AFL-CIO’s Trumka Looks to Remake U.S. Labor Movement
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Wednesday he is crafting a new plan to remake the American labor movement, which is struggling to retain clout in Washington and state capitals amid a steep decline in membership.
In an interview taped for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, Trumka said he was seeking a more formal alliance with other key elements of the Democratic Party’s liberal base, including civil rights organizations and women’s rights groups. The hope, he said, is to then broaden union membership beyond the traditional realm of workplace-based organizing.
“The labor movement is definitely in a period of change,” Trumka said. “We’re no longer going to allow employers to decide who our members are. We’re going to decide who our members are. We’re going to open up our arms to people who want to join our movement.”
Trumka’s initiative is a response to what has been a difficult time for labor unions. State lawmakers across the country have moved to scale back organizing rights for public employees and others. A shrinking base of manufacturing jobs that once formed the backbone of organized labor has further depleted the pool of potential members. And despite high hopes four years ago that President Obama and the Democrats would pass legislation making it easier for workers to organize and perhaps laying the groundwork for rebuilding union power, the measure never made it to fruition. Moreover, thorny issues such as immigration have exacerbated tensions among some unions in the labor federation and between the AFL-CIO and other union groups.
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