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July 25, 2005

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The wingnuts have their own fascinating analysis of the AFL-CIO situation.

Check it out. You'll learn something.

Just found an article about the split, written by a long time labor activist (and a friend I'd lost track of) that takes the discussion places I hadn't thought of.

Among other provocative insights, she points out the the unions remaining in the AFL-CIO that have active memberships and some organizing success are those with large African American constituencies, while the CtW seccesionists have large bases among Latino workers. This is about more than politics v organizing, Sweeney v. Stern, or even industial v. service economy. Labor is living out its version of all the contradictions in the progressive coalition.

That's really interesting stuff. My view on this is, as some pointed out, rather panglossian, but SEIU and Teamsters must be less confident than I thought if they're already walking it back a bit.

Essentially, what IBT and SEIU are saying is that solidarity is a matter of convenience and it is for them to pick and chose where to support the structure of labor that the other unions are invested in. This is a particular issue for SEIU, which has a leading role in a number of Central Labor Councils. The Teamsters were already notorious free riders at the CLC level.

AFL's response is that if you aren't part of the federation, then, you're really not part of the federation. It is a destructive response. But it can't be separated from the disaffiliation of the SEIU. They are the union that left. There are consequences. Their inability to accept all the consequences of that action strikes me as the most immature part of their play. If you bang your shoe on the table, and then pull out when you don't get your way, you have to expect that you won't be able to keep a toe in on your terms.


The subtext here is that while some CLCs are potemkin organizations, others are vibrant and serious. There are some locals that are closer to their CLC than to their international union. On both sides of the divide.

How the CLCs stand up will matter if there is war. And if there is war, everyone will be forced to take sides. War is defined as major raiding. I'd like to think that the leaders of the union movement are too smart for that. But I wanted to think they were too smart to put themselves in this mess in the first place.

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