- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

CHICAGO — Leaders of the AFL-CIO said they will cope with the loss of $18 million in annual dues that two renegade unions paid to the federation before they defected this week.

But it remains to be seen how the federation will make up the shortfall.

“We’ll be looking at everything. Obviously you can do further cuts. That’s not what we’re looking at. You can look for ways to enhance revenue. That is something we’re looking at. You can look at ways to consolidate,” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said yesterday.

One option includes raising union dues. The AFL-CIO’s 54 unions pay the federation 61 cents a month per member.

“Do not read into anything I’m saying that I prefer, that we are leaning toward,” a dues increase, Mr. Trumka said.

The defection this week of the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union leaves the AFL-CIO with about 2.6 million fewer members, according to revised membership numbers released yesterday by Mr. Trumka. The unions have said they represent a combined 3.2 million workers.

Despite the mathematic modifications by the federation, the financial loss will be significant, labor analysts said.

“There is no way this doesn’t have an impact. The AFL-CIO overall is going to have to tighten its belt,” Cornell University labor relations professor Richard Hurd said.

If the United Food and Commercial Workers also defect, the AFL-CIO would lose another 1 million members and $8 million in annual dues.

The federation already has cut costs this year. After the group’s annual winter meeting in March, AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney eliminated 106 of 420 positions in response to a shift in resources that took money from the AFL-CIO’s political budget to bolster its budget for organizing new members.

Mr. Hurd said he expects unions to boost contributions to the federation to help it sustain operations and avoid cuts in programs or people.

Union leaders said they are optimistic the AFL-CIO will withstand the loss of funding.

“I think within our house we can find ways to make adjustments,” International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President Thomas Buffenbarger said.

The loss of funding could hurt the state AFL-CIO groups and central labor councils, two groups responsible for organizing union efforts on the state and local levels.

When they announced their departure from the AFL-CIO, SEIU President Andrew Stern and Teamsters President James P. Hoffa encouraged their union locals to continue participating in state and local labor efforts through the state federations and central labor councils.

But Mr. Trumka said the federation’s constitution prohibits that participation, and that means state and local labor bodies will see funding from the SEIU and Teamsters evaporate.

Mr. Trumka said leaders of the federation are planning an emergency meeting to figure out how to help state federation and central labor councils avoid a cash crunch.

Laborers President Terence O’Sullivan suggested the two sides reach a compromise allowing Teamsters and SEIU locals to maintain membership in state federations and central labor councils.

“I think people need to take a step back and take a deep breath and see if this can all be worked out,” he said.

Yesterday was the first day of the convention that wasn’t dominated by the SEIU’s and Teamsters’ differences with AFL-CIO’s Mr. Sweeney.

After upstaging the AFL-CIO’s convention and 50th anniversary for two days, SEIU and Teamsters members were absent yesterday. Some of their supporters remained, but there was little acrimony.

“People are concerned and [ticked] off. It’s a range of emotions. There’s anger, but everyone’s been very civil with me,” said Mr. O’Sullivan, whose union joined the dissident coalition but will remain in the AFL-CIO.

Mr. Buffenbarger said he thinks most union leaders have gotten over the shock caused by this week’s departure of the SEIU and Teamsters.

“The mood is pretty good. I think everybody got over it and people are ready to move forward,” he said.

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