CIO three times over the past 35 years. This is nothing new for them. Historically, they have been more conservative and often aligned with the GOP anyway.

I was surprised that Ralph Nader was not more enthusiastic about the change. Change to Win wants to take money away from lobbying politicians and put that money into organizing unions. This is a good thing. The Democratic politicians were alarmed on NPR as well because they're worried as to how they'll fund their 2006 campaigns.

If labor wants to reemerge, they are going to have to clean their house first and this is what Change to Win is doing. Nader is right. They don't have an answer for many of our problems--yet. I think the first thing to do is to build a solid foundation of new union members. Next, educate those members and the general public and then they can start to attack political issues.

Whatever it is, it is still better than private jets for union bosses and throwing money at politicians and hoping (maybe) that something changes. This is what the AFL-CIO has been doing for fifty years.

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