United Food and Commercial Workers expected to rejoin AFL-CIO in August


United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) will rejoin the AFL-CIO by the end of this year, according to the magazine In These Times.

Jeff Anderson, secretary-treasurer of Tigard, Oregon,-based UFCW Local 555, confirmed the story. Anderson was at an earned sick days conference in Washington, D.C., where the international union is headquartered, when the story broke on July 10.

“People here (at UFCW) are aware of the article, but are not commenting on it,” Anderson told the Labor Press. “Which tells me some high level negotiations are happening.”

The announcement was supposed to occur at UFCW’s convention in Chicago in mid-August, and then be ratified at the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles in early September, but the magazine broke the story beforehand.

UFCW convention delegates must vote on reunification.

“It still remains to be seen what it all means,” said Anderson, who will be one of 24 delegates from Local 555 attending the UFCW convention.

UFCW, with 1.3 million members, is a key component of Change To Win, the coalition of unions that broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005. UFCW President Joe Hansen now chairs Change To Win, but has stayed on good terms with the AFL-CIO.

UFCW also has cooperated with the larger labor federation in national politics and in mass rallies for labor causes.

Besides UFCW, the Change To Win federation includes the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the United Farm Workers. Three other founding unions of Change to Win — the 500,000-member Laborers, the 265,000-member UNITE HERE, and the 500,000-member Carpenters — have left. The Carpenters operates as an independent union, and the other two are back in the AFL-CIO fold. [In 2009, approximately 100,000 of UNITE HERE’s members seceded, formed Workers United, and joined SEIU.]

The Change To Win unions seceded from the AFL-CIO in 2005 because, they said, they differed with the federation’s emphasis on political activism and lobbying as opposed to organizing. But over the years the two labor federations drifted closer together as affiliated unions in both organizations realized that politics could open the way for organizing — and that organizing more members increased political clout.

Through Solidarity Charters, UFCW Local 555 has maintained affiliations with all of Oregon’s central labor councils, but not with the Oregon AFL-CIO. In Washington, all UFCW locals but Tacoma Local 367 are affiliated with the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

The return of the UFCW would  boost the national AFL-CIO’s membership by almost 10 percent and provide an infusion of resources.

Trumka has been courting the UFCW since he first came to office in 2009, In These Times reported.


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