Everybody Re-elected at the AFL-CIO
At the AFL-CIO Convention in St. Louis, no leadership changes were made
This weekend, union leaders began the 2017 AFL-CIO convention. The convention, which happens every four years, included the election of the AFL-CIO leadership including President, Secretary/Treasurer and Executive Vice President.
The current leaders of the AFL-CIO, President Richard Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Schuler and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, all ran without opposition. Although the labor movement has seen a stagnation in enrollment and Right-to-Work has expanded, Trumka and his team were unanimously re-elected to a new four-year term. Trumka was first elected President in 2009. Additionally, delegates elected 55 Vice Presidents to serve on the Executive Council for the next four years.
In his remarks following his victory, Trumka spoke about the importance of unity within the labor movement in the face of dangerous threats. While union approval ratings are high, membership has stagnated and the biggest threat to public sector unions, Janus v. AFSCME, will be heard by the Supreme Court this year. In the last Presidential election, 40% of union members went against the advice of their political coordinators and put Trump in the White House. With a Republican-controlled government, the labor movement doesn’t currently have many effective friends in Washington. To combat this, Trumka announced a Workers Bill of Rights. "The aim is to give politicians a clear view on union priorities, including the need for better wages and rethought trade agreements. It would establish a litmus test to determine if the AFL-CIO will support candidates in the 2018 and 2020 elections, regardless of party.”
Unlike in previous years, this convention will feature no politicians. The AFL-CIO decided to ban them (unless they were members of a union) so that they could focus on the regular working people. Trumka said that they were doing this to exert the AFL-CIO’s political independence. During his remarks, he admitted that there have been many challenges and tough conversations that needed to be had around expanding bargaining, fighting back against Right-to-Work and figuring out how to grow the union movement. With no opposition to his campaign, it was easy to spread platitudes, but many rank and file want to see real action on these issues.
The convention will continue throughout the week taking up a number of proposals that will help shape their direction over the coming four years. Some of the proposals deal with internal positions like pushing the federal government for more money for infrastructure funding, increasing action to protect manufacturing workers, and committing to inclusion and equity within the labor movement. Other proposals focused on preparing the labor movement for 2018 and beyond, like establishing a program to encourage more union members to run for political office. Attendees at the convention will also take part in panels to learn best practices from leaders within the labor movement. The AFL-CIO will be live streaming some of these events on social media. Check it out using the hashtag #aflcio2017.