Union Withdraws from AFL-CIO

The bitter relationship between the United Transportation Union and the Bhd. of Locomotive Engineers has soured further, with the UTU withdrawing from the AFL-CIO on Mar. 16. UTU said the AFL-CIO “demonstrated a lack of evenhandedness” in decisions as well as holding positions in national transportation policy that would hurt railroad employees.

“Because UTU perceives its differences with the federation . . . to be presently irreconcilable, the UTU board of directors and I have concluded that it will be in the best interest of both UTU and the federation for us to immediately disaffiliate,” wrote UTU president Charles L. Little in a letter to John J. Sweeney, AFL-CIO president.

UTU also said it was unacceptable for the AFL-CIO to impose “improper, after-the-fact” monetary sanctions against it in a representation dispute with the BLE. UTU said it was not right for the AFL-CIO to then give those funds to BLE, which would then use UTU’s money to mount an organizing campaign against UTU.

On AFL-CIO’s transport and political actions, the UTU cited AFL-CIO’s support for a “shippers bill” that “would greatly harm rail operating employees represented by UTU” and its opposition to UTU-backed candidates for positions at the Surface Trans. Bd. and Nat’l Mediation Bd.

Little charged that AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard L. Trumka said at a meeting with a number of rail affiliates that he probably should get the White House to come out in support of the “shippers bill,” and threaten the railroads with federation support for it. “This bill would grant open access on the nation’s railroads to shippers and other carriers that would greatly harm rail operating employees represented by UTU,” Little wrote.

In 1986, the UTU withdrew from the federation for three years over a dispute concerning coal slurry policy that threatened the jobs of thousands of railroad workers. Other major unions, including the Teamsters and mine workers, have withdrawn from the federation over political and organizing disputes. [J. of Comm. 3/20/00; BNA 3/16/00]

 “It is hard to exaggerate just how removed John Sweeney’s AFL-CIO is from labor unions of yore.  Today four in 10 union members work for government; indeed, the AFL-CIO’s largest members is AFSCME, the 1.4 million-member strong union of…state and local workers.  Given this constituency, instead of focusing on an economic growth that would create jobs for more union workers, organized labor needs a growing government and their membership rolls.  For all his talk about the invention of the Internet, Mr. Gore’s core constituency really has no binding stake in the new economy.”