MIAMI — “Now is the time to bring the union movement back together,” the AFL-CIO declared in a March 4 statement authorizing discussions aimed at re-uniting its unions with those of the rival Change to Win federation. The Council voted to authorize discussions about re-unification that have already begun.

The Change to Win federation was formed in 2005 when seven unions affiliated with the then 63 member AFL-CIO pulled out over issues related to structure, governance, finance and programs. Some of those that disaffiliated felt there was not enough emphasis on organizing. Since the split, member unions of both federations have actually worked together on a major organizing initiative, the Employee Free Choice Act, and on the 2008 elections.

The call for unity issued here said, “Now, four years later, the labor movement is poised to make significant strides in turning around decades of decline. The election of President Barack Obama, brought about by the efforts of all of organized labor, and the probable passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, as well as other important changes in our political and economic environment, provide us with unprecedented opportunity. And the economic crisis facing American workers provides us with clear authorization to act.”

In recent weeks a number of AFL-CIO union leaders, and a number of Change to Win union leaders, along with the leaders of both federations, have been in discussions about reunification. The National Education Association, an independent union, has also participated in the meetings.

Although no agreements have been reached, union leaders are saying that they are trying to figure out the best program for labor, given the new political circumstances, and how to make any new federation that emerges from the unity talks more effective in action. The AFL-CIO statement said the federation “endorses these unity discussions, and authorizes the president of the federation, along with members of the executive committee, to continue to be engaged in these discussions.”

Under the terms of the unity resolution, the president of the federation is required to report to the executive committee on a regular basis. All tentative agreements are subject to the approval of the executive officers, the executive committee and then the full council.

“The unity of the labor movement is among the most important issues facing unions today,” the resolution said, adding, “We urge all those involved in these discussions to take this responsibility seriously, and to use their best efforts to find a path to reconciliation that strengthens the AFL-CIO and united the labor movement.”

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