The Fruits of Labor’s Split – v.2

By August 15, 2005Labor Unions

If John Sweeney isn’t already proud of the fury he’s unleashed between the SEIU and AFSCME in California (see below), then he can look right here in his home city for more evidence of the turmoil his ineptness has wrought.

On the same topic of labor’s split and what it all means, we certainly see this SEIU-AFSCME fight as a precursor of things to come, as unions lose their Article XX protection. However, even more divisive effects are being felt in Washington DC.

There was a story in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call by Tory Newmyer a week or so ago entitled, “Labor Lobbyists Divide Forces“. It was right there on the front page, top of the fold, but its impact was probably missed by most who read it.

It reports that the unions who make up the Change to Win Coalition, the folks who split from the AFL-CIO, representing some 4 million workers, have been informed by the AFL-CIO that they “are no longer welcome at federation meetings to plot lobbying strategy.” Bill Samuel, the AFL’s top lobbyist and an otherwise sharp guy, is quoted as saying, “The break is clean. It has to be that way according to our Constitution and” — get this — “our democratic principles.”

Democratic principles? Looks like they’ve given up on building any kind of majority at all. It seems incredible to us, who are always in the business of building coalitions, that any group could afford to split itself in two on legislative strategy. We reached a common peace with the Teamsters, for example, on opening up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuse to drilling. We will find common ground with anyone who sees one of our issues the same way. That’s how things get done. it’s called arithmetic. Add and add until you get to a majority.

And so it struck us as fairly extraordinary that in these times when labor is lamenting its decline in membership and clout that they would affirmatively take the step of intentionally splitting itself in two. Wouldn’t a good and strong leader keep the tent large and open to continue to press for issues of mutual interest? Who knows — over time, maybe cooler heads prevail and everybody comes back together again.

“If they want to restrict access to us”, Mike Mathis of the Teamsters — one of the ones disinvited from the AFL meetings — is quoted as saying, “It seems to me the loss is theirs.”

We’d have to agree with Mike Mathis on this one. The victory of spite over politics.