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July 24, 2005
Key Democratic Pillar Crumbles

One of the key political pillars of the Democratic Party has crumbled. Labor has split, perhaps permanently, over the role of politics in the union movement, and the largest unions have voted to leave the AFL-CIO:

The four unions, representing nearly one-third of the AFL-CIO's 13 million members, announced Sunday they would boycott the federation's convention that begins Monday. They are part of the Coalition to Win, a group of seven unions vowing to reform the labor movement outside the AFL-CIO if necessary.

The Service Employees International Union, with 1.8 million members, plans to announce Monday that it is leaving the AFL-CIO, said several labor officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the developments.

The Teamsters union also was on the verge of disaffiliating, and would likely to be the first to follow SEIU's lead, the officials said. Two other boycotting unions were likely to leave the federation: United Food and Commercial Workers and UNITE HERE, a group of textile and hotel workers.

The Teamsters have a long history of low-level dissent within the AFL-CIO and their loss will definitely hurt, but the SEIU will cause the most pain. The SEIU serves government agencies and has solid political connections. However, what they want is less politicking and more organizing in order to stem the steep decline in the labor movement over the past several decades. They will pull their considerable dues away from the highly political AFL-CIO and return the funding to their own control.

What does that mean? To some extent, it means more of the same. The SEIU will still have policy interests that intersect with the Democratic Party, and they will still contribute to politicians who represent those interests. However, the SEIU and Teamsters, and other, have made clear that they cannot hope to affect national politics while their memberships wither away. In that, they certainly can't be faulted; unless they can organize much larger groups of workers, both dues and influence will continue to decline. The AFL-CIO has made a mistake in not taking that advice.

That redirection of efforts means that less money will come to the Democrats. More importantly, it presents an opportunity for new national leadership to come to the fore for the labor movement. That leadership will not have the long-standing relationship to the Democrats that have sold labor and the unions to the Democrats for two generations. The Republicans have an opportunity to at least neutralize the Democratic hold on labor, if not swing a significant portion of it to the GOP.

Together with the new Republican inroads in the African-American community, this new refocusing of labor on organization and the split in the national movement means that the Democrats face the very real possibility that they will spend a generation in the minority.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 24, 2005 8:50 PM

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» Largest Unions boycott AFL-CIO convention from Mark in Mexico
Four of the largest members of the AFL-CIO will boycott its convention which begins Monday. This move comes in anticipation of the 4 disaffiliating themselves from the 50 year old organization. [Read More]

Tracked on July 25, 2005 2:24 AM

» A Significant Labor Dispute from CommonSenseDesk
from the NYTsLeaders of four of the country's largest labor unions announced on Sunday that they would boycott this week's A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention, and officials from two of those unions, the service employees and the Teamsters, said the action was a [Read More]

Tracked on July 25, 2005 6:01 AM



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