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Statement by Anna Burger On Unity in Local Labor Councils and State Labor Federations

Thursday, August 11, 2005

August 11, 2005

In consultation with local unionists active in local labor councils throughout the nation, the Change to Win unions have long made clear that, whether we are nationally affiliated with the AFL-CIO or not, our local unions will continue to participate in and pay dues to central labor councils (CLCs) and state labor federations. This was reiterated in a statement issued by Change to Win on July 23.

As our statement said then, "The labor movement is not about institutions; it's about the best ways to empower working people in our society...Through unity at the local and state level we can successfully implement new strategies to enable workers to unite within their industries and make our communities better places to live and raise families."

All the AFL-CIO had to do was listen to the clear desire for unity at the local and state level and say one simple word: "Yes."

Instead, the AFL-CIO has said repeatedly that continued local participation is not welcome and that checks from our local unions to local and state labor councils must not be cashed.

Now, faced with a revolt at the local level, the AFL-CIO has taken a position that uses the rhetoric of unity but is designed to provoke unnecessary division. The fine print of its proposal provides that Change to Win local unions would be subject to:

    * A ban on participation in local and state leadership.
    * A requirement to be "bound by whatever actions or decisions of the [national] Federation that are binding on all affiliated local unions."
    * A requirement that to hold elected office in a council, an individual from a Change to Win union must publicly oppose their own union's democratically determined decision regarding national affiliation.
    * Discriminatory fees.
    * A provision that Change to Win locals' participation in local or state councils expires at the end of next year, and that in the meantime they could not withdraw from the local council or state federation for any reason.

A proposal that includes fine-print poison pill provisions like these seems designed to appear to be responsive to the desire for local unity without actually helping to make that unity possible.

The Change to Win unions have said clearly that we intend to be good partners with the AFL-CIO, participating in and paying our dues to local labor councils and state labor federations, coordinating on common issues important to working people, seeking no-raid agreements, and pledging to support all unions' strategies to unite workers' strength in their core industries.

The AFL-CIO, whose non-Change unions now represent a minority of organized workers in the United States, needs to make a similar commitment to partnership.

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