The leaders of four labor unions, including one with ties to construction, said July 24 that they will not participate in the AFL-CIO convention that begins July 25 in Chicago.
The presidents of the teamsters, service employees, food and commercial workers and hotel and textile workers said their respective delegates will not attend the four-day meeting, which includes the election of top AFL-CIO officials. Some of those unions also are expected to withdraw from the labor federation in the next few days.
The unions, all members of the new Change to Win Coalition, have differing views with current AFL-CIO leadership over organizing strategies and grassroots political action. Two other unions that belong to the new coalition the laborers and the united farm workers said their delegates would attend the convention. A seventh coalition member, the carpenters union, withdrew from the AFL-CIO in 2001.
Also, the leaders of each of the six unions said they would not serve in any elected capacity in the AFL-CIO. All of those union presidents now serve on the AFL-CIO Executive Council and their reelection was expected.
"These leaders refused to accept the status quo and had the courage to unite behind a simple, burning goal: better lives for American workers," said Anna Burger, coalition chair.
Instead of attending the labor federation meetings, the union leaders said that they will meet with their organizing directors and begin implementing the Change to Win vision: industry-wide organizing, coordinated bargaining, and political action aligned with aggressive organizing campaigns.
When asked how the Change to Win coalition would be different from the AFL-CIO, laborers President Terence M. OSullivan said the coalition would have standards of accountability, members would have minimum financial requirements to spend on organizing and participation in political campaigns would be required.
OSullivan added that he expects his union to remain affiliated "at this point" with both the AFL-CIO and the Building and Construction Trades Dept. But the laborers will "keep all our options open," he added.
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, who is expected to be reelected during the convention, issued the following statement in response to the union boycott. "Not to attend the conventionespecially when the differences that remain between our proposals are so narrow is an insult to their union brothers and sisters, and to all working people.