Uniting the five unions, which represent a variety of industries including construction, is the goal of expanding organizing efforts and growing market share. "Workers cannot win a better life unless more workers belong to unions," the coalition states. Each of the five member unions–laborers, teamsters, service employees, food and commercial workers, and hospitality and textile workers–separately submitted proposals for change to the labor federation’s leaders. As the federation’s convention and election in July nears, they are unhappy with the response from AFL-CIO leaders.

This latest effort, announced June 15, is more formal. The coalition has adopted bylaws and a constitution. It will be funded by member unions and officers will be elected. Other unions, whether AFL-CIO affiliated or not, are encouraged to join, a clear invitation to the carpenters’ union which pulled out of the labor federation in 2001. The carpenters have been given a July convention deadline to decide if they will reaffiliate or be booted from the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Dept.

Some of the dissident unions have vowed to depart the AFL-CIO if President John J. Sweeney is reelected. Sweeney, who won his first presidential bid in 1995, claims to have the votes to win. In response to the Change to Win coalition, Sweeney said he will work to "create a new spirit of solidarity" and treat differing views with "respect and an open mind."

The coalition claims "It’s not about organizing workers to increase membership and dues dollars. It’s about organizing workers for power on the job and in the community." It believes that the current AFL-CIO is not structured to build real power.

One union not expected to leave the AFL-CIO is the laborers. The federation’s constitution offers protection to unskilled laborers who work as "helpers" from raids by other unions. But laborers’ President Terence M. O’Sullivan is said to be considering pulling out of BCTD, largely based on how the carpenters’ issue is resolved, say labor sources. O’Sullivan may seek an alternative structure that includes the carpenters, possibly the National Heavy and Highway Alliance. Once part of BCTD, the alliance is now independent. The carpenters are members.

The Associated General Contractors and the Construction Users Round Table have already written BCTD President Edward C. Sullivan, concerned about possible work disruptions if carpenters are forced off union jobsites. Contractors are desperately trying to remain competitive while under increasing pressure from owners, AGC writes. "Further discord will only expedite extinction," claims AGC.

eaders of five large unions unhappy with AFL-CIO leadership have formed the Change to Win Coalition "to address the urgent need for a large-scale, coordinated effort to rebuild the American labor movement in the face of globalization."