Laborers Union Rejoin AFL-CIO
— The Laborers' International Union is rejoining the AFL-CIO five years after leaving in a bitter dispute that split the U.S. labor movement.
The 800,000-member laborers' union represents workers in the construction industry.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the move is an important step in helping organized labor become more unified. Mr. Trumka has also reached out to Teamsters President James Hoffa about making a return to the AFL-CIO, and said in a recent interview that he'd be pleased if Change to Win re-affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Teamster President James Hoffa and AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka have been foes since Trumka sided against Hoffa in the 1996 Teamsters union election, and got swept into an illegal funding scandal for his trouble. They jab at one another intermittently, most recently when Trumka poked Hoffa for being quicker to accept a compromise on health care.
“Now more than ever, working people and our country need a united union movement,” union General President Terry O’Sullivan said in a statement. “Despite the historic success of the 2008 federal elections, too much is not getting done on Capitol Hill. A united union movement can better focus Congress—and particularly the U.S. Senate—on helping to lead our nation, rather than being locked in inaction.”
The Laborers and five other unions left the AFL-CIO amid complaints that the nation's largest labor federation focused too much on politics and not enough on organizing new members. Those breakaway unions formed the Change to Win federation in 2005, and was led by the Service Employees International Union under its then President Andy Stern. Mr. Stern stepped down as SEIU president earlier this year.
Last week, Change to Win's longtime chair, Anna Burger, retired from her post. Ms. Burger also retired as secretary-treasurer for the Service Employees International Union, ending a 38-year career with the union just four months after she pulled out of a race for the SEIU presidency.
The new SEIU president, Mary Kay Henry, has said that the SEIU remains committed to Change to Win, but also that she'll work to strengthen ties with the AFL-CIO's members and help "forge a united labor voice."
The Laborers are the second union to return to the AFL-CIO. Last year, the union of hotel, restaurant and clothing workers known as UNITE HERE rejoined.