United Food and Commercial Workers to rejoin AFL-CIO

CHICAGO – After pulling out of the nation’s largest labor federation in 2005, the 1.3 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers union will rejoin the AFL-CIO at the union’s annual convention here this August, according to In These Times.

The report on the pending reunification is sourced to “high level” individuals in the AFL-CIO who said UFCW leaders have pledged to return to the federation and will schedule a vote on the matter at their upcoming convention here. With leaders fully behind the plan, the membership is expected to ratify.

“The final details still have to be worked out,” an AFL-CIO source told the Peoples World. “There are still some matters to be worked out but they should be hashed out soon.”

AFL-CIO and UFCW officials contacted by the Peoples World would not make additional comments on the negotiations.

The UFCW, in 2005, along with several other unions, left the AFL-CIO. The other unions were the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the Laborers Union, Unite Here and the United Farm Workers of America. Together they formed a new federation, Change to Win,

At the time the Change to Win unions said the AFL-CIO was focusing too much on politics and not enough on growing the labor movement. Since that time, however, there has been growing unity of action by unions in the two federations. Change to Win unions played an increasingly large role in political action while AFL-CIO unions stepped up their organizing activities to include groups like car wash workers and domestic workers, not traditionally part of the official labor movement.

Reunification is seen as a victory for AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who has been pushing for increased labor unity since his election to the presidency of the federation in 2009.

The UFCW decision is seen as a serious blow to Change to Win. The union’s president, Joseph Hansen, is also the president of Change-to-Win and with this decision he takes not just himself but a large union membership and substantial dues money out of Change to Win.

The departure of the UFCW follows numerous other departures from the new federation.

In 2009 there was a serious internal battle in Unite Here with a third of its members moving over to SEIU. The remaining union, with more than a quarter of a million members, returned to the AFL-CIO.

In the same year the Carpenters left Change to Win to become independent and the half-million member Laborers Union left to rejoin the AFL-CIO.

With the UFCW rejoining the AFL-CIO, Change to Win is left with SEIU, the Teamsters and the Farm workers.

Cooperation between the UFCW and the AFL-CIO has been growing for several years, fueling talks that reunification was only a matter of time.

On the local level, in cities like Chicago, for example, UFCW and AFL-CIO unions have been part of the same labor federation for years.

AFL-CIO unions have given major support to UFCW campaigns, especially its campaigns against Walmart, the retail giant.

The UFCW made a major push for the election and reelection of President Obama and carefully coordinated both those efforts and other election campaigns over the years with the campaigns of the AFL-CIO.

In March when president Obama praised Walmart after it launched a propaganda campaign about hiring veterans Trumka and Hansen issued a strong joint statement condemning the idea that a Walmart job was the best America could offer to its returning heroes.

Photo: Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. Flickr (CC)


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. John Wojcik es editor en jefe de 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.