- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

An independent union of nurses yesterday joined the AFL-CIO, giving the embattled labor federation a modest increase in membership after four large unions left to form a rival group.

Delegates of the 65,000-member California Nurses Association voted during their convention in Oakland, Calif., to approve joining the labor federation.

The decision by the nurses union follows defections in July of the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, and Service Employees International Union. Last week, Unite Here, a union representing hotel, restaurant and apparel workers, also left the AFL-CIO.

Those four unions represent a combined 4.9 million workers.

The AFL-CIO’s membership declined to about 8 million workers and 52 unions as a result of the summer defections.

Yesterday, the membership of the nurses union authorized its executive board to ask the AFL-CIO for a charter. Now the union will petition the AFL-CIO executive committee for membership in the federation.

AFL-CIO spokeswoman A. Lane Windham said the union’s decision to seek membership in the federation doesn’t have greater significance now simply because some of its largest unions chose to leave.

“It’s a little bit weird to look at [the nurses union’s decision to join] through the lens of what has happened lately. We would have been happy if they had applied for a charter a year ago,” Ms. Windham said.

The AFL-CIO’s executive committee is likely to debate the nurses union’s petition at a regularly scheduled meeting in October.

“We look forward to joining forces with the other workers in the AFL-CIO to influence the [health care] debate both in the state of California and in Washington, D.C.,” California Nurses Association Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro said.

Ms. DeMoro yesterday predicted the unions that left the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win Coalition will return to the federation.

“We believe the Change to Win Coalition will dissipate very early and rejoin the AFL-CIO,” she said.

The nurses union has joined other unions in California in criticism of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and propositions appearing on the November ballot that they consider hostile toward unions.

Proposition 75, backed by business interests aligned with Mr. Schwarzenegger but not officially endorsed by him, would require union leaders to get annual signed permission from members before dues could be used for political purposes.

Proposition 74 would require teachers to work longer before their probationary periods end.

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney attended a Labor Day rally in Los Angeles with California nurses, teachers and firefighters to oppose the propositions.

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