At a meeting this morning with 50 top officials from the unions, the Coalition approved a Constitution and Bylaws that would promote the coordination, cooperation and collective action of their affiliated organizations to boost union strength and improve workers’ lives. “Our goal is to empower the tens of millions of American workers who face the daily challenge of making ends meet and whose voice has been silenced by the overwhelming power of large global corporations and their representatives in Washington,” the five Presidents said in a joint statement. “The basic principle that brings us here today is that American workers cannot win a better life unless more workers belong to unions, and unless those unions have the focus, strategy, and resources to unite workers in their industry and raise standards for pay, health care, pensions, and working conditions,” they continued.
While the founding unions hope their proposals are passed by the delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention, it will put them into practice immediately through the structure and activities of the Change to Win Coalition. Regardless of the agenda adopted in Chicago by the AFL-CIO, the Coalition will move forward with its reform program after the Convention. The union leaders said today that they welcome other labor organizations into the Coalition. They said, “In the Constitution and Bylaws we adopted today, we pledged mutual support and solidarity, no raiding, and no retaliation for those who may choose to leave the AFL-CIO. We seek to change the face not only of what organized labor does, but how it does it.” The Coalition unions have pioneered new organizing techniques. Each member union is contributing funds to the Coalition to take those techniques to a new level by cooperatively organizing non-union workers in key areas of the private sector.
Whether this portends a split or simply a consolidation of the dissidents’ power within the AFL-CIO remains to be seen. Either way, they have a program that works at a time when the federation isn’t working, and they’re right, as they were back when they formed the New Unity Partnership, to work together to push that vision forward aggressively. And they’re right, even as they push the AFL-CIO, not to wait for the AFL-CIO.