Labor Reform Movement: August 22, 2012

How Much Longer Can the AFL-CIO
Keep Losing Without Fighting Back?
Unions Are Being Pressed to Make Concessions

By Harry Kelber

Unions are still looking in vain for an AFL-CIO battle plan to confront the Republican-rightwing attacks that are compelling many of them to make deep concessions in wages, benefits and working conditions to avoid massive layoffs.

The recent Caterpillar-Machinists contract, with its six-year freeze on wages and pensions, plus a $1,000 boost in employee healthcare premiums, should have sounded alarm bells at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. But it did not. And we’ll explain why.

Except for resistance from a few states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, the AFL-CIO Executive Council has done little to mobilize the members of their affiliated unions to challenge the Republican governors, who are using their control of state legislatures to destroy the rights of unions and their members.

The AFL-CIO Must Reorganize Its Structure to Survive

The AFL-CIO Executive Council consists of 43 members, who are supposed to conduct the Federation’s business between the four-year conventions. Although it has broad policy-making powers, it has done almost nothing to stiffen the resistance against concession bargaining. .

The current executive council members were picked in a sham election in which the delegates did not know the names and credentials of the candidates they were voting for. The Council is controlled by about ten of the biggest and most powerful international unions, who are more concerned with protecting their own fiefdoms than risking their authority in a tough struggle with heavily-financed corporations.

The Council and its members have very little to say on the AFL-CIO NOW website. In fact, it is impossible for any union or member to communicate with the Council, since it has no mailing address or a Council officer to write to. All suggestions and comments to the Council wind up in the office of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, where they are usually ignored by Trumka’s habitual silence.

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Since current AFL-CIO leaders seem unwilling — or perhaps incapable — of mobilizing millions of members in a coordinated plan of defense, what are we to do to prevent further erosion of our membership rolls and bargaining strength?

We need to supplant the current do-nothing Executive Council with a new structure in which every council member plays an active role in challenging the latest corporate offensive.

Will the potential labor leaders of tomorrow step forward? We need you today!