In the SHRM instructional material one of the modules discusses the changing face of labor in the US with the formation of Change-to-Win, a coalition of unions that was seen as an alternative to the AFL-CIO. The Change-to-Win coalition thought they could reenergize the labor movement. Well the face of labor is changing again to the detriment of the Change-to-Win as they lose a member to the AFL-CIO. The result is a strange alliance.
A bit of history
In 2005 The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) and Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) (later to merge to form UNITE HERE), the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) and the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers joined together to form Change to Win. The purpose was to focus on more organizing and increasing membership. However, the coalition has had a rocky history.
In the summer of 2009, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters left Change to Win, in a dispute over raiding other unions. They did not reaffiliate with the AFL-CIO. After a bitter and divisive internal battle, a third of the members of UNITE HERE left that union and joined SEIU. The remaining 265,000 members of UNITE HERE reaffiliated with the AFL-CIO on September 16, 2009. The Laborers’ International Union of North America also left Change to Win and rejoined the AFL-CIO in 2010. The most recent defection is that of the United Food and Commercial Workers.
United Food and Commercial Workers
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, AFL-CIO Wins Back United Food and Commercial Workers, “The move will add one of the nation’s largest unions to the 56 already on the AFL-CIO’s roster, potentially giving the federation more heft to advance its political agenda.” One of those agenda items is what I wrote about the other day in Unions very unhappy with “ObamaCare” even calling for its repeal. “UFCW represents 1.3 million members, and its return adds one of the country’s largest unions to AFL-CIO, which already boasts more than 12 million members,” according to Modern Healthcare. The UFCW is stepping up its organization efforts in the healthcare industry, which is a mainstay for the SEIU.
The interesting trend in unions today is not that they are organizing more workers, for indeed they are not. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, 7.3 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.0 million union workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public-sector workers (35.9 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private-sector workers (6.6 percent). This was a decline from 2011 and a continued decline. With those gloomy numbers the way unions are increasing their number is by poaching members from other unions by trying to take over the ranks of already organized workers.
All of this makes for some potential strange bedfellows. As the AFL-CIO gains more power to influence the administration on healthcare, calling for delays and even repeal, they become inadvertently connected to Republicans who are calling for the same thing. Kind of strange how things work sometimes isn’t it?