Washington (PAI) – A source close to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has confirmed a story in the magazine In These Times that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union plans to rejoin the AFL-CIO this year.
The announcement was supposed to occur at UFCW’s convention in Chicago in mid-August, and be ratified at the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles in September, but the magazine broke the story on July 10. UFCW delegates must ratify reunification.
UFCW, with more than 1 million members, is a key component of Change To Win, the coalition of unions that broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005. UFCW President Joe Hansen now chairs Change To Win, but has stayed on good terms with the AFL-CIO, as have UFCW unions at the local and state levels.
UFCW has also cooperated with the larger labor federation in national politics and in mass rallies for labor causes. On the same day the reunification story broke, Trumka and Hansen issued a blistering joint statement against a voluntary weak building enforcement code in Bangladesh, where a clothing factory collapse had killed 1,129 workers. The workers made clothing for one signer, Wal-Mart, among others.
And AFL-CIO unions enthusiastically pitch in to help UFCW and the independent Wal-Mart workers group, OurWalmart, in the latter’s campaign from the inside to get the vicious, venal, monster anti-worker retailer to respect its workers and obey labor law.
Wal-Mart’s rampant labor law-breaking has hamstrung UFCW’s organizing drives there.
Besides UFCW, Change To Win also includes the Service Employees, the Teamsters and the United Farm Workers. The three other founding unions of the smaller federation, the Laborers, Unite Here and the Carpenters, have left. The Carpenters are independent and the other two are back in the AFL-CIO, although one-third of Unite Here’s members seceded, formed Workers United, and joined SEIU.
The Change To Win unions left the AFL-CIO in 2005 because, they said, they differed with the federation’s emphasis on political activism and lobbying as opposed to organizing. But over the years, the two federations drifted closer together, as member unions in both realized politics could open the way for organizing – and that organizing more members increased political clout. And cooperation had always continued, with a few exceptions, on the state and local level.
UFCW communications officials were tied up in meetings and unable to confirm or deny the reports, but the union that represents the UFCW and Change To Win staffs also confirmed UFCW’s plans.
(The People’s World contributed material for this story. In These Times first broke the story.)