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AFL-CIO Now

Political Action Must Maximize Workers’ Right to Organize, Bargain

Carwash worker in Los Angeles

The years-long assault on workers’ and voting rights at state and national levels by corporate special interests and their political allies means, says a resolution on political action approved this afternoon by delegates to the AFL-CIO 2013 Convention:

It is crucial that our political action maximize the potential for workers to organize and bargain collectively.

The resolution cites actions by “corporate-backed state governments” that resulted in the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin, new “right to work” for less laws that reduce workers' bargaining power in Michigan and Indiana and the rollback of voting rights and erection of new barriers to voting in two dozen states. It also outlines how undemocratic rules in the U.S Senate block votes and even debate on working family issues.

Now more than ever, says the resolution:

It is crucial for workers to hold Democratic and Republican politicians accountable when they back the corporate agenda.

The resolution outlines several specific reforms to democracy that the AFL-CIO will mobilize around, including:

  • Support of the Democracy Initiative to reform Senate rules, get big money out of politics through campaign finance reform;
  • Strengthening voting rights through universal voter registration, enacting state legislation to expand registration, including Election Day registration, early voting and other reforms;
  • Opposing voter suppression efforts, including strict voter ID laws, proof of citizenship requirements and restrictions in early voting; and
  • Supporting legislation to overturn the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (Shelby County v. Holder) that gutted the Voting Rights Act.       

The resolution also calls on state federations, central labor councils and affiliates to query candidates on their support of these and other voting rights protections and commits the AFL-CIO to increase its support of state and local races.

In addition, the resolution calls on the AFL-CIO and workers to hold political parties accountable.       

We must promote pro-worker candidates in primaries to hold Democrats and Republicans accountable for their votes and to elect more progressive officials, which includes training, developing and assisting pro-worker candidates, especially union members.

It also calls for a greater commitment by affiliates to the Workers’ Voice initiative, which will build the labor movement's independent capacity and the ability to hold officials accountable once they are elected.

Finally, we must demonstrate that we are not a one-party organization and will support Independent and Republican legislators if they consistently stand with workers against the corporate agenda, and we will work to defeat Democrats who betray workers.

The resolution also calls on the labor movement to:  

More directly and consistently link politics to workers’ ability to organize and bargain collectively through greater alignment of political and organizing campaigns at the national, state and local levels.

Read the full Exercising Our Civic Rights to Rebuild Our Democracy, Expand Workers' Rights and Strengthen Workers' Organizations convention resolution.

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