THE AFL-CIO IN THE 21ST CENTURY ORGANIZED LABOR IN A WHITE COLLAR WORLD: CAN THE LABOR MOVEMENT RISE TO THE CHALLENGE? PREPARED BY THE DEPARTMENT FOR PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO PAUL E. ALMEIDA, PRESIDENT DECEMBER 2004 1 INTRODUCTION The debate that is now emerging within the AFL-CIO over the future and direction of the Federation is about how “the movement” can retool, reinvent and perhaps restructure in order to achieve growth in union membership, expand the benefits of collective bargaining and increase its political power for the greater good. For unions it is axiomatic that if they are to grow, they must reach out to the work force that is expanding. The greatest portion of that expanding work force is, and will continue to be, among America’s professional and technical workers. The good news for the labor movement is that a number of its unions already represent millions of workers in white collar occupations, providing a significant base from which organized labor can and should grow. The bad news is that this white collar base is also one of organized labor’s best kept secrets. That paradox needs to change. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE The AFL-CIO and the American Labor Movement have an image problem. To a large segment of the fast-growing professional and technical work force, the labor movement—as embodied by the AFL-CIO—is seen as irrelevant. The Federation is viewed as an economic anachronism that is either: a) focused solely on blue collar and lower-skilled service workers; or b) clinging to the remnants of dying industries and declining occupations. Many of these same white collar workers believe that unions do a good job for these other workers, but don’t feel that unions make sense for them. Others exhibit an elitism regarding themselves as highly educated workers who have nothing in common with their less skilled counterparts. While these biases and attitudes are short-sighted, they persist because labor has neglected to counter them by consistently showcasing the multi-dimensional face of our movement, and directly appealing to professionals by profiling what labor has done and is doing for them. THE PROFESSIONALIZATION OF THE AMERICAN WORKFORCE The American work force has changed dramatically. Among the most significant transformations has been the largescale decline of manufacturing and blue collar jobs and the concurrent growth in professional employment. Once predominantly blue collar, the labor force is now largely white collar. And this transition will continue for decades to come. As this sea change has taken hold, it is as if the American economy and its work force have passed the labor movement by. Over the last quarter century the economy moved to a post industrial age but the labor movement failed to keep pace on many levels. This includes labor’s inability to expand upon a significant white collar base to build even greater density among professional and technical workers. Meanwhile, the transition within the American work force has been seismic: • • • • Between 1950 and 2003, the percentage of the work force that is white collar grew from less than 37% to 60.5%. While manual workers comprised 41% of the work force in 1950, by 2003 they accounted for less than 23% of the work force. 1 Almost 28 million Americans (about one-third of all white collar workers and 20.3% of the total work force) were employed in the professions and as highly skilled technicians in 2003. Their number is rising rapidly. When the DPE was chartered in 1977, these occupations accounted for just 13.9 million workers and only 15.2% of the work force. 2 Between 2002 and 2012, employment of professional and related workers is projected to increase by 6.5 million, or 23.3%, continuing their position as the fastest growing occupational group. (Total U.S. employment is expected to increase by less than 15% over this period). 3 These occupations will account for 30.3% of all employment growth from 2002–2012. 4 1 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the U.S., Colonial Times to 1970, 1975; U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, 2004. 2 Ibid. 3 Hecker, Daniel, “Occupational Employment Projections to 2012,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 127, No. 2, February 2004. 2 LABOR’S WHITE COLLAR BASE Ironically, the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have a strong foothold in the white collar world of work: • More than 50% of all union members are white collar workers. 5 • Professional and related occupations currently constitute the largest contingent of union members of any occupational classification. 6 • According to the DOL, over 3 million professional and technical employees already participate in collective bargaining organizations; that translates into 50% of those professional employees eligible for union membership. 7 • In 2003, more than 4.6 million (18.1%) professionals were union members, while only 13% of the overall work force was organized. 8 • While union representation had fallen to 15% of the U.S. work force in 2003, it was about 21% among professionals; significant numbers of administrative support workers (2.4 million) also enjoy union representation. 9 The AFL-CIO, through many of its affiliated unions, today represents millions of professionals in nearly 400 separate and distinct occupations. 10 Union professionals are literally everywhere—teachers and techies, screen actors and broadcasters, writers and journalists, engineers and scientists, musicians, nurses and therapists, judges, and many more. Union workers helped plan and build the space station; pioneered breakthroughs in medical science; and discovered new disease fighting drugs, among other accomplishments. They design roads and bridges; educate tomorrow's workers in today's classrooms; and care for the health of our nation. They have won Academy and Tony Awards, Grammies and Emmys along with Pulitzer, Peabody and Nobel prizes. In short, they have been recognized throughout the world for the highest achievement in their respective professions. Yet the question arises—why hasn’t the AFLCIO more consistently and prominently profiled these workers and their achievements as a means to showcase the movement’s already expansive base among these white collar workers? This is a face of American labor that is rarely seen. The average citizen outside our ranks, along with many academics, politicians, the press and even organizations allied with us more often than not don’t connect the dots between the professions and unions. Even among some segments of our unions there is a reverse elitism that holds that well-off professionals don’t need unions anyway so why bother with them. Yet, if the movement is to survive, expand and build density in the 21st century, it must “walk the walk and talk the talk” to establish its relevance with these workers. As the debate about the future of the AFL-CIO unfolds, the question organized labor must ask itself is:How can we relate to and speak to professionals more effectively so that white collar workers will see the AFL-CIO and unions generally as institutions of economic relevance to them and their professions? THREE KEY CHARACTERISTICS Professional Identity Polling data, focus group findings and other information have long shown that professionals—more than any other occupational group—have a strong affinity for direct membership in organizations that are of, by and for them. Professionals and other highly skilled white collar workers are joiners: They affiliate with professional societies and associations to network, continue their education, present papers and attend programs, receive mentoring, and so on. So strong is this inclination that often these workers will also seek out and associate with both national organizations as well as subset groups that represent a specific discipline within a profession. For example, there are nearly 20 4 Ibid. US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, News, “Union Members in 2003,” USDL 04-53, 2004. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO. Occupations Represented by DPE Unions. Edition of 8/13/04. 5 3 national engineering associations or societies to which these highly educated workers can affiliate. 11 They represent such engineering disciplines as civil, electrical, chemical, energy, environmental, manufacturing, mechanical, petroleum, iron and steel to name a few. Over 1 million engineers belong to these groups, the largest being the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) with whom the AFL-CIO—through the DPE—has a close working relationship. In health care, there are over 70 professional associations; nursing alone has well over 20 different organizations. 12 Over 3 million nurses belong to these organizations, the largest of which is the Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) Honor Society of Nursing with 300,000 members—20,000 more than the AMA! In journalism—a much smaller profession—again more than 20 groups exist representing over 60,000 in this occupation. The AFL-CIO has long had within its ranks a small core of unions that represent a distinct professional occupation. Examples include IFPTE, UAN, the 4As (the umbrella affiliate for AEA, AFTRA, SAG and AGMA), AFM, ALPA, NATCA, IAFF, FPA, AFSA, AFT and the Writers Guild (WGAE). With respect to these unions, with three exceptions each has a common characteristic: they are all small organizations. Yet each represents a distinct and unique occupation which makes it professionally relevant to its members. With the exception of the actor unions (more about that later), none really lends itself to amalgamation with each other or to acquisition by larger national unions where it would be swallowed up. Other major AFL-CIO unions affiliated to the DPE—AFSCME, AFGE, CWA, OPEIU, SEIU and UFCW—represent a mix of members that include large contingents of professional and technical workers. Some, but not all, of these unions have made accommodations within their structure to maintain the occupational identity of their professionals. Examples include the establishment of councils or caucuses within national unions. The mergers of NABET, The Newspaper Guild (TNG) and more recently the Flight Attendants (AFA) into the CWA is another example of a more visible, higher level set of governance adaptations. Each in its own way demonstrates the parent union’s grasp of the organizational desirability to maintain for these workers a modicum of occupational identity within the larger organization. Women in Unions and the Professions—A Commanding Presence There has been an enormous increase in the participation of working women in the U.S. work force. The number of working women has risen from 5.1 million in 1900 to nearly 65 million in 2003. Their number is projected to exceed 77 million by 2012. In 2003, more than 60% of women age 16 or older worked outside the home, up from 37.7% in 1960. Women now account for 47% of the labor force. 13 Women have made significant progress in both the mainstream and higher echelons of the labor force. While women still predominate among sales administrative support and service workers, they are also the majority in the professional and related occupations. They currently account for 56.4% of all professionals, a percentage that is expected to increase. 14 To illustrate: • Women have been earning more bachelor’s degrees than men since 1982 and they have been earning more master’s degrees since 1981. They are expected to earn 58% of all B.A. and M.A. degrees conferred in 2004 and will receive 44% of all doctoral degrees--up from 10.5% in 1961. 15 • Many of the traditionally male elite occupations have undergone a change in their gender composition— o In 1975, women accounted for just 10% of physicians. By 2003 they were 30% of all physicians and surgeons. In 2002, women accounted for almost 50% of all medical students. 16 o In 2003, women were 28% of all lawyers and in 2002 they were more than 49% of all law students. 17 11 Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO. Societies for Engineers, Scientists and Related Technicians. 2002 Edition. Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO. Societies for Professional and Technical Health Care Workers. 2002 Edition. 13 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Perspectives on Working Women: A Databook, Bulletin 2080, 1980; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, 2003; Hecker, Daniel, “Occupational Employment Projections to 2012,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 14 “Occupational Employment Projections,” op.cit; Current Population Survey, 2003, op.cit. 15 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2003 16 Current Population Survey, op. cit; American Association of Medical Colleges, Databook, 2003 Edition. 17 Current Population Survey, op. cit.; American Bar Association, Legal Education Division. 12 4 o o Between 1960 and 2001, the percentage of degrees in dentistry earned by women increased from 0.8% to 39%. 18 While women remain under-represented in the scientific and technical occupations, they have made significant inroads in some of the computer-related occupations. As to women in unions, they currently account for 44% of all union members (and 62.2% of all union professional and office and administrative support workers) and 55% of all newly organized workers, according to Kate Bronfenbrenner, Director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University. 19 In fact, for the past 25 years, women have outpaced men as new members of unions, and organizing campaigns in which women are a majority of the work force are more likely to succeed. Bronfenbrenner’s research has found an average win rate of 62% in units where the majority is female, compared to 35% or less where women are the minority. However, recent research shows an erosion of women’s support for union membership. A 2004 AFL-CIO report entitled Report to the Executive Council: Overcoming Barriers to Women in Organizing and Leadership, found that women worry about losing their individual voice in unions, that women were more likely to view unions as ineffective, and that many women believe unions are made up of blue collar men. Given the prominence of women in the work force generally, their majority status within newly organized workers and their importance to union organizing campaigns, the question that must be asked is: What more can the AFLCIO do both programmatically and within the governing structure to give greater stature and visibility to women labor leaders as well as those issues affecting white collar women workers? Contingent workers—A Growing Trend The last 20 years have seen a huge increase in contingent workers employed by "virtual" employers. Contingent workers assume many forms, including temporary and part-time employees, consultants, leased employees, subcontractors, and short-term, life-of-the-project employees. The common denominator for all contingent work is that there is no expectation of a long-term relationship between the employer and the worker and there is little job stability. Today about 25% of the total American work force is made up of workers in contingent arrangements. Professionals and related employees are disproportionately represented among the contingent work force, accounting for up to 30% of all contingent workers. They are nurses, computer specialists, writers, chemists, health technicians, architects, lawyers, and others. Contingent work arrangements usually mean less economic security for employees, and not only because the employment is not “permanent”. Health insurance, pension, and other benefits such as paid vacation and sick leave are often not part of the equation. As of February 2001, just 10% of all contingent workers had employer-provided health insurance, while less than 7% were included in employer-provided pension plans. 20 This contrasts with full-time, core or permanent employees, where 56% of full-time workers were covered by some form of employer-provided medical insurance and 58% by retirement plans. 21 The growing number contingent workers undoubtedly contribute to the increasing number of non-elderly–more than 45 million in 2003–who have no health insurance. Contingent workers also often lack the protected right to form and join unions. As implied commitments by companies to workers evaporate, so do the loyalties of workers to those employers and the role of unions in building new and improved social programs and support systems expands. The trend toward an increasingly contingent work force will persist as firms continue to move from being integrated to more specialized organizations that outsource a variety of functions. Experts anticipate a continued shift away from more permanent, lifetime jobs toward less permanent, even nonstandard employment relationships (e.g. self employment) and work arrangements (such as distance work). 22 18 Digest of Education Statistics, 2003, op. cit. Bronfenbrenner, Kate, “Organizing Women Workers in the Global Economy: Findings from NLRB Certification Elections – 1998-1999,” 2001. 20 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS News, USDL 01-153. 21 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS News, USDL 03-489. 22 Rand Labor and Population Research Brief, The Future at Work – Trends and Implications – drawn from Lynn A. Karoly and Constantijn W.A. Panis, The 21st Century at Work: Shaping the Future Workforce and Workforce in the United States. 19 5 The changing character and conditions of work, and the resulting turbulence, have prompted increasing numbers of professional and technical workers to turn to unions to defend or recapture their professional autonomy and to have a say in the decisions that affect their work lives. Given this trend, the question is: What strategies must the labor movement of the 21st century develop that respond to the changes in the world of work, including the rise of the contingent work force? ******************* In recognition of the profound change that globalization, technological innovation and other factors are having on the professional and technical work force and work place, the DPE in 2004 created a Committee on the Evolution of Professional Careers with representatives from nearly 20 national unions. The Committee’s goal is to: • Review and analyze the trends affecting the future of white collar work; • Ascertain the careers and professions that are likely to emerge over the next decade; • Determine appropriate strategies necessary to organize these workers; • Explore organizational models of unionism that offer the potential to enhance membership among professional workers; • Better prepare unions to align themselves with the work force of the future; • Develop a consensus about appropriate public policy, bargaining strategies, organizing goals and tactics as well as other courses of action essential to expanding union density in the professions. MERGERS Much discussion is underway regarding the need to merge and consolidate unions into a smaller number of more effective national organizations. While mergers might make sense in certain sectors, they are not necessarily the panacea for what ails the movement. For example, among professional unions, forcing “square pegs into round holes” runs the risk of obliterating smaller unions that serve are labor’s vital link to various groups of white collar workers in unique and highly specialized professions. This, in turn, could be disastrous to labor’s ability to expand its white collar base. The 1955 consolidation of the AFL and CIO created a unified federation of some 871 affiliated national, state and local organizations. Of these, 135 were national unions.23 By 1973 there were 113 affiliated unions. By the time John Sweeney became President in 1995, there were 79 affiliated national unions. Today there are 59—less than 50% of the original affiliations. The downsizing has been due principally to mergers—some 90 have occurred over the five-decade history of the AFL-CIO, or nearly 2 on average per year. 24 Even as this contraction has occurred, America’s trade unions have continued to hemorrhage members for a whole host of reasons unrelated to structure that well-known to union leaders and members as well as students of the movement. SAG and AFTRA—A Merger That Should Have Happened In 2002 and 2003 the DPE was heavily involved in the internal efforts of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) to merge into one national union. These are two unions with overlapping jurisdiction in the same industries and a substantial number of members who are in both unions: 60% of AFTRA members are also in SAG and 40% of SAG members are members of AFTRA! Few, if any, unions considering merger have ever been similarly situated. The driving forces behind the merger movement was principally that the industries with which each had to confront changed dramatically. Massive and seismic shifts in the legal and regulatory environment had eased the way for media corporate conglomerates to do what they’ve always wanted to do: merge, acquire, and thereby build the size and power to bulldoze all obstacles to maximizing profits. To illustrate, both unions negotiate major collective bargaining agreements with the movie studios. Over the past two decades these entities have contracted from 29 studios to 6 and the 6 behemoths have holdings in television, news media, recording companies and other related areas. Meanwhile, the 23 24 AFL-CIO, Proceedings of the 1955 Convention, December 5-8, 1955. AFL-CIO, Executive Council Report of the 23d Convention, October 11-13, 1999. 6 rapid fire pace of technological change threatened these unions with potentially ruinous fights over jurisdiction–fights among the family, rather than on behalf of all the family members. The DPE was invited into the deliberations early on by the national leadership of both unions. DPE President Paul Almeida has first-hand expertise with mergers (as the former president of IFPTE) as does DPE Assistant to the President David Cohen. Over a period of many months, DPE worked closely with the 60 to 80 national leaders and board members as well as local officers, rank and file members and staff of both organizations to analyze their legislative, regulatory and industry contexts, and to develop a mutual consensus about a responsive and effective joint structure. The AFL-CIO meanwhile committed significant support for such important resources as membership polling, communication and voter outreach. The final draft merger plan that was readied for a membership vote by both unions was a proactive initiative aimed at providing more negotiating muscle, saving money and ending jurisdictional disputes. The plan would have consolidated SAG and AFTRA into the new Alliance of International Media Artists (AIMA). This structure would have built strength and power along occupational lines, while providing the overall protection for performers via AIMA. The consolidation sought to serve the members by providing an efficient union to serve their goals and provide opportunities for more work, better pay, and better benefits. The final merger proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the national leadership and boards of both unions. The only opposition came from a small but vocal contingent of Hollywood SAG members. But ultimately they succeeded in scuttling the plan because the constitutions of both unions—not unlike those of other labor organizations—required a super majority 60% vote to approve such a momentous change. In the voting that ensued, each union received a record voter response: 53.97% of eligible SAG voters and 57.55% for AFTRA. While 75.88% of AFTRA members favored consolidation, the SAG yes vote was 57.78%, 2.22% short of approval. Ultimately, the undoing of two years of work by national SAG and AFTRA leaders, thousands of staff hours and an investment of over a million dollars to do the right thing for these two unions was that old, dusty principle—union democracy. Mergers—Cautions and Questions Mergers in and of themselves do not and cannot guarantee growth. Many unions in the AFL-CIO today descend from multiple predecessors–and still have fewer members than the original organizations when they merged. This history of defensive mergers reflects economic shifts and dying industries, automation, globalization, and cultural, legal, and regulatory changes, among other factors. Reshaping union structures may or may not enhance our ability to organize. As the SAG/AFTRA saga reflects, members may democratically choose an organizational or occupational identity over what outsiders perceive as an increased likelihood of exerting collective strength. Moreover, an organizational or occupational identity may be key to the ability of a union to attract new members. The proliferation of professional subspecialty organizations – among nurses, for example – underscores this possibility. The questions for labor are: o Are the mergers we pursue strategic? o Will they increase bargaining power, sector or occupational density, or organizing potential? o Or are these mergers for survival in dying industries, likely to dilute the organizational identity that attracted members originally without improving the resulting entity’s ability to meet the needs of its members? Our belief is that the AFL-CIO can and should do everything in its power to assist unions in strategic mergers. THE DPE AND THE AFL-CIO The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) was chartered by the AFL-CIO in 1977 at the request of many unions, in recognition of the dramatic rise in professional and technical employees among union members. Over 7 a quarter of a century later, almost all of the original founding unions still voluntarily choose to affiliate with and support the Department in its activities. The bottom line is that DPE exists to respond to the needs of its affiliates and for no other purpose. The Department’s primary mission is to promote the unionization of professional, technical and administrative support workers and assist the efforts of its affiliates to organize and represent them. In addition, the DPE supplements this major objective with a myriad of other core functions that are articulated in the Department’s Mission Statement (attached). Today the DPE represents 25 unions comprising more than four million professional, technical and administrative support employees. The Department is the largest association of such workers in the U.S. Like the other “trades departments,” DPE unites unions with common interests and goals and creates a forum for affiliated unions to discuss and cooperate on issues of mutual concern. Within this forum DPE affiliates find a safe harbor within which policy, strategy and other needs and issues can be discussed openly and frankly. This comfort zone allows differences to be articulated and resolved, policy devised and decisions made expeditiously. In this role, many affiliates look to the Department both for leadership on the issues and to act as an intermediary between and among them as well as with the AFL-CIO. Out of these deliberations, the DPE periodically emerges as the lead AFL-CIO affiliated labor organization in certain policy areas such as the recent battles with the FCC and Congress over media ownership rules and on legislation related to professional guest worker visas. The Department developed the Federation’s policy on these issues; later the AFL-CIO itself provided key public policy and lobbying assistance. In other policy areas that have broad implications for unions in and outside of the DPE, the policy is advanced from the Department and its affiliates to the AFL-CIO which then makes it a major priority and assigns an array of resources to it. The recent congressional battle over overtime pay is an example of this collaboration. Another case in point is the off shore outsourcing of white collar jobs. The issue was highlighted by DPE staff for its General Board leadership, made a public policy priority by the board for the Department and moved forward to the AFL-CIO. Today the Federation and DPE partner on several legislative fronts to combat this problem. Since the issue hit the American scene full force at the end of 2003 the DPE—with the help of the AFL-CIO—has been the voice of labor and, more broadly, professional workers in the public media on the guest worker and off shoring debates. The Department has appeared in nearly two dozen TV and radio interviews, been quoted in over 40 print and electronic news articles including some of the nation’s largest daily newspapers and has debated the issue at major universities including Harvard, MIT, George Mason and the University of Maryland. On another issue, DPE researched and developed reports and analyses as well as authored fact sheets and other materials which have helped shape the AFL-CIO Nurse Staffing campaign. DPE research reports on women and the professional work force are other examples. Finally, the Department also provides support to affiliates on issues of more parochial concern to its members. Its work on intellectual property and other telecommunications and immigration matters of a narrower scope are examples of this. And from time to time the Department also engages the AFL-CIO on these concerns as well. From the Federation’s generous support for the SAG/AFTRA merger campaign, to its close working relationship on legislative and regulatory matters, to its receptivity and teamwork on the development of public policy, the DPE and the AFL-CIO have a unique and creative partnership. Still there is room for improvement as well as collaboration on the overarching issue of recasting labor’s image as an institution that represents, works for and defends the rights of white collar workers. PITCHING THE PRODUCT, MAKING THE SALE Hurdles, Impediments and Other Unnecessary Obstacles White collar workers are a major component of the total union membership represented by AFL-CIO unions. But that is perhaps the best kept secret about the modern American labor movement. From its public relations program to its 8 internal communications to political messaging and investment of resources as well as in certain public policy areas, you’d be hard pressed to identify the AFL-CIO as a bastion of the professional and technical workforce. Case in point: The issue of off shore outsourcing of American white collar jobs. No issue presented the labor movement with a better opportunity to loudly proclaim that white collar workers matter. But when the issue first hit the nation’s economy with hurricane force beginning in the fall of 2003, where was the AFL-CIO?—fully engaged and investing significant staff, financial, public relations, grassroots and other resources in the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. That’s not to say that defending immigrant workers rights isn’t the right thing to do but why wasn’t there an equal investment in and concern about domestic white collar workers who were being ravaged by both off shore outsourcing and the guest worker tidal wave? When the Executive Council adopted the comprehensive policy statement on off shore outsourcing statement in early 2004, it should have been the kickoff to a sustained and very public campaign against this threat to American white collar jobs. But the Federation’s efforts—which have been considerable particularly at the state level—are almost unknown outside the house of labor. And in another footnote to lost opportunities, early efforts by the DPE to engage the AFL-CIO with MoneyLine’s Lou Dobbs, who is now considered the foremost pro-worker spokesman on the issue of the export of American jobs, were initially met with resistance because his views on the immigration issue were viewed as politically incorrect. Complicating the matter is the perception that the labor movement is in fact far more concerned about undocumented workers than protecting incumbent professionals, many of whom are unemployed. Another case in point: In August of 2003 when the AFL-CIO adopted the much delayed statement on H-1B/L-1 visa reform—an issue of paramount concern to the largely unorganized private sector IT workers throughout the country—the issue was buried within the AFL-CIO public relations and information structure even as the DPE was working hard to impress a group of two dozen tech worker organizations that labor was on their side. Contrast that with the ballyhoo that has attended statements regarding legalization, amnesty and other related matters. The discomfort of some affiliates that the guest worker position was somehow inconsistent with collateral policy on immigrant rights or that limiting professional guest workers might offend some erstwhile “allies” on this issue and was therefore inappropriate clearly got the upper hand. In fact, despite assurances that the policy statement itself—which had been presented at the 2003 Executive Council meeting—would be finalized in short order by the AFL-CIO’s Immigration Committee, it actually took five months and the intervention of the CWA, IFPTE and eventually AFL-CIO President Sweeney to get the Committee to finish its work. This inexcusable delay resulted in the statement being issued three weeks after the Senate held hearings on L-1 visa abuses. These actions were counterproductive to the ongoing efforts of DPE unions to reach out to, connect with and organize tech and other workers adversely impacted by the guest worker visa issue. Doing It Better Institutionally the leadership, affiliates and staff of the AFL-CIO need to understand the importance of professionals within the current structure as well as to the future growth of the AFL-CIO. In short, the collective consciousness needs to be elevated substantially. The American labor movement must defend the rights of oppressed workers whether they are low skill, undocumented employees, exploited because of who they are, or highly educated IT and other professionals made jobless by off shore outsourcing. As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in his speech to the 1997 DPE convention “If the labor movement is to grow as it should—and as it must—it will be organizing millions more professional and technical workers.” The labor movement, he said “must relate to the concerns of the new majority of workers.” As AFL-CIO structure, organization, activities and programs are examined, we recommend that the collaborative efforts of the AFL-CIO and the DPE expand to include more areas and that this partnership be made broader and bolder. At the same time, the Federation must profile itself as a bastion of advocacy for the millions of professional, technical and administrative support workers. Some suggestions and commentary follow: • Public Relations o o Internal—the publications of the Federation need more news, features and photos of professional and technical workers. The DPE receives all of the publications of its affiliates and could assist the AFL-CIO in identifying relevant content for coverage by the AFL-CIO; General messaging—Part of the effort to tell the story of labor’s professionals should link the work of these union workers to the welfare of the rest of the labor movement and to the general public. 9 o o o o o • Organizing and Outreach to Professionals o o o • DPE Organizing Conference—This March 2005 event will draw top-level organizing expertise and white collar organizers from among many DPE affiliates. The AFL-CIO will be funding key research in advance of the conference. This example of collaboration, particularly as it relates to white collar professionals, should be expanded. The pre-professionals—A successful DPE program now puts high-level union professionals into tailor-made outreach programs on college campuses to communicate the value of union membership to pre-professionals. We need to change the culture by ensuring that young people learn about the value of union membership to themselves, their professions, and their communities. AFL-CIO funding—perhaps through the organizing fund in conjunction with DPE affiliates—could greatly expand the reach of this program. After all, we know where tomorrow’s professionals are today— they’re on the campuses of colleges, universities and the two-year community colleges. Again, the right wing has realized the importance of such outreach and spends vast sums to influence the hearts and minds of young Americans on campus. Outreach to professional associations/societies—The DPE currently interacts with several professional associations including the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)—the largest engineering society—the American Public Health Association (APHA) which represents more than 60,000 public health workers, and the American Library Association (ALA), which represents more than 60,000 library workers. We also interact regularly with the National Council of Women’s Organizations, an umbrella organization for 200 organizations collectively representing some 10 million women. To a lesser degree, the DPE interacts with numerous other associations and societies representing professional and technical workers, developing relationships with key officers and staff, involving them in legislative efforts, disseminating our research and other information, involving them in our programs and events, and having a presence at theirs. The labor movement needs to develop a larger presence with these organizations that represent millions of American professionals, reaching out both to collaborate on key issues and to recruit members. The Federation and DPE should develop an expansive initiative in this area as well. Public Policy o • Examples include the teachers’ fight for smaller classrooms (that improves the educational performance of children); the nurses’ fight for lower patient loads (that improves the quality of health care for patients); and the firefighters’ campaign to put more professionals in the fire stations (and thereby better safeguard the public safety); AFL-CIO leadership statements should, where appropriate, include references to professional and other white collar union members; Polling—Survey samples should include appropriate occupational balance as well as timely issue questions relevant to professionals; Policy statements—affecting white collar workers need to be highlighted in press statements and releases; Press events—From time to time the Federation needs to create events that focus on professionals. For example, either at an Executive Council or at the Press Club an event featuring women professionals who have been outsourced would likely draw substantial press attention. The College Press—colleges and universities are the training ground for the next generation of white collar workers. The right wing already provides millions of dollars in support for the college press. There may be value in creating a labor link to the college/university press as a method for getting out the message about what today’s labor movement is doing for tomorrow’s professionals. Outside Research—during the fight in the Maryland legislature over anti-outsourcing legislation, the AFL-CIO Public Policy staff provided—at DPE’s request—a rapid response to an industry statement opposing the labor-backed state legislation. However, a more substantial industry analysis extolling the economic virtues of outsourcing for the U.S. economy that received much press attention went unanswered. The AFL-CIO could underwrite or contract with outside research organizations to undertake this kind of more detailed analysis on these and other such industry screeds. Mobilization 10 o o • Labor Education o o • Efforts by the DPE to continue and expand a three-year program on organizing in the professions that had been supported by the then George Meany Center (now National Labor College) were undermined when the NLC leadership and staff insisted that the course content would have to be revised to suit their inclinations on what should be taught or NLC support would be minimized. DPE cancelled the program following this disagreement. At least one other DPE affiliate also discontinued its local union leadership education program at the College for the same reason. The focus of the National Labor College has shifted dramatically from general labor education to a degree-issuing institution. Many members of DPE unions already have undergraduate and advanced degrees. They don’t need another degree but rather core labor education courses. Today of the 31 courses offered in this regard, 22 might be relevant to the leaders of professional local unions. This is significantly lower than the number of courses available a decade earlier. What is the Center’s gameplan for addressing the training needs of leaders of professional unions? Political Messaging o o • Media Rights Campaign--The three-year effort of the DPE and its media unions to expose the FCC and its pro-media monopoly deregulation has set the stage for a broader effort to attack media giants particularly conservative corporations like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Network, Clear Channel and Sinclair Broadcasting. The anti-FCC campaign has stirred widespread citizen opposition against broadcast entities that could care less about localism, i.e. local news, public affairs and the communities which they serve. In fact at local forums sponsored by the FCC, the overall effort to “raise hell” with the agency over deregulation garnered substantial and favorable local press in a media markets where the local labor movement is often ignored, activated local labor councils into this campaign, solidified our alliances particularly at the local level with an array of public interest media reform groups and energized an army of over 500 local media reform activists. This, combined with the revulsion over the pro-Bush 2004 election antics of Sinclair and others, provides organized labor with an opportunity to mobilize on an even broader scale “media rights” campaign that resonates even within the “red states”. The stakes for all of organized labor are enormous—the ability to get news coverage and tell our story in the popular media. The Federation should explore strategies for larger scale mobilization on this issue. White Collar Off shore Outsourcing—Considerable efforts are underway at the state level to restrict the off shore outsourcing of state procurement contracts. The AFL-CIO has provided significant support to state federations in this regard. This effort should be expanded to labor councils as well. Few issues resonate as clearly with unorganized professionals as this one does. In addition, given widespread public concern about the continued export of American jobs contrasted with the GOP’s use of the state initiative process to create “wedge issues” that drive electoral turnout, consideration should be given to targeted state and local ballot campaigns to ban off shore outsourcing of procurement contracts. Issues—in the 2000 election, then Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI)—a one-term incumbent—was involved in the fight of his political life. Abraham had been the chief architect of legislation to expand the H-1B program in 1998 and again in 2000. A memo from the DPE to the then AFL-CIO political director suggesting how a message around this issue could be crafted and aimed at GOP union members to persuade them to vote against Abraham went unanswered. Abraham lost his re-election bid and his advocacy for more guest workers was a big reason why. Obviously a “niche” message along the lines that was suggested by the Department also could have aided and abetted his defeat. Working America—we are told that the many names collected as part of this outreach effort cannot be broken down by occupational category. The data collection methodology needs to be corrected so that this universe can be segmented and reached with specific and relevant messages for organizing, lobbying, political and other purposes. Legal o The AFL-CIO FCC filing during agency rule-making on media ownership rules (via their Public Policy Department) was extremely helpful and well received by our media unions. This activity could be ramped up in other areas. For example, the Federation is considering aligning itself with these same 11 o o • unions in the forthcoming Supreme Court case on illegal downloading of movies and sound recordings. There have been several legal actions filed by aggrieved tech workers regarding employer abuse of the H-1B visas and subsequent displacement of American professionals. The Federation should consider what assistance is appropriate in these circumstances. When seminal cases are filed regarding the rights of professional workers, the Federation should— where appropriate—file or join amicus briefs in these proceedings and publicize these actions. Expenditures o AFL-CIO budget—as allocations for activities are apportioned, some thought should be given as to how programmatic investments can positively impact labor’s white collar membership and/or grow the base. CONCLUSION The Department for Professional Employees appreciates the opportunity to participate in the debate that is occurring within the labor movement about the future direction of the AFL-CIO. We believe, however, that this discussion must be about much more than just the structure and programs of the Federation. If, in the final analysis, that’s all it is, then we’ve squandered a critical opportunity to address an even larger issue. Collective action is at the core of what we, as a labor movement, are all about. Every union leader knows that the success of any collective action, whether it is organizing, bargaining or mobilization, depends upon a precise understanding of who the target audience is that we’re trying to reach. The current debate offers organized labor the chance to recognize that the audience has fundamentally changed and that survival depends upon our ability to adapt to that change. Organizing the millions of current and future professional employees is essential to the survival of our labor movement and its ability to regain its standing as a dynamic and forceful advocate for all working Americans. In this regard, ways and means must be found for AFL-CIO to identify more closely with the concerns and aspirations of the growing professional and technical work force. The DPE and its affiliated unions look forward to working with the AFL-CIO to achieve that outcome. Attachment 12 MISSION STATEMENT The Department for Professional Employees (DPE) is a coalition of 25 national unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO which represent over four million highly skilled, white-collar employees. DPE unions include professionals in over three hundred separate and distinct occupations in many sectors including: health care and education; science, engineering and technology; journalism; entertainment and the arts; public administration and law enforcement. The DPE is the largest association of professional, technical and administrative support workers in the U.S. The mission of DPE is to: • • • • • • • • • • Unite those AFL-CIO unions that represent professional workers and which have similar interests and goals; Create a forum for affiliated unions to discuss and cooperate on issues of mutual concern; Promote the unionization of professional, technical and administrative support workers and support the efforts of DPE affiliates to organize and represent them; Provide research, education, training, and other assistance to affiliated unions supporting their organizing, bargaining, and servicing objectives; Advance a public policy agenda in federal and state government that enhances the economic security, well-being and status of professionals; Educate pre-professionals, the public and the media about the prominent role of union professionals within our nation and the labor movement; Build alliances with non-union associations and societies that also promote the interests of these workers; Enhance the profile and visibility of professionals within the labor movement; Advocate for this constituency within the decision-making councils of the AFL-CIO; Engage in other appropriate activities that further these goals and are consistent with AFL-CIO policies. DPE is one of seven constitutional “trades” departments that are part of the AFL-CIO structure. It was chartered by the Federation in 1977 in recognition of the remarkable increase in professional and technical employees occurring at that time among union members. Since then, that growth has accelerated as America’s “the world of work” transitions even more dramatically from blue to white collar. Today, the community of professional workers within organized labor is now a near majority of the 14.3 million member AFL-CIO. In this environment, as more professionals seek union representation, the work of the DPE will be essential to expanding the reach of DPE unions among professional and technical workers as well as to the vitality, diversification, and future of the American labor movement.
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