Monday, July 25, 2005

The Big Labor Breakup

The Big Labor Breakup

Leaders 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 prelude to their full withdrawal from the federation on Monday.

The schism is the biggest rift in labor since the 1930's, when the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which was trying to unionize mass production workers in automobiles, steel and other industries, split off from the American Federation of Labor, which largely represented elite craft workers. This week's labor convention here was supposed to be a celebratory occasion marking the 50th anniversary of the merger.

This split has been a long time coming and was perhaps inevitable in the face of a changing economy. I think the issue is simply: do we want to play offense or defense? Does labor want to expand into new, traditionally unorganized areas or do we want to defend our status in industries we already HAVE organized, which often are dying smokestack industries? I suppose my analysis indicates which way I lean.

This makes the University of Iowa's professional and scientific staff's imminent organization vote a critical first test of the SEIU/Stern philosphy...

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