Leaving AFL-CIO Threatens Union Solidarity

President Hoffa says we left the AFL-CIO to “change to win.” But I’m concerned about what the move is going to mean for union solidarity and the old principle that there’s strength in unity.

We’re very active in labor solidarity here in Washington, DC, including street heat actions, rallies, disaster relief and solidarity with strikes and contract campaigns. And when Local 96 has asked for support from the AFL-CIO, they have always been there for us. It’s been working this way for years. When we’ve been in bargaining, the local Central Labor Council has stood with our members and offered to back us in putting pressure on our employer. Solidarity is a two-way street. We’ve supported unions all over the country through the AFL-CIO.

Leaving the AFL-CIO has a direct, negative impact on Local 96 members. We’re gas utility workers and for years we’ve coordinated with other gas unions through an inter-union gas conference where we share information on bargaining trends and how to meet the challenges union gas workers face. That conference is our bridge to building solidarity with other utility workers.

By pulling us out of the AFL-CIO, Hoffa has threatened Local 96’s ability to participate in this conference because the bylaws state that it’s only open to AFL-CIO unions. My understanding is that construction locals face problems also in coordinating with other unions in the building trades.

At Local 96 we believe in solidarity and we’re continuing to build it at the local level. I’m also all for pushing for change in the labor movement to make it stronger and more responsive. That’s why I’m a member of TDU. I just don’t see why the Teamsters couldn’t have pushed for positive changes from inside the AFL-CIO—working to make it better instead of dividing the house of labor.

We’re all in the same boat. Regardless of what union you’re in, we’re all in a fight against corporate thugs and the politicians who do their bidding. If we try to fight separately, we’re just playing into the companies’ hands. Whatever happened to “Solidarity Forever?”

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