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AFL-CIO Calls for a Broad and Inclusive Labor Movement and Assisting All Workers to Organize

Today, in a culmination of months of listening sessions and reflection, the AFL-CIO announced that any U.S. worker can join the labor movement and that the labor federation will develop several new pathways for workers to join the labor movement, either through affiliate unions, AFL-CIO's community affiliate Working America, worker centers or as students. In addition to opening the labor movement to all and the commitment to building enduring community labor partnerships, the AFL-CIO passed two other important resolutions in the Monday morning session at its quadrennial convention in Los Angeles. 

A Broad, Inclusive and Effective Labor Movement

To start growing the labor movement again, delegates at the AFL-CIO Convention passed a resolution calling for a more broad and inclusive labor movement that is not confined within bargaining units that are not defined by workers themselves and limited by unscrupulous employers. The AFL-CIO is going to expand existing forms of participation in the labor movement and create new forms of membership that are available to any workers not already covered by a collective bargaining agreement or who are not members of unions or represented by unions.

The AFL-CIO is inviting workers to join the labor movement by joining one of the federation's affiliates or through Working America. AFL-CIO will work together with the affiliates and Working America to develop new forms of workplace representation and advocacy that help members outside of collective bargaining units, seek to extend non-collectively bargained benefits to those members, educate and train new members and mobilize new members in electoral and political efforts.

The second major avenue for expanding the labor movement is for the AFL-CIO to expand its associations with worker centers, particularly in ways that don't undermine other unions and collective bargaining agreements. The federation also will work to find opportunities for worker center members to become union members.

Finally, in recognizing that students are not only the future of much of the workforce, they also have vital interests in making sure that workplaces are fair and just, the AFL-CIO is going to authorize Working America to create a student membership, expand their work with campus-based student organizations, advocate for issues of importance to students and work to make sure that student workers have the ability to exercise their right to organize and collectively bargaining.

See the full text of the resolution.

Enacting Labor Laws That Address the Needs of All Workers in the United States

The AFL-CIO also called for a major legislative campaign to reform federal and state labor laws to expand collective bargaining rights for all workers and make it easier for employees to exercise their voice in the workplace. In a convention resolution, the federation said the nation’s core labor law, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), has been so undermined by corporate interests and its legislative allies, the country needs new laws to meet the original’s promise.

According to the resolution, such legislation should include reforms that all workers have the right to organize and engage in collective bargaining, in particular it needs to cover employees who lack significant supervisory authority, workers falsely classified as independent contractors, government workers, all agricultural workers and public safety personnel. The legislation also should reform the process through which workers can exercise their right to "representatives of their own choosing," making it easier for employees to exercise their rights. Other specifics the resolution says should be included in the legislation are:

  • Ensuring that all workers and all employers know their rights and obligations by requiring that all covered employers physically or electronically post a balanced notice describing employees’ rights.
  • Guaranteeing that all workers who choose to be represented enjoy the fruits of that representation in the form of a first contract by providing for supervised bargaining, mediated bargaining and, as a last resort for any remaining issues not otherwise resolved, binding interest arbitration.
  • Ensuring that the entity that holds the real authority over workers’ terms and conditions of employment, even if it is not the workers’ direct employer, comes to the table in bargaining.
  • Ensuring that the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal Labor Relations Authority and all other bodies essential to the enforcement of our nation’s labor laws maintain a quorum and are fully able to enforce the law at all times.
  • Eliminating the one-way exception to the sweep of federal labor law pre-emption that permits states to adopt so called “right to work” laws that undermine the principle of majority rule, but bars states from creating additional paths to recognition based on majority support similar to those adopted by several states for public-sector employees.
  • Creating stronger and timelier remedies for unfair labor practices.

From the body of the resolution:

The AFL-CIO and affiliated unions together with a broad coalition of progressive allies must embark on a multiyear political and legislative campaign to obtain fundamental changes in our nation’s labor laws. The campaign should be founded on the principle that vibrant organizations of working people and electoral and governance reforms are both critical components of economic prosperity and a democratic revival in the United States, and that the former cannot be realized without the latter.

Such changes are needed because the original NLRA excluded certain classes of workers, and a concerted effort from corporations with the help of "union-avoidance" consultants has exploited loopholes in the law.

See the full text of the resolution.

Assisting All Workers to Organize

Finally, the AFL-CIO announced expanded efforts to assist affiliate unions, state federations and central labor councils in developing strategic plans to increase membership and strengthen the ability of workers to organize. The resolution calls for an increased focus on large-scale and multiunion efforts, with a focus on specific industries and geographic areas. The AFL-CIO plans to engage in strategic analysis of the best approaches to meeting these goals, with a focus on improving strategic campaign research capability and the creative use of policy initiatives at all levels.

National union affiliates will be required to submit organizing plans annually that: (1) include areas of focus, resource commitments, strategies and tactics and projected time line; (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 AFL-CIO’s Future of Worker Representation Initiative will continue the evolution of the character of work, as well as occupational, sectoral, demographic and geographic projections, and shall issue a report including its findings. Finally, state federations and central labor councils 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.

See the full text of the resolution.

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