Legal Alert: New Union Federation: "Lean, Mean Organizing Machine"

Date   Sep 30, 2005
Seven unions who recently withdrew from the AFL-CO have formed a new federation that plans to position itself as a "lean, mean organizing machine" according to Teamsters president James P. Hoffa.

Seven unions who recently withdrew from the AFL-CO have formed a new federation that plans to position itself as a "lean, mean organizing machine" according to Teamsters president James P. Hoffa. The unions forming the Change to Win Coalition have previously complained that the AFL-CIO has been unable to halt declining union membership and should shift its focus from backing political candidates to organizing new members. The federation consists of seven unions: the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, UNITE-HERE, the Carpenters and Joiners of America, the Laborers' International Union, the Service Employees International Union, the United Farm Workers, and the United Food and Commercial Workers, which together have approximately 5.4 million members compared to the AFL-CIO's approximately 9 million members.

More Money for Organizing:

Change to Win met on September 27, 2005, for its founding convention in St. Louis and adopted a constitution that devotes 75% of per capita taxes to organizing. Change to Win's budget will come from charging its international unions 25 cents per capita for each union member. While the group's resulting budget of $16 million will be significantly less than the AFL-CIO's approximately $100 million budget, Change to Win members that have disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO have pledged to devote all of their $23 million in savings from leaving that federation to organizing, according to Change to Win.

Additionally, the Change to Win constitution permits the affiliated unions to devote additional funding to specific organizing campaigns, on top of the 75% of per capita taxes already devoted to such purposes. Altogether, Change to Win estimated that the new federation and its member unions will spend nearly $750 million annually on organizing, including spending at the local, state, and national levels.

In light of the emphasis on organizing by Change to Win, the AFL-CIO has committed more money to organizing new members.

More Aggressive Tactics:

Change to Win will have a strategic organizing center and will have the best strategic organizers from each union working with other member unions to spread their expertise. The strategic organizing center will guide both multi-union and single-union organizing campaigns. Change to Win claims to have the best strategic organizers, which could be true, since this coalition group as a whole won 60% of all elections and filed one-half of all petitions in 2004.

The SEIU and UNITE-HERE, leaders of the new group, have in recent years used card check agreements in addition to federally supervised union elections as a method of seeking new union members. These two unions recently won neutrality agreements from three large multinational companies that together employ more than 1 million workers. However, in light of their success in federally supervised elections (the SEIU won 75% of the elections in which it participated in 2004) it is likely this group will continue to emphasize union elections as an organizing method as well as card check agreements.

Ford & Harrison's attorneys and consultants have extensive experience in dealing with all of the new coalition's union members. Our unique Employee Opinion Survey will, among other things, measure the union vulnerability of your organization. In addition, we can provide your management team with effective union avoidance training.

If you have any questions about the new coalition, our Employee Opinion Survey, or labor related questions in general, please contact the Ford & Harrison attorney with whom you usually work or Ford & Harrison's Management Consultant, Richard Reinhardt, (901) 291-1546.