AFL-CIO Formalizing Ties to “Progressive” Groups

Aaron Flint posted on September 11, 2013 11:25 :: 1295 Views

To me, the news that labor unions, in particular the AFL-CIO, are teaming up with “progressive” groups is nothing new.  This “unholy alliance,” as some have called it, has been around for decades as labor unions have teamed up politically with some of the same environmental groups who are blocking or shutting down union jobs.   

News outlets are reporting on the AFL-CIO’s convention in Los Angeles as if this is somehow a new effort.  To me, this is merely the formalization of an existing relationship- the official wedding ceremony for a common law couple, shall we say.   

Nonetheless, several labor leaders are pushing back against this “unholy alliance” between big labor and other “progressive” groups, as The Hill reports.

The Hill: Unions push back against labor’s ties to progressive groups

(Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters) “However, to say that we are going to grow this labor movement by some kind of formal partnership, membership, status, place in this federation, I am against. This is the American Federation of Labor. We are supposed to be representing workers and workers’ interests,” Schaitberger said. “We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.”

Others in labor, especially in the building and construction sectors, have aggressively pushed back against the proposal. Those unions have clashed repeatedly with environmental groups over building the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Does that mean we are going to turn energy policy of the AFL-CIO over to the Sierra Club? I have concern about that, as well as I should,” said Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).

It is also interesting to note that while the AFL CIO seeks to ally w/ “progressive” groups in LA,  The Denver Post noted how union voters supported the recall of Democrat legislators in Colorado who went against union member feelings on guns.  

As I read the Bloomberg News coverage of the convention, I read the words of Richard Trumka who says unions are in a crisis, and that is why he wants to formalize this relationship with the Sierra Club and others.  But, couldn’t it be the already existing relationship with the Sierra Club and others that helped put private sector labor unions in this crisis to begin with?    

From Bloomberg News:

The AFL-CIO, the federation that represents 57 unions with 12 million members, holds its national convention this week in Los Angeles with labor in a time of “crisis,” according to the group’s president, Richard Trumka. Unions represented 11.3 percent of workers in 2012, down from 20.1 percent in 1983.

A top priority is to expand relationships with non-union groups such as the Sierra Club and the National Organization for Women, which often share the AFL-CIO’s goals. Convention delegates today approved a resolution that calls for exploring “new forms of membership and representation.”

What does the Montana AFL-CIO have to say? I’ve traded voicemails back and forth with Montana AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Al Ekblad.  He is no doubt busy in Los Angeles, but I will let you know once I get a chance to hear his thoughts. 


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