AFL-CIO support staffers walk informational picket line
AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington D.C. | Matt Popovich/Wikipedia (CC)

WASHINGTON—Faced with a management decision to impose its “last, best and final offer” on them, AFL-CIO support staffers – janitors, cafeteria workers, accountants, secretaries among them – walked an informational picket line in front of federation headquarters during their lunch hour on Oct. 10.

And they planned repeat performances the next two days.

At issue was the contract the Fed imposed on the 50 workers, represented by Office and Professional Employees Local 2. Previously, the workers unanimously approved a strike authorization against the Federation, sending their request to union headquarters in New York, which must OK it. They also unanimously voted the Federation’s contract down.

The AFL-CIO’s action is possibly a response to the financial blow resulting from the Supreme Court’s recent Janus decision. The decision will impact the main source of the Federation’s funding — union members’ dues. The management-imposed contract adds a new clause that says: “Management reserves the right to establish workforce numbers, hours and days of operation, with proportional pay to assure that the Federation’s operations are stable and financially viable.”

Under the previous contract, no worker with more than 10 years’ service could be laid off. This provision covers 73 percent of the workforce. The new contract eliminates the protection against layoffs.

The “last, best and final offer” implemented by management Oct. 8 would run from March 31, 2018, retroactively, to March 31, 2023, includes givebacks such as lengthening the regular workweek from 32.5 hours to 35 hours, less sick leave, and doubling probation for new hires to six months. It includes three flat $1,250 yearly bonuses, not percentage raises.

Local 2’s webpage posted the fed’s “last, best and final offer,” with the deletions – including givebacks – indicated.

“AFL-CIO management chose to discontinue negotiating and rejected the idea of going to mediation. We will continue to fight against AFL-CIO management’s anti-union contract.”

“We believe the contract is dangerously hypocritical of the AFL-CIO, which is supposed to be a leader of unions. In fact, if a company tried to force a contract like this, we believe the AFL-CIO would deplore the company as anti-union,” Local 2 said on its website.

OPEIU’s informational picketing would also embarrass the Federation, which puts workers’ rights to bargain and to achieve good contracts at the top of its public agenda. Spokesman Josh Goldstein replied the Fed’s election work would continue, with less than a month to go before the Nov. 6 balloting.

The informational picketing does not mean the OPEIU members will strike. But if they do, the largest union at the Fed, the Washington-Baltimore News Guild/CWA, which represents its 100-plus professional staffers, says it would honor the picket line.

News Guild AFL-CIO member Dan Gabor started an online petition to get the federation to come back to the bargaining table.  “This contract does not respect the hard work of our OPEIU brothers and sisters. These are the kinds of proposals we expect to see from anti-union businesses, not from the management of the AFL-CIO,” Gabor said.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.