The American Labor Reform Movement

January 29, 2013

AFL-CIO Loses 400,000 Members in 2012;
Leaders Have No Plan to Attract Recruits;
Trumka Still Gets His $293,000 Annual Pay

Must We Wait Until AFL-CIO Fades Away?
Or Is It Time to Create a New Labor Center
Like the CIO Successfully Did 80 Years Ago?

By Harry Kelber

With the loss of 400,000 union members in only one year — 2012 — we are witnessing the final stages in the collapse of the AFL-CIO.

The evidence of its growing irrelevance is clear enough. It did not mobilize its members in a national campaign to fight against the corporate-right-wing offensive to cripple unions in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and several other Republican-controlled states.

Leaders like Rich Trumka, Liz Shuler and Arlene Holt, with 6-figure salaries, knew that even if union members lost wages and benefits, they would get their full annual pay and pensions, win or lose.

There still is no sense of urgency at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington that something must be done to make union membership appealing to the millions of workers who say they'd like to be union members. But no one, including Trumka, has come forward with a plan to increase recruiting new members.

It's Time to Build a Replacement for the AFL-CIO

With the AFL-CIO losing members and collective bargaining rights almost daily, it is foolish to wait for its last gasp before undertaking the tasks of building a new labor federation.

We can begin by establishing nucleus committees in each state to consider the problems of creating a new organization. We should study and learn how the Committee for Industrial Organizations first started as an independent labor organization. We should call on labor veterans who participated in establishing the CIO for their assistance.

* * * * *

We can't afford to wait until the AFL-CIO is completely powerless in the face of the corporate onslaught. We have to do what the early CIO builders did: create a new labor movement, stage by stage.

We'll need new leaders. We ought to be able to find them from the 11 million who hold union cards.

This article is also posted on two web sites: www.laboreducator.org and www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.

Read more articles in The American Labor Reform Movement Series