Diversity is a fundamental value of the labor movement and a source of our strength. Currently, women make up 46% of union members, and they are projected to be a majority by 2025. More than a third, about 36%, of union members are people of color, and many are immigrants. With representative leadership at the helm, our movement can organize tomorrow’s workforce, mobilize the rising American electorate and stem right-wing attacks on working people.
At the AFL-CIO 2013 Convention, delegates passed Resolution 20, underscoring existing diversity mandates and encouraging AFL-CIO bodies to build diversity in their own organizations. Resolution 20 also required the AFL-CIO to conduct a comprehensive review of diversity throughout its ranks. The results were mixed, and our progress since has been slow.
Now, more than ever, the AFL-CIO must recommit itself to diversity and inclusion at all levels and in all parts of our movement. It’s clear that resolve is not enough; we need accountability and action. Consequently, this Convention proposes a new path forward:
Accountability: The AFL-CIO will conduct another comprehensive review of diversity in the labor movement, by July 2018, and present it to the Executive Council. This includes a review of national staff and leadership, executive boards and officers of state and local central bodies, and participants of major leadership, training and candidate programs. Reviews will be repeated annually and reported to the Executive Council at summer meetings. The AFL-CIO calls on affiliated unions to assess their own elected leadership diversity and delegate-naming processes for state and local AFL-CIO bodies.
Recruitment: The AFL-CIO will protect and create on ramps to the labor movement and pathways to leadership for women, people of color, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community. In partnership with community and constituency groups, members of these groups will be recruited for field activities that build essential campaign skills and are supported by training and mentorship. The AFL-CIO encourages affiliates to follow progressive hiring practices for paid campaign positions.
Furthermore, the AFL-CIO commits to preserving the integrity of its civil, human and women’s rights programs, and including constituency groups in decision-making forums that affect community outreach.
Candidate Support: The AFL-CIO and local bodies will train candidates for local public office, with a specific eye on recruiting women and people of color to run. Across the country, a new wave of women and people of color have responded to the attacks on working families by running for public office. We applaud them and call on others to follow suit—don’t wait to be asked. Run!
Innovation: The AFL-CIO will study and incubate best practices for sustaining diverse and inclusive leadership. Representatives from the State Federation and Central Labor Council Advisory Committee, Committee on Civil and Human Rights, Committee on Women Workers and constituency groups shall convene to propose new leadership development models for exploration and recommend ambitious diversity goals. This group will evaluate ongoing AFL-CIO leadership, organizing and candidate programs of the AFL-CIO, and highlight successful union-led and university-based programs.
Cultural Change: AFL-CIO leaders will spearhead the cultural change and education necessary for full integration of the Code of Conduct and Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination policy. Leaders also should model inclusion in their own actions, personnel decisions, mentorship and succession planning. Constituency groups should be treated as a pool of potential leaders from which to recruit for union and public office. The AFL-CIO encourages affiliates to adopt policies that mirror the Code of Conduct and Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination policy.
Our country recently witnessed one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in modern history and now faces an administration committed to widening these fissures for political expediency. The labor movement must be the countervailing force against these cynical efforts and unite all working people around our common values of respect and dignity at work.