Hope for Reunification
January 8, 2009
St. Petersburg Getting on the plane to fly home, I ran into some old friends who were the principal officers of the International Longshoreman Association in New Orleans. They had been at a bargaining conference in Tampa preparing for upcoming negotiations. We talked about what happened to their old hall which they had torn down after Katrina and the fact that they were still working out of a trailer near the docks, which though closer to the members still did not seem like home. We also talked about the fact that it was kind of sad and stupid that we didn’t see much of each other as old friends and comrades since the division of the house of labor between Change to Win and the AFL-CIO. All of us kind of shrugged as we got on the plane and said almost in unison, “What is the point?!?”
Luckily, we were not alone. The big unions of C2W and the AFL-CIO, including my own union, SEIU, seem to have met in DC and finally been clear that there was an increasing understanding that labor would do better, especially now with Obama coming in, with a united house, rather than one that has any divisions. Talk about reunification is serious and going forward.
Now, I’m not going to say, “I told you so,” but I have told you so, more than once, that this reunification was inevitable especially given the election of Obama and the priorities that all of labor has now on the policy and legislative agenda, not even counting what we need because of the meltdown. Having said (and not said) that, no union member or union supporter can believe this will be easy. The notion that there is even a dispute about the name, despite the strength of the AFL-CIO brand, which has to be conceded, is a sure sign that there will be more blood and tears before a deal is struck.
Nonetheless, if the big votes are lining up in the house of labor, it is the time for statesmen (and women!) to rise up to prove this breach was not about pique or personality, so that we can finally focus on doing what needs to be done for our members and all working families.