AFL-CIO under attack from emergent Change to Win coalition

WASHINGTON: Citing frustration with the AFL-CIO, five dissident labor unions are working closely together to communicate to their members and the media their belief that the labor federation needs to make some dramatic changes.

WASHINGTON: Citing frustration with the AFL-CIO, five dissident labor unions are working closely together to communicate to their members and the media their belief that the labor federation needs to make some dramatic changes.

The five unions?Service Employees International Union (SEIU), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Laborers? International Union of North America, United Food and Commercial Workers, and Unite Here?on June 14 announced the formation of the Change to Win coalition, which aims to build worker strength through more aggressive organizing.

The dissident unions have complained that the money the AFL-CIO puts into organizing falls short of the resources the federation spends on politics.

?Through very clear messaging, we?ve indicated that this is not about a rivalry, this is not about war within labor but about two different visions for the future,? said Ben Boyd, SEIU?s director of communications.

The five unions have hired The Hauser Group, a Washington public interest PR firm, to assist with communicating the coalition?s message. ?In some ways, Hauser is a sixth member of the communications team,? Boyd said.

Eric Hauser, the firm?s president, said the coalition is formulating strategies in every area?communications, political, legislative, and organizing. ?We talk daily, hourly. It?s a permanent connection,? he said.

On the messaging front, Boyd cites the difficulties in getting the media to dig deeper into the positions of the two labor camps.

?We?re talking about reporters who are largely politically minded. They tend to center on what is the lowest common denominator of coverage, which is win-lose,? he said. ?There?s a challenge in that there?s a complexity to this entire equation.?

The coalition?s members represent 5 million workers, or about 35% of the AFL-CIO. Union membership in the US in general has seen a steady decline in recent years.

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