Food and Commercial Workers Re-Join AFL-CIO
August 12, 2013
UFCW workers in units at major grocery chains have stood strong in the face of major inroads in the marketplace by Walmart, Sam’s Club and other nonunion players.
UFCW President Joe Hansen says the move back into the 56-union federation was aimed at giving his 1.3 million members “more power and influence” to protect their workplace rights and counter the “corporate and political onslaught.”
The need to mend fences in organized labor, Hansen said, was made clear after the 2010 congressional elections when anti-worker candidates won many districts, giving Republicans a majority in the House.
“The UFCW’s progressive history of determined struggle against corporate greed is the stuff of legend. I welcome Joe Hansen and his union back to the AFL-CIO in the knowledge that the UFCW’s numbers and innovative organizing strategies in their base industries will strengthen organized labor for decades to come,” said President Edwin D. Hill, who introduced Hansen to the IBEW’s 37th International Convention in Cleveland in 2006.
The Laborers International Union of North America left Change to Win in 2010 to rejoin the AFL-CIO. The Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters and the United Farmworkers are still allied with the breakaway coalition, but have, on some recent campaigns, worked closely with the larger federation.
“Unions may have our differences,” Hansen told IBEW Convention delegates in Cleveland, “but we remain united in our goals. We are still one movement.” The only labor member of the Citizen’s Health Care Working Group,Hansen has been a consistent advocate for health care reform. “We can’t just rely on our market system to reform health care. We need to change the system,” he says.
“I respect Rich Trumka’s bold leadership of the AFL-CIO and his strategic advocacy on key issues like the urgent need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, fix the Affordable Care Act so workers in multiemployer plans can keep the health care they currently have, and ensure the National Labor Relations Board protects workers’ rights,” says Hansen.
While the UFCW was formed in 1979, it comprises several other unions that played pivotal roles in the U.S. labor movement including successors of the Federal Society of Cordwainers (leather workers) who organized the first labor strike in North America in 1804. Eventually, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters, the United Packinghouse Workers of America and the Retail Clerks carried their numbers and influence into the UFCW, rounding out the union’s numbers and influence.