United Food & Commercial Workers rejoins the AFL-CIO

This is a significant development, particularly in light of the UFCW’s major organizing work around Walmart and their interest in expanding retail worker organizing.  My personal hope is that the Walmart campaign will actually become THE campaign of the union movement and of all those committed to economic justice.

Here’s the statement:

For Immediate Release:  August 8, 2013
Contact: press@ufcw.org

(Chicago, Illinois) – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW)<http://www.ufcw.org/> affiliated with the AFL-CIO in a bold move toward a stronger, more unified labor movement.  UFCW President Joe Hansen, supported by a vote of the UFCW Executive Board, decided to add the 1.3 million private sector members to the AFL-CIO federation in order to build a stronger, more unified voice for the rights of workers.
UFCW International President Joe Hansen today released the following statement:
“We join the AFL-CIO because it is the right thing to do for UFCW members, giving them more power and influence. This is not about which building in Washington D.C. we call home — it is about fostering more opportunities for workers to have a true voice on the job. It is about joining forces to build a more united labor movement that can fight back against the corporate and political onslaught facing our members each and every day.
“Our affiliation with the Change to Win Federation (CTW) has been a rewarding one. The CTW’s Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) is leading some of the best campaigns to give workers rights and dignity. While no longer an affiliate of CTW, we continue our strong relationships with the Teamsters, SEIU and the Farmworkers.  We will remain active in the SOC and bring our AFL-CIO partners into collaboration with private-sector unions in an effort to build more power for workers.

“The need for unity became paramount after the 2010 elections.  The attacks on workers brought the UFCW into direct strategic partnership with the AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement.  Our shared campaign revealed a dynamic and revitalized AFL-CIO and made it clear that it was time for the UFCW to redouble our efforts to build a more robust and unified labor movement.
“I respect Rich Trumka’s bold leadership of the AFL-CIO and his strategic advocacy on key issues like the urgent need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, fix the Affordable Care Act so workers in multiemployer plans can keep the health care they currently have, and ensure the National Labor Relations Board protects workers’ rights. The UFCW is proud to affiliate with a transparent, strategic and innovative AFL-CIO – an AFL-CIO committed to bringing a union voice on the job to millions of workers from coast to coast.”
Today’s announcement comes as the UFCW Executive Board meets in preparation for its 7th Regular Convention<http://www.ufcwconvention.org/> which calls to order Monday, August 12 in Chicago, Illinois.
UFCW delegates representing local unions in the U.S. and Canada will chart a course for the next five years and beyond that aims to raise standards and build power for workers in the grocery, retail and food manufacturing industries. Inspired by the theme, “Blue. Gold. Bold. Powerful Together,” UFCW delegates will deliberate on taking steps to strengthen the UFCW’s strong base of member activists who are the backbone of creative organizing campaigns, engaged bargaining programs and political activism.

4 thoughts on “United Food & Commercial Workers rejoins the AFL-CIO

  1. UFCW rejoining is a positive development toward solidarity and unity. Yes it would be great to make Walmart a priority of the labor movement and make it a call for justice. Local unions could adopt stores, do days of action, and adopt employees.. every community has a Walmart and imagine if there were a united labor response to Walmart expansion. It would requires a coordinated effort, centralized leadership, and resources, and a belief that union solidarity and eventual victory would be greater than individual local union autonomy. It would require strong leadership to do that and a great strategic analysis of which specific Walmarts and which communities had the right alignment of local leaders, church, community and political allies etc. That requires a tall order these days but something required to win against Walmart.

    • I agree, Enid. I am hoping that some of those issues were raised during the talks that resulted in the UFCW returning to the AFL-CIO. But i also think that there needs to be outside pressure on the union movement’s leaders to recognize that something REALLY different needs to be done in order to take on Walmart and win.

  2. What’s entirely missing from the discussion about how to revive the labor movement is any discussion of the relationship of existing members to the official union structures. In fact, it’s fair to say that this question is taboo. The existing membership is labor’s most important resource and they are almost totally alienated from the unions. I am all for working more closely with the environmental movement but the AFL-CIO does not need need the Sierra Club as an affiliate — the AFL needs it’s own members to affiliate! Let’s face it, there is not enough dues money in the entire AFL-CIO to defeat Walmart with a staff-driven campaign, no matter how well-intentioned or creatively organized.

    I realize there’s no silver bullet, that appealing to a revival of rank and file organization/militancy is not an overnight solution, and that other steps will need to be taken as well, but I just don’t see how we can turn this around without an energized rank and file. As we assess the prospects for the Walmart/Fightfor15 and similar campaigns we need to ask ourselves some questions:

    1. How many dues-paying, unionized workers make less than $15/hour and/or cannot count on regular full-time hours?

    2. Isn’t it time to bring the Fight for 15 into unionized workplaces, and into the unions?

    3. Couldn’t such an effort be an effective mechanism to build a militant rank and file movement to transform transform the unions into fighting organizations, beat Walmart and create new centers of working class political power?

    Since national-level union officials cannot/will not — for fairly obvious reasons — take the lead on doing this, who will? If, as you suggest, the Walmart campaign has the potential to transform the whole situation, isn’t this exactly what radical/left labor folks ought to be doing? I am not suggesting a sectarian go-it-alone campaign that focuses on the failings of the bureaucracy. But I am suggesting a determined effort which refuses to be deterred by the discomfort it will cause to union officialdom.

    These are not rhetorical questions — I would really like to hear your thoughts and, especially, critical commentary from whoever is reading.

    In solidarity.

    • These are great questions and comments.

      So, first, i agree in terms of the essential and valuable nature of the membership. One of my concerns about campaigns, such as the Fight for a Fair Economy which SEIU is conducting, is that it is ignoring the membership base of SEIU itself. While i think that the sort of work undertaken must be taken up, that really needs to be the sort of work that central labor councils and Jobs with Justice are encouraged to advance.

      With regard to Walmart, i believe that UFCW is doing what needs to be done right now, HOWEVER, i think that much more needs to be done and that is precisely why i would tend to agree with you. I think that the labor Left should find ways to concentrate on efforts around Walmart. We need to engage central labor councils. We need to help in the building of the OURWalmart efforts around the country. And we need to build a defense effort for Walmart workers who face discipline for exercising their right to concerted activity. So, i do not take anything that you suggested as sectarian. I think that there is a very definite role for the Left here.

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