Here’s some meat on the rhetorical bones: the Change To Win coalition is about to officially release a package of amendments and resolutions that will be presented at the AFL-CIO’s convention in Chicago at the end of July (tip-off is actually July 25th).
Remember now, the coalition is going to have a hard time passing resolutions because they don’t control a majority of the votes—at least, as the numbers shake out today (unlike the president of the country, we strive at Working Life to live in a reality-based world).
But, there are some resolutions that will put unions and other delegates, who might support John Sweeney for president, in the quandary of either voting against their self-interest—or voting against John Sweeney’s positions.
This is a 43-page document so I’m not going to analyze every page (oh, go ahead, beg me…). But, there are some interesting resolutions, both for the changes they seek and the politics surrounding them. For now, here’s a really condensed summary of what’s here:
1. Can't We All Work Together? You remember there’s been some rumbling whether affiliates that leave the Federation can still participate in central labor bodies and the Federation’s trade departments (the latter being gatherings of unions working in a similar industry). Sweeney put out a letter saying, “nope, ain’t going to happen.”
But, the Coalition is proposing a change in the Constitution to allow “appropriate” unions and organizing affiliates to join central labor bodies regardless of whether they belong to the AFL-CIO.
The politics: perhaps win over some Central Labor Council votes (that make up almost half of the delegate votes) for this resolution and maybe others. It’s partly about money: if big affiliates like SEIU leave the AFL-CIO, a bunch of the local central labor councils will get hit hard in their budgets if the disaffiliating unions can’t continue to belong.
Analysis: damn, makes sense to me. Since the movement is so small, why not let unions unaffiliated with the AFL-CIO put money in the kitty? But, voting for this resolution is essentially giving the finger to Sweeney’s position.
2. More Power to the Affiliates, Less For the President. Throughout the resolutions, there is a theme: put more authority in the hands of the largest affiliates, who will make up a reconstituted Executive Committee, which is a subset of the full Executive Council and exists now but is not spelled out in the Constitution.
The Coalition’s proposal puts the top officer of the 13 largest affiliated unions on the Executive Committee and they will run the show, with authority to direct the Federations work on organizing and bargaining and more control over the budget—powers now delegated primarily to the President and the staff.
Politics: basically, the message is aimed at the affiliates who aren’t in the Coalition. It says, “we’re the big dogs here, our money runs 16th Street and we want more say over how the Federation does its business.” This will be interesting: do large non-Change To Win coalition affiliates say, "yeah, we should run the show..." and vote for this proposal?
3. Get Those Mergers Happening. Since forcing unions to merge isn’t going to work, the Coalition is proposing a blue-ribbon panel that will come with a plan to push mergers, and gives the Federation power to “take all necessary steps” to implement mergers.
Politics: This was a big issue pushed by the insurgents and dates back to the original SEIU proposal, which called for giving the Federation the power to force mergers. It’s possible that by suggesting a panel, such a proposal could pass.
And I stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest by raising the question: should small unions continue to exist?
4. It's About More Members. Several resolutions deal with organizing, bargaining and money. The overarching theme is that unions must put real money into organizing and should only be organizing in their core industries. The rebate proposal—50 percent—is tied to a requirement that unions “demonstrate that they are allocating 10 percent of their per capita from their affiliates, or $2 million (whichever is larger) directly on organizing….”
Message here is that rebated money should not just be a slush fund but will only go to affiliates who are already putting substantial funds into organizing.
On top of that, as previously disclosed, the insurgents want to create Industry Coordinating Committees (ICCs), which will exercise strong control over organizing and bargaining in broad industry categories. And the Executive Committee, not the full Executive Council, is given the authority to oversee the creation of the ICCs, their functioning and the review of the organizing plans, bargaining, jurisdictional fights and how the rebate monies are used.
Of particular note: the Executive Committee is given an expanded role in wading into disputes where one affiliate feels another affiliate is undercutting wage and benefits standards by agreeing to substandard contracts. That’s been a bone of contention, particularly between the Teamsters and the Machinists (more on that in a future post).
Since I’ve bored you’all to tears about the Federation’s finances (not to mention the questionable future budget assumptions, particularly the shaky 8 cent per capita assumption), I can’t forget to mention a resolution, which comes on the background of the AFL-CIO’s worsening financial status, that the Executive Committee be empowered to approve the Federation’s budget.
Politics: again, moves major power into the hands of the largest affiliates. It gives those affiliates power to enforce a broad strategic plan throughout the Federation.
Analysis: Organizing has never been entirely about money. Unions have to have the will to organize. Which is why the insurgents are trying to restructure the Federation to put in place a system that exerts more planning, direction and control over organizing. Whether you agree on the mechanism or not, I’ve said repeatedly that the labor movement needs a strategic plan that is adhered to by all. Too many people hide behind the slogan of “democracy” to shirk responsibility, accountability and a willingness to work together and stick with an overarching plan. What one union does—or, in many cases, doesn’t do—usually effects one or more unions.
But, none of these changes actually are the roadmap of how to organize. That’s for another day, I guess.
5. There are resolutions on health care, retirement security and global organizing that are no-brainers—and, if John Sweeney wanted to throw a bone in the direction of the insurgents, he would endorse them.