10 Important Initiatives Coming Out of the AFL-CIO National Convention

The AFL-CIO quadrennial 2013 convention in Los Angeles was a flurry of exciting activity that promises to remake the labor movement in the United States and build a movement for all working people to deal with the new challenges and political landscape working families must navigate. While there were many important discussions and plans made at the convention that will be expanded on in the coming months and years, here are 10 important initiatives that came out of the resolutions passed by the convention delegates that you should know about:

1. Opening Up and Broadening the Labor Movement: The delegates recognized the need to expand the labor movement to be more broad and inclusive and to recognize all working families, whose rights have been under assault. No fewer than six resolutions were passed to expand the labor movement and partner with allies in new ways. The first invites every worker in America to join the labor movement, either through affiliate unions or through Working America. Another one provides for supporting political campaigns that protect and expand workers' rights to organize. A third related resolution calls for expanded efforts to help workers organize around the globe. Other areas of renewed focus would be on organizing in the southern United States, in building lasting community partnerships with organizations that share our values and expanding and protecting voting rights so working families have a say in choosing those who pass laws that affect their rights.

2. Economics for Shared Prosperity: The convention delegates approved several resolutions that call for new ways of thinking and talking about the economy, moving away from the conservative, pro-corporate way of discussing the economy. The first initiative calls for an economics of shared prosperity, which focuses on creating living wage jobs for all who seek them, providing workers a voice on the job, health care for everyone, aging with dignity, jobs that support families and high-quality education for all children. The AFL-CIO also has committed to creating a curriculum and training program to teach working families how to talk about the economy in more accurate terms that don't let pro-corporate interests drive the conversation. The federation also supports policies that will fix the parts of the economy that are having the biggest negative impact on working families. This resolution called for legislation that would create good jobs, improve economic security for all of America's workers and make the tax system more fair through requiring Wall Street and the wealthiest 2% pay their fair share. Another resolution supported by the delegates focuses on the need to raise wages if we want to fix what is wrong with our economy, and lays out a broad agenda of efforts at the federal, state and local levels that aim to raise wages and labor standards for everyone who works in America.

3. A Road Map to Citizenship for Aspiring Americans: At the convention, the AFL-CIO recommitted to its ongoing support for and leadership in creating an immigration system that protects U.S. workers, reduces the exploitation of immigrant workers, reduces employers' incentives to hire undocumented workers, keeps families together, creates a road map for aspiring Americans and contributes to shared prosperity for all.

4. Embracing and Including the Diverse Workforce: The AFL-CIO embraced diversity at its convention as never before, with people of color and women representing 46% of delegates. An inclusion conference held before the convention kicked off ways to work more closely with communities of color, young workers and the LGBT community. In addition to the resolution on the road map to citizenship for aspiring Americans and the resolutions on expanding the labor movement, the delegates passed resolutions on:

  • Working women: focusing on equal pay for equal work; respect for the balance among work, family and community; forging and expanding partnerships with allies; and increasing equality and building women's leadership within the labor movement.
  • Young workers: including recognizing the importance of young workers in the current and future economy; expanding young worker programs to all levels of the federation; and giving young workers a seat on the AFL-CIO General Board.

Delegates also voted to add gender identity and gender expression to the federation's constitutional equality section.

5. Retirement Security for All: With seemingly endless attacks in recent years on retirement security, the AFL-CIO calls for strengthening and improving Social Security benefits, much stronger protections for private and public pension laws and other legislative improvements to laws that protect working families in their retirement years. Any proposal to cut Medicare or Social Security to fund lower taxes for corporations and the 1% is immoral and unacceptable.

6. A New Approach to Trade and Globalization: The convention also passed a resolution calling for improvement in international trade deals, with a focus on protecting workers' rights around the world, environmental protection, preventing corporations from interfering with national sovereignty and public interest regulations and making it clear that the AFL-CIO would oppose trade deals that don't live up to these ideals.

7. Opposing Mass Incarceration for Profit: The AFL-CIO recognizes that the private prison industry, which pushes for laws that increase incarceration rates so they can pad their profits, creates negative incentives for state and local governments to lock up more people, even when crime rates are low. Such policies also harm communities, are unsafe for both inmates and prison employees and have a strongly disproportionate effect on people of color.

8. Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education: As a key component of any strategy of improving the lives of working families, the AFL-CIO supports a broad range of educational reforms that ensure that all children have the opportunity to attend safe, high-quality schools. The delegates also condemned the attacks on public education by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D).

9. Implementing the Affordable Care Act: The convention delegates passed a resolution that supports the responsible implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the protection of workers' rights in any health care changes made by government or private corporations, and continues to support the ultimate goal of a single-payer system.

10. State Federation, Central Labor Council and Affiliate Accountability: Because of the importance of effective state federations, central labor councils (CLCs) and affiliates in fighting back against right-wing attacks in the states and the possibilities for expansion of workers' rights at the state level, the AFL-CIO is moving forward on several initiatives to maximize efforts in the states. The first is to require state federations and large CLCs to hire qualified campaign managers and develop and implement strategic plans that include community engagement programs. The second is to create a special committee that will develop and monitor the performance of state federations, CLCs and affiliate unions. Each year, 10 states will undergo a thorough peer review and the findings and recommendations of the review will be reported.