The big business media has gotten the story on the AFL-CIO’s convention all wrong. Yes, four unions, SEIU, the Teamsters, Unite Here and the UFCW, decided to boycott the convention. Yes then SEIU and the Teamsters left the federation, with the other two unions likely to follow. And yes, this is a serious blow to labor unity and to the working class.
Our take is clear: the split is a serious mistake that may haunt labor for some time to come.
But what few in the corporate media seem to get is that already, in the face of this serious setback, the seeds of a stronger, more united labor movement are being sown. The press feeding frenzy about the split has totally drowned out important changes the AFL-CIO is making.
Labor faces the most ferocious economic and political attack in years. After months of serious debate, some historic innovations are being adopted by the AFL-CIO to meet these challenges. Bold proposals on diversity will train and bring many more women and people of color into leadership at all levels of the federation. New industry coordinating committees will unite unions in strategic organizing plans and goals. And the federation is taking vital steps to help and strengthen central labor councils and state federations.
The most startling change came last Tuesday. The AFL-CIO convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. Speaker after speaker denounced the lies of the Bush administration and the war profiteering of his corporate friends. Delegates condemned the terrible loss of life (American and Iraqi) and the waste of money. Not a single delegate spoke against the resolution.
These are signs labor is already shaking off the shock of the split and preparing to grow and rebuild labor unity. We salute these changes. There are no good unions and bad unions here. Unions are about workers and their families. We have every confidence that union members on all sides of the split will fight to rebuild unity and labor solidarity. The AFL-CIO convention bears out our conviction.