AFL-CIO Wants to Add the Sierra Club?
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) The American labor union movement is in dire straits. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka admits it. So what is his solution?
Revamp the movement so that it has a positive message of quality craftsmanship?
Eliminate the image of union workers costing twice as much for half the work by increasing productivity? Rid itself of the notoriety of thuggery and violence?
No, the AFL-CIO's solution wants to join forces with liberal ideological groups like the Sierra Club, the NAACP and the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) - the last of which announced its official alliance September 25. The AFL-CIO is cementing its reputation as merely a political organ of the Democratic Party. This is a reason many rank-and-file members are disgusted with their union leadership and leaving in droves.
The proposal has made many unhappy even though the tactic was approved by AFL-CIO convention delegates a few weeks ago.
Some of the problems? Well for one, the Sierra Club is opposed to construction of the Keystone Pipeline which will create solid high paying jobs for thousands of union members.
For another, how can the NAACP join an organization which contains unions that discriminate against African-Americans? (At least this is the claim of a 2008 Philadelphia Inquirer article reprinted by the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
"The building-trades unions despite nearly three decades of effort to the contrary remain all-male and overwhelmingly white," Inquirer journalist Tom Ferrick wrote. "Data I have analyzed recently indicate that only one craft is majority black and Latino: the laborers, who are at the bottom rung of the pay scale..."
A Philadelphia Daily News article, also in 2008, listed the racial makeup of some of the labor unions - Ironworkers: 19% minorities and women, 32% city residents. Among apprentices, 24% minorities and women, 47% city residents; Painters: 7% minorities and women, 21% city residents. Among apprentices, 8% minorities and women, 33% city residents; Plumbers: 5% minorities and women, 29% city residents.
Maybe the AFL-CIO can find common ground with these seemingly antithetical groups or maybe labor is intent on changing its ways. If so, the alliance might work. But it seems this is more of a political move than it is an effort to help workers.
"I think that the AFL-CIO is frantically trying to extend its reach and to do so they are taking the approach of very attenuated relationships with interest groups," said John Raudabaugh, a law professor at Ave Maria School of Law and a former National Labor Relations Board member. "They are trying to show they can work with these groups in common causes. Labor wants to present a new image that is totally disassociated with the twentieth century of image of forced unionism."