Teamsters quit AFL-CIO
Powerful union becomes first among disenchanted labor groups to abandon federation.
July 25, 2005: 3:27 PM EDT
NEW YORK (CNN) - The Teamsters voted unanimously Monday to withdraw from the AFL-CIO, Teamster President James Hoffa said, making the announcement on the first day of the 50-year-old labor federation's annual meeting in Chicago.
The Teamsters, representing freight drivers and warehouse workers, may become the first of four disenchanted labor groups to secede from the labor federation.
The groups, which make up the largest unions in the AFL-CIO, include Leaders of the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers and UNITE/HERE, which represents textile and hotel workers.
The disagreement between the unions and the AFL-CIO, arose over how to reverse organized labor's decades-long decline.
"All the signs are that they are going to split off," former Labor Secretary Robert Reich told CNN earlier today.
The dissident unions have a combined membership of nearly 5 million workers -- about a third of the AFL-CIO's total membership. Their leaders have accused AFL-CIO President John Sweeney of putting more money into political campaigns at the expense of union organizing.
"We are not trying to divide the labor movement, we are trying to rebuild it," SEIU President Andy Stern said.
When the AFL-CIO formed in 1955, about 35 percent of American workers belonged to unions. Today, unions represent about 8 percent of the private-sector workforce.
The AFL-CIO has weighed in heavily behind Democrats in national politics, with member unions contributing tens of millions to party candidates in 2004, according to federal campaign finance records.
"In unity, there is strength," Reich said. "And if the AFL-CIO splits, the fear is at least that the entire labor union movement will be less powerful than it is today -- and that's not very powerful."
Reich, who led the Labor Department during the Clinton administration, said American workers are likely to be worse off "if the labor unions just find themselves fractured and angry."
But if the dissidents can get more workers to sign union cards, he said, "it's possible that the labor union movement, when the dust clears, is actually stronger."
SEIU's Stern told reporters Sunday that he will "consult one last time tonight and make an announcement tomorrow." UFCW President Joe Hansen said he doesn't think there's any chance for a "change in course."
Sweeney, who was president of the SEIU before becoming the federation's leader in 1995, said the federation's remaining 50-plus unions "will make major decisions about changing workers' lives this week, no matter what happens."
"It's a shame for working people that, before the first vote has been cast, four unions have decided that if they can't win, they won't show up for the game," Sweeney said in a written statement.
He said the boycotting unions "should come argue for their ideas and listen to others. That's how democracies work." He called it "fundamentally wrong to use working people's issues as a fig leaf for a power struggle."
But SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said the AFL-CIO "has listened ... but, in the end, has not heard us." She called the differences "unresolvable."
The coalition includes three other unions -- the Laborers International Union, the Carpenters Union and the United Farm Workers. The UFW and the Laborers are not planning to boycott the convention, and the Carpenters Union is not an AFL-CIO member.
Union leaders said they were not able to consult with their members about the boycott in time to join, but said they agree with other coalition members.
That's the way to go GUYS give em HELL. This is bad for the demonrats and good for the average bear HAHA. My brothers in the union have awoken from their long slumber and it's time to kick some rich white ass. GO GUYS.. _________________ Those who do not remember history (now there's a word for YOU) are doomed to repeat it.
Since Reagan and PATCO was brought up it is important to note they were not striking for more money. These employees were burnt by stress and brought to life unsafe conditions which affected travelers in the air as well as people on the ground. This was not a historical triumph for Reagan or America.
They have awoken the sleeping giant. Membership and awareness will grow. _________________ 80 percent of Republicans are just Democrats who donít know whatís going on.
"Sleeping giant?" Yeah, right. Other than cops or firemen, I don't know a soul who is in a union anymore. Look at the poor saps at Tuscan dairies. Their union did squat for them. They refused to recognize the realities of today's global economy.
Read today's Wall Street Journal editorial for what ails the labor movement and what may be able to give them some sort of clout again:
Union leaders seem genuinely to believe that their glory days will return if only they can defeat President Bush, or oust Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader. But their real obstacle is the reality of the modern global economy. Until they offer workers something more than class warfare, circa 1955, they will continue to decline.
Felix, I swear you are a closet Democrat who is in denial
You can't label me SpiralJetty!!! Hahahaha I am a free thinker who owes no one my undivided loyalty. Unions made this country GREAT. We have the standard of living we have today because of UNIONS. You like your weekends? Thank the Unions. Overtime pay thank the unions. You can't EVEN imagine what this country would be like without them. Have SOME gratitude. _________________ Those who do not remember history (now there's a word for YOU) are doomed to repeat it.
Why not thank the myopic engineer's and greedy CEO'S? Is it easier to scapegoat those who are closer to you? After 911 You HAD to KNOW gas was going Up Up UP. It didn't take a genius. The guy on the assembly line just doesn't make those decisions. _________________ Those who do not remember history (now there's a word for YOU) are doomed to repeat it.
Let's put it this way. Unions were helpful in making some improvements (that some say were inevitable) to the workplace when the US was a self-sustaining economy that produced and consumed its own manufactured goods and raw materials and did not rely on information but maufacturing.
However, I don't know how unions can still be relevant in our new economy, an economy that is dynamic, flexible, wary of political boundaries and restraints on trade and does not guarantee lifetime employment for workers. Just ask any worker who is in his 20s or 30s, and he'll tell you that he only plans to work somewhere for a few years before moving on and up. And with most employees tackling different tasks than their coworkers, they may be less apt to join with them under some idealistic bond of union solidarity.
Second, most workers are not content to remain in the same place their whole lives. They are not content with being just a factory worker; they have higher ambitions. When you aspire to be management someday, you will be much less willing to wage class warfare with your bosses.
Finally, as the WSJ editorial says, unions are now just the hired goons of the Democratic Party. Felix, you should know that they blindly help out the Dems in Rahway, Union County and New Jersey with big campaign contributions and loads of workers who help out the lefties. You're "guy on the assembly line" may be working a phone bank for Jon Corzine this fall!
But you're comments on gas prices are valid, Felix. If I ran GM, I'd move all of my plants to China and demand new product lines every 4 years like Toyota. I would be much more attuned to socio-economic trends so I can "turn the ship" much faster than a bloated GM when markets change. _________________
SpiralJetty the dems are about to find out a new day has dawned as far as Unions go. Grassroots organizing is where it's at. White collar workers have as much to gai from Unions as anyone else. Once the unions enforced a decent standard of living it was erroded by the blind loyalties and facist thinking you mention. NOT ANYMORE. I have met some of the Union Organizer's who froced this change. I worked with them on some issues even. The Work Environment Council is a progressive thinking branch and you can challenge your boss for what you are due without waging class warfare. That's the ideal this country was built on and for. In the end fairplay makes the economy stronger when more people can afford more goods and services. Just like good environmental regulations are good for the economy no matter what the coporate goons say. _________________ Those who do not remember history (now there's a word for YOU) are doomed to repeat it.
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