Labor’s New Unity Partnerships disbands, though its project continues:
Since its founding in September 2003, the NUP fostered one significant organizing campaign (in the multi-service industry) and laid the groundwork for last summer’s merger of UNITE and HERE. The NUP also started a discussion about labor’s capacity to grow again and whether the structure of the movement actually inhibited growth — a discussion that has recently swept the AFL-CIO and that may provide the basis for a challenge to the continuing tenure of AFL-CIO president John Sweeney at this summer’s Federation convention. The Prospect has learned, however, that on January 4 — just as that discussion was reaching fever pitch — the presidents of the NUP unions (SEIU’s Andy Stern, the Laborers’ Terence O’Sullivan, the Carpenters’ Doug McCarron, and UNITE-HERE co-presidents Bruce Raynor and John Wilhelm) met in Washington and decided to disband the alliance.
“I think it served its purpose,” Raynor told the Prospect. “It sparked this great debate in the labor movement, which is what we wanted. Now, we want it to be an inclusive discussion, not an exclusive one. The list of unions calling for reform has expanded. Hopefully, the AFL-CIO now becomes the vehicle to reform the labor movement.”…Raynor told the Prospect that he “was very encouraged by the [AFL-CIO] executive committee meeting on Monday,” January 10, at which the presidents of the Federation’s largest unions discussed the Teamsters’ and other proposals. “I was impressed with the commitment union leaders showed to making the necessary changes — more than cosmetic changes,” he said. “There’s a growing majority for substantive change.” Sources close to the NUPster leaders say that the NUP itself had become an obstacle to change. “To some of the more centrist union presidents, the NUP poses a problem,” one union leader said. “They say Andy [Stern] is too radical, and, instead of dealing with the substance of the arguments, they just want to attack Andy and the NUPsters. Rather than enable these critics to point at Andy or the NUP, [the NUP presidents] decided to take the NUP off the table as an issue.”…Though the principal parties deny that internal tensions were a factor in the decision to dissolve the NUP, a number of union leaders and staffers say that Stern’s mid-November announcement of SEIU’s manifesto, his statements about leaving the Federation, and his unveiling of SEIU’s union-reform website (unitetowin.org) took his NUPster colleagues very much by surprise. “It took a little while to patch that one up,” one non-NUP leader said.