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UFCW Moves for a Revitalized Labor Movement, Disaffiliates from AFL-CIO

Friday, July 29, 2005

Letter From UFCW International President Joe Hansen to AFL-CIO

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), its local unions and its officers are committed to rebuilding worker power. We have undertaken the process to restructure and revitalize our union to meet the needs of our current and future members. For our union to succeed on behalf of our members, we must be part of a revitalized and dynamic labor movement that connects with a new generation of workers struggling in the 21st century's global economy.
 
We are building on a tradition and record of success. The U.S. labor movement has brought unprecedented prosperity, broad-based political democracy, human rights and legal protections to workers and their families. The labor movement changed the world, and transformed the living standards of working families. Both the AFL and the CIO played critical roles in the success of the labor movement in bringing economic security to workers. The merged AFL-CIO was a product of that success.
 
Now, the world has changed, and workers' rights and living standards are under attack. Tradition and past success are not sufficient to meet the new challenges. We, as a movement, now must change to meet the challenges confronting workers. We have an historic opportunity and obligation to organize and lead a new movement for the 21st century.            

The UFCW, along with the other unions of the Change to Win Coalition, has a vision and strategy for the future. The Change Coalition prepared and presented to the AFL-CIO a comprehensive reform proposal for change. At the core of our proposal for change is the redirection of resources to rebuild worker power through strategic organizing to increase the number of unionized workers within an industry or occupation. Engaged and organized union workers in an industry constitute the foundation of worker power.
 
The dynamics of the new economy demand industry-wide organizing and coordinated bargaining to improve living standards, ensure affordable health care and renew respect for work and workers. Solidarity means workers in an industry standing together in their union, and supporting all other workers in their industry.
 
We believe in worker solidarity, and in organizing to build worker power through solidarity. On this core issue— redirecting resources to organize industry-wide for worker power— there is a fundamental difference between the Change Coalition and the AFL-CIO. We believe international and local unions are best positioned to succeed in organizing.
 
The UFCW and the Change Coalition unions are rapidly moving forward to develop a national organizing, bargaining and political program based on our vision and strategy for the future.
 
We believe workers will organize, if there is an opportunity and a strategy for them to win. Workers cannot wait for a change in the political or corporate climate to organize. In fact, the current hostile political and corporate climate is the result of a failure to organize. Organizing workers changes everything.
 
We believe in coordinated, strategic bargaining that mobilizes the strength of all union members in an industry around common contract goals. Workers bargaining in isolation from one another dilutes their power and divides their strength. 
 
We believe that we must have a strong and vibrant political program connected to the needs, concerns and goals of workers, irrespective of political parties and labels. We must ensure that we are the voice of workers to politicians and elected officials-- and, not the voice of politicians or any political party to workers. Politicians will find that as we grow our labor movement, we will also grow our political power.
 
The UFCW, in order to pursue the most effective course of action for its members and all workers in its core industries, is terminating its affiliation with the AFL-CIO effective immediately.

While our affiliation ends, our commitment to work with the AFL-CIO and unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO on issues and programs where we share common goals remains unchanged. I believe our movement is united in our basic principles and values, even if we pursue different strategies. The UFCW and its local unions will continue to fund and work with state and local federations in politics and lobbying, and for mutual support of worker struggles.
 
I ask you and other AFL-CIO unions to reject efforts to build barriers within our movement, and to work in cooperation with Change Coalition unions in the myriad areas where we share common goals. We can build our movement, and again change the world to bring prosperity and well-being to workers here and around the world.        

Contact:
press@ufcw.org

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