AFL-CIO creates ‘solidarity charters’ for locals of disaffiliated unions

In order to keep local members of disaffiliated unions active in AFL-CIO trade councils and state and local labor bodies, the federation has revised its rules.

Under the new solidarity charters, locals with the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Service Employees International Union and the Carpenters can apply to be part of central labor councils or state federations. The locals must sign up with the same level of membership they had before their union left the AFL-CIO or at the average membership level for their city or state, whichever is higher. They will also have to pay a monthly solidarity fee equal to 10 percent of their membership fees to the labor council or state federation to help offset the cost of services provided by the national AFL-CIO.

AFL-CIO spokeswoman Lane Windham said members of unions disaffiliated with the organization previously could not work with the Building and Construction Trades Department.

“It’s not these locals’ fault that their national unions left the AFL-CIO, and it’s not working people’s fault,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “They shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of a decision by their leadership.”

The Carpenters’ declined comment on the charters, but Anna Burger, chair of the Change to Win Coalition, of which the four disaffiliated unions are a part, said in a statement local unions will continue to participate in and pay dues to central labor councils and state labor federations. The statement explained the organization had supported the payments even when the AFL-CIO refused to allow the locals’ participation.

“The labor movement is not about institutions; it’s about the best ways to empower working people in our society…” Burger wrote.

Local bodies of disaffiliated unions will have the same voting rights as other locals – except that members of unions with a solidarity charter can’t hold top offices. Individuals already in office can finish out their terms.