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SEIU Executive Board Authorizes Disaffiliation from the AFL-CIO; Follows Resolutions By Local Unions

Source: Unite To Win

Faced with "a fundamental and apparently irreconcilable disagreement" within the labor movement about how to rebuild workers' strength, the SEIU International Executive Board has formally authorized the union's top leadership to disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO if necessary. (Read the full statement by the SEIU Board.)

The Board acted after receiving resolutions from local unions authorizing disaffiliation. The elected rank-and-file executive boards of local unions representing 70 percent of the SEIU membership have already adopted such resolutions, and more have scheduled meetings to consider the issue.

The Board set the following policy of cooperation and partnerships if the union does disaffiliate:
1) "We will seek agreements with other unions to cooperate on strategies to help workers form unions in their core industries or occupations and negotiate better living standards - regardless of whether the cooperating unions are in or out of the AFL-CIO.

2) "We will offer to coordinate with the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions on political issues important to working families, as we do with the NEA, America Votes, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, Mi Familia Vota, and many other organizations, and we would be prepared to contribute financially to the AFL-CIO political program.

3) "We will work to build powerful and inclusive social movements in our communities through continued participation with Central Labor Councils (CLCs) and State Federations.

4) "We will seek agreements with other unions not to fight over the few workers who are already organized or make deals with employers to lower pay and benefit standards. Our focus will be on helping more workers in our core industries to join unions, and not on dividing workers' strength or wasting workers' precious resources by trying to persuade current union members to change unions."

The SEIU Board - which includes 50 local union leaders whose locals include more than 80 percent of the union's membership - said the union's decisions will continue to be based on three principles:

"The union movement must focus on uniting with us the 9 out of 10 workers who have no union. Without doing so, we not only cannot build a broad movement for social and economic justice but we can't even win consistently at the bargaining table or in the legislative arena for the small minority of workers who still have a union.

"Uniting more workers with us requires lead unions in each industry or occupation that have the focus, strategy, and resources to win. We cannot help workers make major advances in each industry as long as the AFL-CIO structure and rules condone and reward union strategies that divide workers' strength in each industry -- 15 separate organizations in the transportation industry, 15 in construction, 13 in public employment, 9 in manufacturing, and so on -- while allowing even more unions to start organizing in those sectors and make a bad situation even worse.

"We must empower those hit hardest in today's economy, including low-wage women and people of color. That requires two changes. First, we must make it our top priority to help millions in today's diverse workforce to join unions. Second, we must adopt standards and timetables to ensure that our organizations reflect that diversity at every level of leadership and member participation.

While unions that represent a total of 5 million workers have made a proposal for change based on those commitments (see ChangetoWin.org ), the AFL-CIO officers have made their own proposal which does not implement those principles.

"We respect those who disagree with us, and hope to continue to work with them on political and community issues we share," the SEIU Board said. "But there comes a point where if we can't reach agreement on basic principles, we should each move on and devote our time and resources to a strategy we believe will help working people win."


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