Resolution 2: Assisting All Workers to Organize

Submitted by the Committee on Growth, Innovation and Political Action and the Executive Council

THE MOST RECENT REPORT from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the percentage of workers in the private sector who have the benefit of union representation has fallen to 6.6%—a level not seen since before the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. And public employees’ half-century of progress toward equal rights to organize and engage in collective bargaining has stalled. The decades-long decline of union membership and collective bargaining has led directly to increasing levels of income and wealth inequality, has strained the labor movement’s resources and has hindered unions’ ability to achieve a greater measure of social and economic justice. Unions currently operate in an environment in which they have fewer members in most industries where collective bargaining exists and few members and little bargaining density in growing sectors of the economy.

At the same time, multinational corporations continue to control a greater share of global capital and increasingly set the wages and benefits of workers around the world. Within our own borders, well- financed employer opposition to workers seeking to form unions is brutal and unrelenting and is aided increasingly by politicians operating at the behest of corporations and the wealthy.

Against this backdrop, the labor movement’s efforts to assist workers must be commensurate with the obstacles they face. We have demonstrated that we can win for working families. Well-researched, well-executed strategic organizing campaigns built on the foundation of workers’ desire to act collectively to improve their conditions and supported by their communities have proven successful.

We must look forward together, research together, plan together, work together, combine our resources and organize together. We must focus our efforts within communities and industries. We must re-dedicate ourselves to our mission of assisting workers to form unions and engage in collective bargaining.

The AFL-CIO has an important role in promoting, fostering and supporting organizing efforts and should increasingly  focus on large-scale and, where appropriate, multiunion efforts. Specifically, the federation should convene affiliates to pursue collaborative strategic organizing initiatives directed at specific industries or sectors and geographic areas. The federation should convene and coordinate large-scale efforts at the request of affiliates that have made significant commitments on their own and, to maximize success and create economies of scale, seek additional union affiliate partners. The federation should promote multiunion, industry or geographically focused efforts where strategic analysis dictates the efficacy of such an approach. The federation should expand and deepen its strategic campaign research capability. And the federation should enhance focus on creative use of policy initiatives at all levels, but especially at the state and local levels, where such initiatives historically have proven successful to assist workers seeking to form unions without employer interference.

National union affiliates are hereby required to submit on a confidential basis organizing plans to the president of the federation beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, and on an annual basis thereafter each Jan. 1. These plans: (1) will include areas of focus, resource commitments, strategies and tactics and projected timeline; (2) will be used to prioritize strategic and material assistance; (3) will be used to identify potential interunion conflicts; and (4) will be used to identify opportunities for multiunion collaboration. The details of this requirement and attendant procedures—including incentives for compliance—will be specified by the president, in collaboration with the Organizing Committee, subject to the approval of the Executive Council.

To promote and foster successful large-scale, multiunion organizing efforts, the president of the federation is authorized to address potential interunion conflicts in advance of their escalation into public disputes. To the extent this authorization requires written policies, they will be developed by the president, in collaboration with the Organizing Committee, subject to the approval of the Executive Council.

The AFL-CIO’s Future of Worker Representation Initiative shall continue its investigation of data concerning the evolution of the character of work as well as occupational, sectoral, demographic and geographic projections, and shall issue a report setting forth the findings. The president, in consultation with the Organizing Committee, shall review the information and produce a set of recommendations for the Executive Council.

As part of their strategic plans, state federations and central labor councils, in conjunction with affiliates, will: (1) develop and implement a state legislative, local ordinance and policy agenda that supports workers’ ability to organize; (2) develop political campaign plans that support workers’ ability to organize; (3) hold elected officials accountable for their positions on workers’ ability to organize; (4) build and execute a political campaign structure to support workers’ ability to organize; and (5) improve communication about local and national organizing initiatives and increase support—as appropriate—for such initiatives.