United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555 has rejoined the Oregon AFL-CIO after a nine-year absence.
Local 555, which represents workers in grocery, is Oregon’s largest private sector union. The phased in re-affiliation, when completed, will add 17,500 union members to the state labor federation, bringing its total to about 137,500 (not counting the roughly 130,000 members of Working America, the AFL-CIO’s affiliate for non-union workers.)
Local 555 left the Oregon AFL-CIO in 2005, when its parent international union joined a coalition that broke away from the national AFL-CIO to form the Change To Win labor federation.
After the split, some locals of Change to Win unions affiliated with state and central labor councils of the AFL-CIO under specially arranged “solidarity charters.” In Oregon, UFCW Local 555 remained in local AFL-CIO central labor councils under solidarity charters, but not the state AFL-CIO.
Change to Win, meanwhile, proved to be more a loose national alliance than a federation with state and local structures, and it never replaced the AFL-CIO as a coordinating body of organized labor. United Brotherhood of Carpenters left Change to Win in 2009, and UNITE HERE (the union for hotel, restaurant and garment workers) and Laborers left in 2009 and 2010, the latter two re-joining the AFL-CIO. Then UFCW left and re-joined the AFL-CIO at the national level in August 2013. [Three unions remain in Change to Win: Service Employees International Union, Teamsters, and United Farm Workers.]
At the Dec. 1 quarterly meeting of the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board, Local 555 President Dan Clay and Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Anderson were sworn in as members, and were received with a spirit of “welcome back” by other Board members.
“In Oregon, labor has always operated as one movement even after the split, but when large unions like this structurally show that unity, that’s really important for working people,” said Oregon AFL-CIO spokesperson Elana Guiney. “This comes at a time when working people, union and nonunion, are tying to increase solidarity and show our strength and unity.”