The AFL-CIO needs to stick with representing workers and stop trying to take on social causes for the far left, said the union head for the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Harold Schaitberger, who presides over the IAFF, said there is "great value" in aligning with political groups — but only as a secondary mission, he told The Hill. And the AFL-CIO's recent push to bring in environmental groups and progressive-minded organizations to the union cause is leading the IAFF to express concerns about politics becoming the priority, over the representation of members.
"To say that we are going to grow this labor movement by some kind of formal partnership, membership, status, place in this federation, I am against. This is the American Federation of Labor. We are supposed to be representing workers and workers' interests," Mr. Schaitberger said in The Hill. "We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations."
He's not alone in that view. Union members from the construction sector have been especially vocal against bringing environmental groups into the AFL-CIO family, viewing them as the enemy in the Keystone XL pipeline fight.
"Does that mean we are going to turn energy policy of the AFL-CIO over to the Sierra Club? I have concern about that, as well as I should," said Terry O'Sullivan, president of the Laborers' International Union of North America, in The Hill report. "I grew up in the movement to do one of two things. We support anything that's good for another union brother or sister, or we keep our mouths shut. That seems that has changed along the way."
AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumpka, however, said unions have hit "a crisis" and membership rolls need a big boost.
"None of us are big enough to change that crisis," he said Sunday during the AFL-CIO's 2013 convention. "None of us are big enough to change the economy and make it work for everybody. It takes all progressive voices working together."
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