Convention Resolution

Resolution 53: Assuring Sound Priorities for New Labor Movement Strategies: Aligning Vision with Accountability and Fiscal Responsibility

Submitted by the Convention Finance Committee

Referred to the Executive Council

OVER THE PAST SIX MONTHS, the AFL-CIO has led a strategic planning process to engage our affiliate unions, state and local labor bodies, and partners and allies, internationally and throughout the United States. Policies, programs and action plans relating to growth, innovation and political action; shared prosperity in the global economy; community partnerships; and the rebuilding of grassroots power have emerged from this process and will be taken up by the Convention, and implemented thereafter.

Even as this planning process has continued, examples of resilience, creativity and unity abound: An expansion and redirection of the labor movement’s field infrastructure to drive year-round campaigns; a post-election budget fight that resulted in the repeal of Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the preservation of Social Security benefits; a successful NLRB appointments campaign that gained a fully confirmed, worker-friendly National Labor Relations Board; a comprehensive immigration reform campaign that contributed to a Senate bill with a path to citizenship and protection of workers’ rights; and most recently, the AFL-CIO affiliation of the United Food and Commercial Workers, under the “united we are stronger” banner. 

Individual affiliates, too, are in many cases responding to the crisis with new, inventive and stronger programs—in politics, organizing and public policy, and defending the work they know best, from high-value construction to manufacturing and public education. At the same time, however, we all understand that these programs must be more effectively coordinated, so that we will collectively have the impact we need to emerge from this crisis and regain power for working families.

Now, more than ever, we must recognize the importance of a strong labor movement, with a “center of gravity” at the national, state and local level, with a defined common purpose and strategy, and with the necessary structures and adequate resources to achieve our collective goals.

We must at the same time also recognize that resources are scarce. The labor movement has been operating in an increasingly difficult economic environment, in which it has at all levels experienced painful budget cuts and other financial pressures. At the same time that affiliates are hurt by membership decline due to economic downturn, they face the challenge of political attacks which have sought to limit, even eliminate, collective bargaining rights, diminish union strength and reduce benefits. All have had to do more, with less.

While we have had many unions return to our Federation since 2005, the AFL-CIO, itself, has not had an increase in per capita tax in eight years, during which time the economy has experienced inflation of 19%. But the AFL-CIO is by no means alone in this regard; many of its national and international union affiliates, as well as its state and local central bodies, are facing rising costs while they have lost membership, and consequently dues revenue as well.

The federation has made notable progress in spending its resources more efficiently, and it needs to continue to seek and achieve economies of operation. It also needs to identify current programs of low priority that could be cut in order to refocus on the priorities set by the Convention.

How do we efficiently and adequately finance the strong central federation that is needed, while at the same time navigate economic realities? How do we provide adequate resources to the AFL-CIO in order to carry out a new strategic vision, while remaining aligned with the continuing expectation of accountability and fiscal responsibility? How can we assure that AFL-CIO programs, and the programs of organizations which are formal AFL-CIO partners, are the right programs for the times and function at high levels of effectiveness? These are sobering questions that can only be answered through a collaborative, transparent, inclusive and comprehensive process.

Therefore, we resolve that:

1.  A process shall begin no later than October 2013, to be merged with the Executive Committee’s 2013–14 budget and program review process. The president shall appoint a special committee, with the approval of the Executive Committee, to conduct a strategic evaluation of new and existing programs coming out of the Convention, including those of associated organizations, and to assess the financial needs associated with them and the priorities among them.

2.  The special committee’s evaluation will be reported to the AFL-CIO General Board at a meeting to be called during the AFL-CIO’s February 2014 Executive Council meetings. If any recommendation of a per capita increase is proposed, pursuant to Article XVI, Section 5 of the AFL-CIO Constitution, the General Board may consider a per capita tax increase and, by a two-thirds vote taken pursuant to Article XI, Section 4 of the AFL-CIO Constitution, may increase the per capita tax.

3.  Recognizing the key role that state and local central bodies must play in this process as well, the special committee shall review the inconsistent levels of affiliation at the national, state and local levels, and make recommendations to ensure a fair system for all, whether by enhancing the National Affiliation Fee Program or some other mechanism to apply a uniform, enforceable standard.