An Assessment of the AFL-CIO’s Dissidents’ New Federation One Year After the Split

Nearly a year ago, 6 major unions left the AFL-CIO and, with a seventh that’d left years ago, formed Change to Win, in order to pursue new strategies for organizing labor. In The American Prospect, a look at the new federation’s first year.

The organization’s own Web site tells the tale. It references six Change to Win campaigns: the Hotel Workers Rising campaign of UNITE HERE, an effort the union has been planning for five years to organize the entire Hilton chain; Uniform Justice, a three-year-old, largely stymied joint effort of the Teamsters and UNITE HERE to unionize the Cintas laundry company; Justice at Smithfield, a nearly 12-year-long campaign by the UFCW to unionize the world’s largest hog slaughterhouse; a joint effort of SEIU and the Teamsters to organize bus drivers who are employees of a British conglomerate; the Teamsters port campaign; and a public awareness campaign directed at Wal-Mart.

Every one of these campaigns antedates Change to Win. Every one of them would be proceeding whether or not Change to Win had come into existence. In one way or another, the Change to Win unions are helping these campaigns out, but to date, that help consists chiefly of having smart people design a blueprint.

What the smart people haven’t done is figure out how to initiate the kind of large-scale endeavor Woodruff spoke of, that would justify the establishment of a whole new federation and the sundering of the old one. In the months leading up to Change to Win’s formation, leaders of SEIU, UNITE HERE and the Teamsters spoke of Change to Win undertaking massive campaigns of its own. Teamster President Jim Hoffa pledged his union to back such action on the day he announced it was leaving the AFL-CIO. But no such campaigns have been launched, because two fundamental impediments stand in their way.