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AFL-CIO

  (AFL-CIO)

815 16th St.,

N.W. Washington, D.C. 20006

 

Membership

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AFL-CIO is an umbrella union federation that represents 57 unions and over 12,000,000 members.

Union membership in the Federation is voluntary and the AFL-CIO exercises little authority over its constituent unions.

Important Relationships

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Alliances:

National Day Laborer Organizing Network (developing alliance)

National Domestic Workers Alliance (developing alliance)

National Guestworker Alliance (developing alliance)

United Students Against Sweatshops (formal alliance)

 

Memberships:

CERES Investor Network on Climate Risk

Alliance for Retired Americans

International Labor Communications Association

Jobs with Justice /American Rights at Work

 

Projects, Networks, and Committees sponsored or supported by AFL-CIO:

American Center for International Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center)

Community Services Network

Labor Heritage Foundation (housed at AFL-CIO, but not a direct part of the federation)

Lawyers Coordinating Committee

Union Plus Benefits

Working America

Working for America Institute

 

Structure

icon_structureThe AFL-CIO is governed by a quadrennial convention. Each union elects a delegate to attend the convention and represent their union. Convention delegates set broad policies and goals for the union movement and every four years elect the top three AFL-CIO officers—the presidentsecretary-treasurerexecutive vice president—and 54 vice presidents.

The three top officers and 54 vice presidents make up the AFL-CIO Executive Council, which guides the daily work of the federation. Between Executive Council meetings, the daily work of the federation is governed by the Executive Committee, which sets the AFL-CIO’s annual budget.

The Executive Council meets at least twice a year to consider important union movement business and policies. The Executive Council of the AFL-CIO is comprised of 42 members elected at the convention. Names and additional information are included in an appendix.

The Federation has recently established an Executive Committee comprised of officials of the ten biggest unions and nine others selected by the Executive Board. This committee is charged with decision making between meetings of the full Executive Board.

The General Board takes up matters referred to it by the Executive Council, which traditionally include endorsements of candidates for U.S. president and vice president. The board includes the Executive Council members, a chief officer of each affiliated union and the trade and industrial departments created by the AFL-CIO Constitution and four regional representatives of the state federations.

The responsibilities of all officers of the AFL-CIO are set out in the Constitution, which calls for gender, racial, ethnic and work sector diversity on all governing councils.

 

Industries and Unions

 

 

Key Officers

Richard L. Trumka, President

Richard-L.Trumka-AFL-CIO-President_mediumOn September 16, 2009, Richard L. Trumka was elected President of the AFL-CIO by acclamation at the Federation’s 26th convention in Pittsburgh, Pa. His election, following 15 years of service as the AFL-CIO’s Secretary-Treasurer, capped Trumka’s rise to leadership of the nation’s largest labor federation from humble beginnings in the small coal mining communities of southwest Pennsylvania.

Richard L. Trumka was elected as Secretary-Treasurer in October 1995 at the age of 46. Born in Nemacolin, Pa., on July 24, 1949, Trumka was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 1989. At the time of his election to secretary-treasurer, he was serving his third term as president of the Mine Workers. In 2009, President Barack Obama named Trumka to the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, chaired by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker.

At the UMWA, Trumka led two major strikes against the Pittston Coal Co. and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. The actions resulted in significant advances in employee-employer cooperation and the enhancement of mine workers’ job security, pensions and benefits. In 1994, President Clinton named him to the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform to represent the interests of working families.

 

Elizabeth-Shuler-AFL-CIO-Secretary-Treasurer_mediumElizabeth Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer

Elizabeth Shuler is the current secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, one of three top-level officers for the federation. The first ever woman elected to the position in 2009, Shuler also holds the distinction of being the youngest officer ever to sit on the federation’s Executive Council. Coming from Portland, Oregon, Shuler has been at the forefront of progressive labor initiatives like green job programs and the fight for workers’ rights for many years, starting as an organizer at her local union.

Prior to her election as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Shuler was part of the Executive Leadership team of the Electrical Workers (IBEW). At the IBEW, she was in charge of 11 major departments and an adviser for the international president. As chief financial officer of the federation, Shuler oversees six administrative departments and is leading the federation’s young worker outreach initiative as well as its repositioning efforts. Secretary-Treasurer Shuler also represents the AFL-CIO on various boards and committees, including the Women’s Committee at the International Trade Union Confederation.

 

Tefere-Gebre_mediumTefere Gebre, Executive Vice President

In 2013, Tefere Gebre was elected executive vice president of the AFL-CIO. While in college, Tefere worked his first union job as a night shift loader at UPS and member of Teamsters Local 396. From 1997 to 1999, Tefere was Director of Governmental Relation for Laborers Local 270.

He has also worked for the statewide labor movement when he served as the Southern California Political Director of the California Labor Federation. He served as the Executive Director of Frontlash, which was then the youth and college arm of the AFL-CIO. After serving as Political Director of the Orange County Labor Federation from 2006 to 2008, he became Executive Director for the labor federation in 2008.

As Executive Director, Tefere doubled the political capacity of the labor movement in Orange County. In 2008 and every year thereafter, the federation was honored by the state federation’s strategic planning committee as one of the highest performing labor councils and singled out as an “agent for change” by the California Labor Federation. In less than a year as Executive Director, Tefere increased the federation’s membership by more than 15,000 new members, established a communications division, expanded the political operations and grown the program staff.

Before joining the labor movement, Tefere worked for then-Speaker of the California State Assembly, Willie L. Brown Jr., as a legislative aid. Tefere was twice elected as President of the California Young Democrats. He was the first African American and first immigrant elected to lead the State Young Democrats. Tefere received a bachelor’s degree in International Marketing from Cal Poly Pomona.

 

Green Contacts

icon_greencontactBrad Markell is the Executive Director of AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council. He appears to be taking on the role of environmental leadership of his forbear, Bob Baugh. Already he has moderated panels on the emissions reduction and natural gas system updates. He has also spoken on the promise of job creation as a result of increased hybrid car production.

Sustainability Profile

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At the 2012 CERES Investor Summit, Richard Trumka spoke about the urgency to address climate risks and build a low carbon economy, expressing the need for comprehensive climate legislation to address the climate challenge while also creating jobs.  However, he has yet to issue a statement on the Keystone Pipeline other than to decry the “ultrapoliticized” nature of the debate.

The AFL-CIO represents 57 very diverse unions. The structure and history of the AFL-CIO—weak centralized authority with relatively autonomous affiliates – can make it difficult for the Federation to reach a position on important issues like climate change.  As a result there is a tendency for the Federation to develop “least common denominator” positions on important issues.  So far, this has been the case with climate change mitigation.  The Federation has focused on potential short-term job gains and losses. This perspective results in a fairly straightforward position:  green jobs programs are good, carbon reduction programs are suspect.

In 2008, the AFL-CIO published Greening the Economy: A Climate Change and Jobs Strategy That Works for All, an article that spelled out its broad strategy for the reduction of global warming and its own definition of green jobs (see appendix 1).  The article also listed the following as guiding environmental economic development principles to frame the federation’s efforts:

1)     Our nation should embrace a balanced approach that ensures diverse, abundant, affordable energy supplies, creates good jobs for America’s workers and improves the environment.

2)     Our nation should adopt an economy-wide cap-and-trade program that is transparent and requires all sectors to come to the table to reduce their carbon emissions. It should have timetables and standards that allow for the development and deployment of new technology and should help finance the new technologies that can provide clean energy at prices close to conventional sources.

3)     Energy incentives and investments by the federal government must be based on a set of economic development principles that clean the environment and create jobs but will not encourage offshoring of manufacturing jobs.

4)     Investments must be used to identify, develop and capture cutting-edge technologies and to manufacture and build these technologies here for domestic use and export.

5)     The international component of any climate change cap-and-trade program must provide both incentives and a border mechanism enforced through a trade regime, to ensure that major developing nations, such as China and India, participate.

The strategy concluded with the AFL-CIO’s determination “that coal- and nuclear-powered plants are the primary sources of base load power and that both technologies are needed to meet future energy needs while also helping the nation meet lower carbon emission goals.”  Additionally, the federation listed its support of the expansion of “both IGCC coal plants with carbon capture and sequestration and new nuclear technology that meet federal developmental, financial, regulatory and environmental requirements.”

The AFL-CIO’s new president, Richard Trumka (notably, the former president of the Mine Workers) has continued his predecessor’s pro-coal stance. He clearly acknowledges the danger of climate change yet urges for clean coal and carbon capture and storage technologies as solutions.  For example, in 2011, Trumka declared:

We need to develop low-carbon emission technologies—or, to put it plainly, clean coal. President Obama’s economic recovery program pays for five commercial-scale coal-fired plants. Through public-private partnerships, these plants will be equipped with state-of-the-art carbon capture and storage technology. These will go a long way towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired power plants that will meet much of our energy needs for years to come.

Because the technology behind carbon capture and storage (CCS) is currently underdeveloped, it follows that Trumka also called for “America to lead a technical revolution in the way energy is generated and used with massive investments in new labor enhancing technologies and energy efficiency.”

The AFL-CIO’s February 26, 2013 policy statement on energy and jobs is largely devoted to a discussion of the need for pipeline infrastructure repair and expansion rather than clean coal technology.  Whether or not the subtext is pro-Keystone XL is debatable.  For example, AFL-CIO states “pipelines—when properly designed, manufactured, installed and maintained by skilled workers—are a low carbon emissions method of transporting oil and natural gas. In addition, pipelines lower the cost of the fuel they carry compared with other forms of transportation, making that fuel more economically attractive. And pipelines create jobs… The AFL-CIO supports the expansion of our pipeline infrastructure and a much more aggressive approach to the repair of our more than 2.5 million miles of existing pipelines.”

The statement calls for a “comprehensive, legislative approach to energy and jobs” that accounts for a just transition for workers affected by “changing energy sources and technologies.” In conclusion, the Executive Council promises to create “an Energy Committee to focus our work on energy, jobs and the environment, and to develop deeper expertise and leadership on energy and environmental issues and their broader implications for working people.”

A minority of AFL-CIO unions—primarily energy unions and the building trades that build and maintain the existing energy infrastructure—that will be immediately impacted by mitigation efforts have been reluctant to support major carbon reduction initiatives such as reduced dependence on coal fired electricity. While the union as a whole has failed to comment on Keystone, it is these unions who have spoken out in favor of the pipeline.  On February 13, 2013, four days before the largest climate rally in history, the Building and Construction Department of the AFL-CIO “urged Obama to break ground on the project immediately.”

In contrast to this opposition, the AFL-CIO joined activists to protest against a CAFTA case being brought against the Salvadoran government by Pacific Rim, a mining company seeking gold on the banks of the Lempa River. Motions like this evidence the deep division within the federation on environmental issues.

Additional Comments and Analysis

icon_commentIt is important to bear in mind that the structure and tradition of organizational solidarity of the AFL-CIO means that a small number of unions representing a minority of unionized workers can exercise hegemony over policy decisions on specific issues like climate change.  A strategy for changing labor’s position on climate protection should include encouraging unions not currently engaged on climate change issues such as most unions in the public and service sectors to take their own positions and promote them within the Federation.

 

Appendixes

Appendix 1: Greening the Economy- AFL-CIO’s Job Strategy

Greening the Economy: A Climate Change and Jobs Strategy That Works for All

It is time for our nation to take bold steps to meet the 21st century challenges related to climate change. Scientific evidence has confirmed that human use of fossil fuels is undisputedly contributing to global warming, causing rising sea levels, changes in climate patterns and threats to coastal areas. Unrestrained growth in greenhouse gas emissions poses critical economic and environmental issues.

Climate change is the most pervasive form of globalization because the atmosphere recognizes no borders. The accumulated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the past two centuries of population, agricultural and industrial growth move freely across the planet. The threat of climate change has triggered a call to action globally and is a driving force behind proposed climate change legislation in the U.S. Congress.

The world is looking to the United States for leadership because we are the most energy-intensive nation in the world and one of its leading emitters of greenhouse gas. Our nation can lead a new technological revolution in the way energy is generated and used—a revolution that will be of immense benefit to the world as a whole and which can be the foundation of a revival of the middle class in the United States. But to accomplish this, we need a strategic approach centered on domestic investment in new technologies and good jobs. And we need to lead in fostering a shared international response to this issue.

The production, transportation and distribution of electrical energy is critical to the success of the U.S. economy, since reliable and affordable electrical energy is the lifeblood of the manufacturing, transportation, construction and service industries. To ensure a stable, reliable and affordable supply, we support diversity in the electric utility industry and the retention of all current generating options, including fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro and renewable energy.

The AFL-CIO supports a new industrial policy, an environmental economic development policy, which places manufacturing and trade at the center of a green economy program. New investment in a sustainable energy infrastructure must be structured to create good jobs and ensure stable energy prices. These must be supported by effective trade policies. Without these key elements, there is a serious risk of driving good jobs offshore into nations without emission regimes and far less carbon efficient production.

A set of environmental economic development principles has helped guide the federation’s efforts:

  1. Our nation should embrace a balanced approach that ensures diverse, abundant, affordable energy supplies, creates good jobs for America’s workers and improves the environment.
  2. Our nation should adopt an economy-wide cap-and-trade program that is transparent and requires all sectors to come to the table to reduce their carbon emissions. It should have timetables and standards that allow for the development and deployment of new technology and should help finance the new technologies that can provide clean energy at prices close to conventional sources.
  3. Energy incentives and investments by the federal government must be based on a set of economic development principles that clean the environment and create jobs but will not encourage offshoring of manufacturing jobs.
  4. Investments must be used to identify, develop and capture cutting-edge technologies and to manufacture and build these technologies here for domestic use and export.
  5. The international component of any climate change cap-and-trade program must provide both incentives and a border mechanism enforced through a trade regime, to ensure that major developing nations, such as China and India, participate.

The AFL-CIO believes we can have both a healthy economy and a cleaner planet. The investment portfolio supported by the AFL-CIO—carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS), domestic production of advanced technology vehicles, renewable energy and biomass, electric grid modernization, relief for low- and moderate-income families and more—has been well received. In a major breakthrough, pending legislation includes domestic investment requirements and international provisions regarding the participation of developing nations, including a border mechanism. However, other issues remain.

In the coming years, the nation will face a series of challenges and choices about the path we take to achieve a low-carbon future over a 40-year period. In electrical generation, the AFL-CIO recognizes that coal- and nuclear-powered plants are the primary sources of base load power and that both technologies are needed to meet future energy needs while also helping the nation meet lower carbon emission goals. The federation supports the expansion of both IGCC coal plants with carbon capture and sequestration and new nuclear technology that meet federal developmental, financial, regulatory and environmental requirements.

The need for immediate investment in CCS technology over the next decade is critical. Efforts by the United Mine Workers and IBEW to garner the support of the Environmental Protection Agency and the coal industry for legislation to create and fund a trust for CCS development are a critical step forward. In the short term, there are a wide variety of options for emissions reduction that can help bridge some of the gap between the coal technology of today and the carbon capture and sequestration technology of the future.

There is also an enormous potential for energy savings and good jobs in making our economy more energy-efficient. One important step would be to modernize and extend the 160,000 miles of high transmission lines that make up the electrical grid. This will increase energy efficiency by an estimated 20 percent and provide new, smart access for renewable energy projects. Retrofitting public, industrial and commercial buildings and home weatherization also increase energy efficiency and creates jobs. The expansion and increased usage of mass transit and passenger rail offers similar opportunities for the economy and the environment. Also, over the next decade, federal biofuel initiatives, the UAW-supported CAFE standards and state renewable portfolio standards will drive investment into new automotive, wind, solar and geothermal technologies that will contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions. Ensuring these public and private funds are invested domestically to save and create jobs is a priority for the federation.

All the AFL-CIO-supported investments and actions serve to broaden the “green jobs” brand so it includes all kinds of work. Our members and workers everywhere—with their knowledge, skills and experience—have valuable insights to offer for the greening of the workplace and the community. The greening of the economy means that every job that contributes to a low-carbon future is a green job.

At the international level, the AFL-CIO has worked with our international counterpart, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), as a part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. At the December 2007 UNFCCC meetings in Bali, Indonesia, AFL-CIO members served as part of an ITUC delegation. The ITUC’s statement on climate change sent a powerful message about the nature of the crisis and an opportunity for change that creates good jobs, improves communities and reduces poverty. We demanded a workers’ voice in the UN process, a role for workers at all levels of decision-making, skill development and stronger laws that promote “employment rights and the right to organize and bargain collectively.”

One major breakthrough in Bali was an agreement by China and other developing nations to take steps to cut their rate of greenhouse gas growth. In turn, the United States and other developed nations made important concessions on financial assistance and technology transfer. However, rather than caps, developing nations agreed to reduce their future emissions below an unspecified baseline, subject to their right to pursue “sustainable development,” and they seek compensation for reducing emission growth. All of these points will require further negotiation.

The uncertainties of the open-ended Bali Action Plan make it essential that Congress enact balanced job-friendly and technology-friendly national climate legislation that will define our commitments before the 2009 Copenhagen UN meeting to set new carbon emission protocols. The anticipated “Copenhagen Protocol” would replace the Kyoto Protocol, and would entail Senate ratification.

Labor’s expanded presence at the Bali meetings needs to carry forward at all negotiating sessions prior to Copenhagen. Our allies at the ITUC will be instrumental in working with governments in the developing nations to ensure that the agreement explicitly recognizes labor’s vital contributions to emission mitigation and adaptation and the need for appropriate transition assistance and incentives for new “green jobs.”

The AFL-CIO will continue to promote a balanced approach to an economy-wide cap-and-trade program. It is our belief that all sectors should be required to participate, that no sector should be disadvantaged and that there must be a border adjustment trade regime to ensure a level international playing field.

As the debate moves forward, the AFL-CIO Energy Task Force principles will guide our legislative efforts to ensure:

  1. Standards and timelines are realistic in relation to available technology;
  2. Any investment portfolio is invested in the United States;
  3. The system encourages investments in domestic energy-intensive industry and discourages the offshoring of jobs;
  4. Developing nations participate in climate change solutions;
  5. An effective cost-control mechanism is in place to ensure energy pricing stability;
  6. Adequate resources for transition and training and education are available for workers and their communities;
  7. Assistance is available for low- and moderate-income families impacted by energy prices; and
  8. State climate change measures integrate appropriately with a federal cap-and-trade program to achieve environmental goals and avoid economic dislocation.

Congress must be unambiguous in establishing an environmental economic development policy that seeks to increase the per capita income and protects the interests of working families. Workers exercising their free choice to form unions and bargain collectively and the respect for legal standards protecting workers’ wages and benefits are fundamental to this goal.

Climate change and energy policy will play a dominant role in the economy for the foreseeable future. These already have taken on an increased importance in the 2008 election cycle. The call for energy policy and green jobs will grow as the economic downturn drags on. The same discussion is at the center of an international carbon emission regime. The labor movement has a crucial role to play in both arenas.

Like our brothers and sisters in the ITUC, the AFL-CIO has a vision and a focus on a cleaner planet and an economy that works for all. We must continue to work with the ITUC to insist that decent work and workers’ rights are international requirements in a worldwide climate change regime.

The nation stands at the crossroads of opportunity for domestic investments in innovation, new technology and energy efficiency that will save jobs, create new jobs and new industries and revitalize American manufacturing. There is no guarantee that these will be good jobs or that the investments will be made here unless we fight to make it so.

 

Appendix 2: Executive Council Members

 

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