We’ve not written much about the AFL-CIO since they fabulously — and very publicly — splintered a few months back, but now comes an AP story reporting on the AFL-CIO’s plans for a series of rallies worldwide this week to call attention to we’re not really sure what. But what the hey — it’s a good week for a rally. AFL President John Sweeney says workers have lost the right to organize (they haven’t) and says, according to Will Lester’s piece, “he expects the week will draw attention to the importance of unions and help educate the public about the difficulty some workers face getting a fair deal at work and trying to organize unions.” Whatever.
A labor apologist/professor is quoted as saying that the labor skates are in a “deep crisis” in terms of organizing (he’s right), and goes on to opine that “It’s a vicious cycle. As membership declines, there is less revenue and less to spend on organizing new workers.”
Well, let’s review the bidding here: The AFL-CIO has spent — wasted, really — hundreds of millions on politics in recent years. They spent untold sums battling one another recently in the run-up to their split. To defeat Prop 75 in California alone — which would have required unions to stoop so low as to get their members’ permission before they flushed their money down the rathole — they spent in excess of a hundred million dollars.
A hundred million dollars.
So forgive us if we don’t have much sympathy for the AFL and its declining numbers. The AP story of course has the obligatory mention — blame, in labor’s eyes — of President Reagan and his firing of the air traffic controllers almost a quarter century ago. The fact that the AFL-CIO was in decline before then and continued in decline for the 8 years of the union-friendly Clinton Administration matters little.
At the end of the day, as we’ve said in this space many, many times is that it’s not money, it’s not President Reagan, it’s not the statute (the same statute under which they once saw fabulous success). Unfortunately, for the AFL-CIO, when it comes to declining numbers, the problem is 30 years of misplaced priorities, 30 years of focusing on politics instead of organizing.
Unfortunately for John Sweeney and his minions, it’ll take more than a rally to fix it.
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