At its annual convention Sept. 16 in Pittsburgh, the AFL-CIO has passed a resolution that urges the carpenters' union to re-affiliate with the organized labor umbrella organization and also sets in motion a process to allow member building trades unions to compete with it in recruiting unaffiliated workers.
The carpenters' left the AFL-CIO fold in 2005.
Resolution 70, passed unanimously, urges the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, with more than 500,000 members, to end its "go it alone policy," which the document termed "inconsistent with the principles of solidarity" and a "detriment" to union construction. The resolution also urges the carpenters’ union to realign with both the AFL-CIO and the Building and Construction Trades Dept. (BCTD), which represents 13 construction craft unions.
The carpenters’ union left both organizations over differences in philosophy and leadership, and later joined the maverick Change-to-Win union movement. However, the carpenters' union recently left that organization, according to published reports. The moves by the international carpenters’ union are not necessarily being copied at the local level.
The carpenters' union did not respond to requests for comment on the resolution or its intention to rejoin the AFL-CIO or the BCTD.
The resolution, which combined two separate resolutions proposed by the painters' and sheetmetal workers' unions, also authorizes BCTD to set up a "carpenters' organizing committee" to recruit craft members who are not already members of the carpenters' union. This had not been done before, according to James Williams, painters’ union president. “We had been respecting the carpenters’ jurisdiction,” he says. Williams says BCTD member unions would be able to petition union general presidents to organize carpenters in certain geographic areas.
The Laborers' union, which is affiliated with the BCTD but not the AFL-CIO, also declines comment on the resolution and on re-affiliation. “We have no immediate plans to leave Change to Win or rejoin the AFL-CIO,” says a union spokesman. But he says, “we do believe a united labor movement is the best way to fight for working people and discussions towards that end are ongoing.” One organized labor source says the union may look to re-affiliate, now that Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer and former United Mine Workers president, has won election to succeed the retiring John Sweeney as the umbrella group’s president.
The AFL-CIO also elected 39-year-old Liz Shuler to succeed Trumka. She is the former executive assistant to Edwin Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the AFL-CIO’s youngest-ever executive officer.