AFL-CIO Strikes Deal with Teachers' Union
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
On Wednesdays, our business news focuses on the workplace. Today, the AFL-CIO looks ahead.
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MONTAGNE: The AFL-CIO is meeting in San Diego this week, for the first time since last summer's dramatic split. Some unions quit the group and took four million members with them. Now, the still huge labor federation is moving ahead, and NPR's Frank Langfitt joins me to talk about what that means, exactly.
And Frank, what is the AFL-CIO trying to do at this meeting, and what has happened so far?
FRANK LANGFITT reporting:
Well, Renee, if you remember, last year was a really brutal one for the AFL- CIO, and they're just really trying to put it behind them. And they a third of their of their membership when the service employees, the Teamsters, and a couple of other unions left. They had to slash their budget, and cut staff by about a hundred people. So now, they're just trying to refocus and get a little momentum.
The significant news, it seems, out of San Diego, as they have a new partnership with the National Education Association, or the NEA. It's the biggest labor union in the country, it's got 2.8 million members, mostly teachers. And the NEA affiliates, as a part of this agreement, would be able to work on the ground with the AFL-CIO. They could work on political campaigns, and maybe get better labor contracts. And this is gonna helpt the NEA, but it really seems to benefit the AFL-CIO, because they need a lot more members, and they're really desparate for dues.
MONTAGNE: Is this a kind of merger, then, between the two groups?
LANGFITT: No, the NEA is really independent. And this is just an agreement to cooperate, and it would be voluntary, so each NEA local could decide whether they were gonna participate or not, and it's not really clear what the impact might be.
MONTAGNE: Now, Frank, the unions represent only about twelve percent of the American workers. That's way down from previous decades. The split last summer was over a difference in strategy, on how to turn that number around, and bring up those numbers of workers belonging to unions. Anything on that coming out of San Diego?
LANGFITT: Yes, definitely. You remember, the dissident unions left, saying they wanted to put more money into organizing, and the AFL-CIO's been focusing a bit more on trying to elect more pro-labor candidates. They figure if they can change labor laws, they can sign up more members. So, at meeting, they decided to spend about 40 million dollars on political mobilization, and that's the most they've ever spent in mid-termm, and they're doing it even with these recent budget cuts.
MONTAGNE: Frank, thanks very much.
LANGFITT: Happy to do it.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Frank Langfitt.
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