July 1, 2005 – Less than a month out from what many expect to be a contentious convention, the struggle between leaders of the nationâ€™s largest labor group and several unions seeking changes in the way the broad movement operates is cementing around the question of how much organizing is enough.
At a Washington, DC meeting Wednesday, the AFL-CIO Executive Councilâ€™s 54 members voted to send the Winning for Working Families plan, crafted by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and supporters, to the full Chicago convention at the end of July.
Meanwhile, the newly formed Change to Win Coalition, which recently added a sixth member to its ranks when the Carpenters Union joined on Monday, leaked a 43-page compendium of resolutions and amendments it would like to see adopted at the convention to labor writer Jonathan Tasini. The proposals include a renewed call for trade union mergers and a transfer of some powers from the AFL-CIO presidency to the affiliate unions, in addition to several resolutions addressing labor organizing efforts.
Chief among those is an old demand that unions spending a certain portion of money on organizing and recruiting efforts gain a 50 percent dues rebate from the umbrella organization that can be used for organizing workers within core industries represented by that union.
The Sweeney plan, originally released in April and revised on June 7, is similar in many ways to the Coalitionâ€™s. Both call for stronger organizing efforts and some form of consolidation. But much of Sweeneyâ€™s focus is on government political activity and many of the measures are voluntary. These are points of contention noted by members of the Coalition.
Of the two proposals, only Sweeneyâ€™s is guaranteed a vote. The Change to Win Coalition represents nearly five and a half million AFL-CIO-affiliated workers, more than a third of the Federationâ€™s total, but only nine percent of convention delegates will represent that group, under AFL-CIO laws.
The AFL-CIO convention begins on July 25. In addition to proposals to guide labor strategy, the presidency of the Federation is at stake. Sweeney is widely considered the favorite in that race.