AFL-CIO Calls for Broad, Inclusive Labor Movement & Assisting All Workers to Organize
In a culmination of months of listening sessions and reflection, the AFL-CIO announced September 9 that any U.S. worker can join the labor movement and that the labor federation will develop several new pathways for workers to join the labor movement, either through affiliate unions, AFL-CIO’s community affiliate Working America, worker centers or as students. In addition to opening the labor movement to all and the commitment to building enduring community labor partnerships, the AFL-CIO passed two other important resolutions in the Monday morning session at its quadrennial convention in Los Angeles.
A Broad, Inclusive and Effective Labor Movement
To start growing the labor movement again, delegates at the AFL-CIO Convention passed a resolution calling for a more broad and inclusive labor movement that is not confined within bargaining units that are not defined by workers themselves and limited by unscrupulous employers. The AFL-CIO is going to expand existing forms of participation in the labor movement and create new forms of membership that are available to any workers not already covered by a collective bargaining agreement or who are not members of unions or represented by unions.
The AFL-CIO is inviting workers to join the labor movement by joining one of the federation’s affiliates or through Working America. AFL-CIO will work together with the affiliates and Working America to develop new forms of workplace representation and advocacy that help members outside of collective bargaining units, seek to extend non-collectively bargained benefits to those members, educate and train new members and mobilize new members in electoral and political efforts.
The second major avenue for expanding the labor movement is for the AFL-CIO to expand its associations with worker centers, particularly in ways that don’t undermine other unions and collective bargaining agreements. The federation also will work to find opportunities for worker center members to become union members.
Finally, in recognizing that students are not only the future of much of the workforce, they also have vital interests in making sure that workplaces are fair and just, the AFL-CIO is going to authorize Working America to create a student membership, expand their work with campus-based student organizations, advocate for issues of importance to students and work to make sure that student workers have the ability to exercise their right to organize and collectively bargaining.
Enacting Labor Laws That Address the Needs of All Workers in the U.S.
The AFL-CIO also called for a major legislative campaign to reform federal and state labor laws to expand collective bargaining rights for all workers and make it easier for employees to exercise their voice in the workplace. In a convention resolution, the federation said the nation’s core labor law, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), has been so undermined by corporate interests and its legislative allies, the country needs new laws to meet the original’s promise.
According to the resolution, such legislation should include reforms that all workers have the right to organize and engage in collective bargaining, in particular it needs to cover employees who lack significant supervisory authority, workers falsely classified as independent contractors, government workers, all agricultural workers and public safety personnel. The legislation also should reform the process through which workers can exercise their right to “representatives of their own choosing,” making it easier for employees to exercise their rights. Other specifics the resolution says should be included in the legislation are:
• Ensuring that all workers and all employers know their rights and obligations by requiring that all covered employers physically or electronically post a balanced notice describing employees’ rights.
• Guaranteeing that all workers who choose to be represented enjoy the fruits of that representation in the form of a first contract by providing for supervised bargaining, mediated bargaining and, as a last resort for any remaining issues not otherwise resolved, binding interest arbitration.
• Ensuring that the entity that holds the real authority over workers’ terms and conditions of employment, even if it is not the workers’ direct employer, comes to the table in bargaining.
• Ensuring that the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal Labor Relations Authority and all other bodies essential to the enforcement of our nation’s labor laws maintain a quorum and are fully able to enforce the law at all times.
• Eliminating the one-way exception to the sweep of federal labor law pre-emption that permits states to adopt so called “right to work” laws that undermine the principle of majority rule, but bars states from creating additional paths to recognition based on majority support similar to those adopted by several states for public-sector employees.
• Creating stronger and timelier remedies for unfair labor practices.
Assisting All Workers to Organize
The AFL-CIO also announced expanded efforts to assist affiliate unions, state federations and central labor councils in developing strategic plans to increase membership and strengthen the ability of workers to organize. The resolution calls for an increased focus on large-scale and multiunion efforts, with a focus on specific industries and geographic areas. The AFL-CIO plans to engage in strategic analysis of the best approaches to meeting these goals, with a focus on improving strategic campaign research capability and the creative use of policy initiatives at all levels.
For more convention coverage and resolution details, check:
OC Labor Leader Tefere Gebre Elected as AFL-CIO’s New Executive Vice President
Delegates at the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention elected Tefere Gebre as the AFL-CIO’s new executive vice president Gebre was nominated to succeed Arlene Holt Baker after she announced her retirement in July. Gebre’s election signifies a generational shift in leadership as the labor movement increases its outreach to immigrants and young workers. Gebre is 45 years old and an Ethiopian political refugee who immigrated to the United States as a teenager.
Gebre has dedicated his life to advocating for unions and improving the lives of working families. Prior to his election, Gebre served as the executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation in California, which represents more than 90 local unions with a total membership of more than 140,000 working men and women. During his tenure, the federation has grown by 15,000 members and become a model of innovation, leadership and organization. Previously, he also has served as the director of government relations for Laborers Local 270 and worked in the political department of the California Labor Federation.