Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Unite For Change Splits from AFL

SEIU and the Teamsters unions have officially split from the AFL-CIO. Andy Stern, the president of SEIU, has been threatening to sever his ties with AFL-CIO unless certain demands were met. The major conflict was that Stern wants each sector to be headed by a single union or federation of unions as opposed to the current format that can have up to 15 unions representing a division of the labor force.

SEIU also has been putting a major focus on organizing service sector jobs that cannot be shipped over seas and that cannot be fired easily. This focus on organizing "safe" employees has made it possible for SEIU to be one of the few unions that have still continued to grow over the past few decades. The AFL has been trying to get all unions together to run strategic campaigns and has been trying to figure out how to protect the manufacturing jobs, telecomunication jobs, and technology jobs that are disappearing in the states.

The AFL-CIO has continued to make its primary focus politics. While organizing is a form of politics, the AFL's focus is candidate politics. According to Andy Levin of the AFL-CIO in 2004 24% of the voting population was a union member, one of the largest single segment turnouts. This alone shows that the AFL is doing an impressive job educating and turning out their people. However with shrinking numbers, there is less money for this and less influence.

I am a person that believes competition is almost always a good thing. It's the economics student in me. I believe this will benefit both sides and that in the long run this will strengthen unions in general-- as long as SEIU and the AFL-CIO can work together on the big things.

Yesterday on the Diane Rehm show there was an excellent debate between the SEIU and AFL-CIO that made a few things clear. SEIU is amazing at organizing new members in new sectors. Their focus on service unions will hopefully inspire and mobiles the AFL-CIO to organize the weaker manufacturing sector and begin to make low wage jobs middle class jobs. It also appears that SEIU is looking to becoming an international union. While they currently have influence abroad they are not focusing on just state-side organizing anymore.

While SEIU is going to force the AFL-CIO to become a better organized group that is more focused on general organizing, it is becoming obvious that the SEIU is going to have to learn how to better educate and mobiles their members in politics to be successful. Currently in San Antonio the SEIU is organizing at the municipal level and have quickly started affecting local politics.

At the end of the day, both sides have great arguments that make it obvious there is a fundamental different in philosophy currently, and union membership has been down since the AFL and CIO merged nearly 50 years ago. This shake up will help the labor movement in the long run. It will organize more members, it will get more people involved in politics, it will secure more jobs from going overseas, it will secure more small businesses, and it will cause more people to have incomes they can live on with benefits like health coverage to ease the burden on the lower class. As long as the two groups work together to take on large multi-national corporations and national politics, only good comes from this.


At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

I hope they improve benefits and offer great health insurance.


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