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Saturday, July 30, 2005


America's Labor Unions

Turbulent waters ahead

The Republicans are licking their chops. They might, just might, get the opportunity to break unions as we know them.

On July 25th, at the labor federation's 50th annual convention in Chicago, The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Brotherhood of Teamsters submitted letters of disaffiliation. Then, on July 29th The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) announced their decision to leave the AFL-CIO.

The actions mean a loss of almost 4 million members and $28 million (annually) for the AFL-CIO. It is not about to lose its dominant presence but certainly emerged as a much weaker organization.

It would be interesting to see the impact on the Democratic Party. Traditionally, the unions have backed the Democrats and Democrats have repaid them whenever possible by legislative actions---to block unfriendly bills and to pass labor-friendly bills.

The union members have to be blind and deaf not to recognize the alliance between the Republicans and Corporate America. The attacks against unions first began in force during late President Reagan's administration. It gained impetus in the Bush administration. Labor can expect no quarters.

The unions have not remained free of abuses by their leaders. They are guilty of negotiating contracts that permit featherbedding. Yet, compared to abuses in the corporate suites theirs are minor violations of work ethics.

Globalization, outsourcing, and increasing use of high technology in industries across the nation call for new outlook by labor to protect their wages, rights and benefits. Service economy is rapidly replacing manufacturing industries that were once the stronghold of unions. The rank and file union members must weigh that against their positions on social and moral issues. At the end, the majority will prevail. There is a lot at stake.

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