This just landed in my e-mail box from Norma Rae (hey,this is labor, no Deep Throats here...and that's so '70s anyway). Below is a letter from John Sweeney to the leadership in the field, basically telling people that local unions that belong to unaffiliated international unions can't join local labor councils.
It's obvious that this letter is all about the looming pull-out of SEIU from the Federation. As a reminder, SEIU's executive board meets June 10-12 in San Francisco to consider giving Andy Stern the authority to say "see ya" to the Federation. It's almost a slam-dunk (ooooppppssss...I know, that's what George Tenet said to Bush about the case for going to war in Iraq) that the authority will be given.
This letter, though, reflects the uneasiness and worry about what the SEIU pull-out will do for local labor efforts, particularly around political mobilization where membership in local central bodies is one of the key methods of launching coordinated efforts (of course, that's where the labor councils function well). And we're also talking some serious coin here: when SEIU pulls out of central bodies and its local central labor body per capita taxes are no longer coming in, that's going to be a hit on those bodies--in some cases, a severe hit that will hurt the ability of the central bodies to do their work.
I also learned yesterday that at an organizing strategy meeting on Wednesday at 16th Street, in which a number of international union presidents participated including Andy Stern and CWA's Morty Bahr, there was a discussion which seemed to have a deep subtext of: can we reach some compromise on the issues here? Can both sides give a little and/or say that enough progress has been made to declare a truce? While the meeting was cordial, my source says, no final conclusion was reached. Hey, right now, I'll take cordial.
TO: Presidents of National and International Unions
Presidents of Trade and Industrial Departments
Principal Officers of State Federations and Central Labor Councils
From: John J. Sweeney
Re: Relationship of State and Local Central Bodies to Unaffiliated Unions
DATE: May 31, 2005
During the past several months, the AFL-CIO has received a number of inquiries from state federation and central labor council leaders and others about the AFL-CIO's rules and policies concerning affiliation or other participation in state and local central bodies by local unions that are not part of a national or international union affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The purpose of this memorandum is to reiterate the AFL-CIO's policy on these issues.
Under the AFL-CIO Constitution and the Executive Council's rules, the Executive Council, or the President on the Council's behalf, may charter state, area, and local central bodies as the Council deems appropriate. The Constitution and rules further provide that these subordinate bodies are composed exclusively of R of nationally affiliated unions, directly affiliated local unions, and a limited, and specified, group of other affiliated and subordinate bodies, such as constituency groups. Locals of unaffiliated unions are not permitted to join or pay per capita tax (or per capita tax equivalents) to state and local central bodies. Officers of state, area, and local central bodies must be members of nationally- and locally-affiliated unions; members or other representatives of unaffiliated unions are not permitted to hold these positions.
While state federations and central labor councils often work with other organizations on issues of common concern, there are significant limits to this collaboration, in that only AFL¬CIO-affiliated unions are permitted to participate directly in the governance and decision-making of the state or local central body. Moreover, because state and local central bodies are responsible for carrying out the Federation's work and program at the state and local level, the vast majority of the state and local central bodies' resources must be directed at the Federation's work and program, which is built around the priorities of the Federation's affiliated unions and their membership.
Questions have been raised regarding the potential of state or local labor federations establishing or supporting parallel or related labor federations or the like, which could include participation by unions that are not part of the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO does not condone the use of state, area, or local central body funds, resources (including but not limited to voter files), or personnel to establish or support such organizations. In addition, the Federation will vigorously protect its name, status, programs, and subordinate bodies, against interference from or confusion with non-AFL-CIO entities.
If you have any questions, contact AFL-CIO Director of Field Mobilization Mike Cavanaugh at 202-637-5370 or AFL-CIO General Counsel Jon Hiatt at 202-637-5053.
cc: Richard Trumka
All AFL-CIO Field Staff