AFL = American Federation of Liberal Organizations?

Along with the outreach to alt-labor groups I discussed yesterday, the AFL-CIO Convention delegates have been weighing ways to form tighter associations with progressive groups like the NAACP, La Raza, the Sierra Club, the National Organization of Women, and others. In politics, these organizations frequently find themselves confronting the same movement conservatives. Some labor leaders even floated proposals to invite such organizations to affiliate with the AFL-CIO, even though they were not labor organizations. The construction unions, among others, expressed skepticism, and the resolution delegates in fact passed was fairly modest.  AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department President Sean McGarvey explained, “Giving people a seat where they have governance, and they don't represent workers, that was a bridge too far for lots of folks.”

Some of these political relationships are longstanding indeed. For decades, the civil rights movement and the labor unions fought the same Jim Crow Democrats in Congress; in time, their alliance transformed the Democratic Party, driving the most strident opponents of integration and workers’ rights out of the party or out of politics altogether. Other alliances are of more recent vintage, with many labor leaders joining with Latino organizations to support immigration reform with a path to citizenship, or with environmental groups to promote green jobs.


Certainly such a formal alliance would be a formidable force within the Democratic Party, but it would also impose important constraints on labor, subordinating the interests of workers and unions to other constituencies.  (Construction) Laborers’ Union President Terry O’Sullivan, a supporter of the XL Pipeline and the jobs it would provide, asked, “Does that mean we are going to turn energy policy of the AFL-CIO over to the Sierra Club?”

Nor are progressives the only allies that labor needs. The USCCB is a critical ally in defense of the right to organize, the effort to raise the minimum wage, and the campaign for a fair and just immigration reform, but the Church is obviously at odds with the progressive left on abortion and the sanctity of the family. What unintended consequences might the AFL-CIO's new structure have for relations with Catholics and others outside the progressive fold who hold warm feelings for working people?

Although progressives might wish it so, workers’ interests do not always align with those of other constituencies on the left. Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters, argued that workers deserve an organization with an eye single to their interests. “This is the American Federation of Labor. We are supposed to be representing workers and workers’ interests,” he said. “We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.”

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john andrechak
5 years 4 months ago
As a member of LIUNA (Laborers International Union of North America) the Union headed by Terence Sullivan, I am proud of the efforts by the AFL-CIO to embrace both ALT-LABOR, as mentioned in a prior post, but also liberal and progressive groups. Regarding the alternative groups such as those working with domestic laborers or restaurants I find supporting those laboring in these fields a moral obligation and would repeat the words of a Union brother who stated "that those of us who benefit from the past labor struggles but cannot recognize our brothers and sisters in their fight should reconsider their Union membership" As far as this movement, if it comes to that, putting Labor at odds with the Church, the Church has been putting herself at odds with all of the laboring people of this nation by entering into an unholy alliance with the Religious Right and its politicians, such as Perry, Romney, Gingrich (I could fill a page),
ed gleason
5 years 4 months ago
John A is correct to point out how the Church leaders can see no problem allying with the unholy parts of the GOP who encourage war, slave wages and corrupt capitalism. Unions and its Allies in standing up for a higher minimum wage has a peice of the right to life ethic that the GOP knows nothing about.
Joshua DeCuir
5 years 4 months ago
"What unintended consequences might the AFL-CIO's new structure have for relations with Catholics and others outside the progressive fold who hold warm feelings for working people?" I'm afraid labor allying closer with various liberal & "progressive" groups will only further weaken its political power, as it alienates moderate conservatives from signing up with groups pushing an agenda they disagree with. Fortunately, as conservative commenters like Ross Douthat & Reihan Salam have posed, this might lead to an emerging conservative alliance focused on the middle class issues these "progressive" agendas either ignore or undercut.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 4 months ago
Unions are becoming less and less relevant, outside the public workforce, and the unsustainable government debt will force a reduction in the public workforce in the coming years. Today, only 7% of the private workforce are union members. But this decline is largely their own fault, as the largest have traded workers' rights for progressive politics, mainly anti-life politics, and all their political money goes to the anti-life polititions. The AFL-CIO is the largest union, and it too has been losing members at a quick pace at least since John Sweeney decided progressive politics were more important than workers rights. It is no surprise to me that they want an alliance with the National Organization of Women, whose raison d'être is is to frustrate the rights of the unborn. Another cause for decline is the unjust and anti-democratic methods used by unions: 1) violence to enforce internal discipline, 2) refusal to permit secret balloting in internal votes, 3) blocking non-union members from working in self-declared"union-only" jobs and 4) giving money to politicians the union members do not support. The Catholic Church should not align itself in any way with these unholy organizations. They should support only pro-life unions who focus on workers' rights and use only just and democratic methods in their procedures.


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