On the opening day of the AFL-CIO’s national convention in Chicago, leaders of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced their decision to withdraw from the federation. Several days later, the United Food and Commercial Workers announced its departure. With the recent departures, the AFL-CIO has reportedly lost 3.6 million members.
While the total impact of these decisions may not be seen in either the political or workplace organizing context for many years, there can be no doubt that the unions that split away from the AFL-CIO will be anxious to demonstrate to their former colleagues that their commitment to organize will pay dividends. As noted by SEIU President Andy Stern, “Our goal is not to divide the labor movement but to rebuild it.” And the effects of that desire may be first seen in the Carolinas.
According to published interviews with Jack Cipriani, president of Teamsters Local 391, the Teamsters will initiate an organizing drive in North Carolina within the next 30 days that will be funded almost entirely by the national office. Cipriani also noted that they plan to have a significant presence in the field by assigning more than 15 organizers to these efforts.
We can expect the other breakaway unions, as well as the unions left behind, to focus similar efforts on the Carolinas. North Carolina and South Carolina are the least unionized states in the country and any gains by labor unions in the Carolinas would likely be considered to be significant in their struggle to regain some of their lost position in the workplace. A detailed article on the ramifications of these recent developments and the future of the labor movement will be included in an upcoming issue of the Ogletree Deakins client newsletter – The Employment Law Authority.
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Note: This article was published in the August 4, 2005 issue of the North Carolina eAuthority.