Union reunion

Ashley Milne-Tyte Aug 16, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: We talked about this a lot when it happened last summer. There was a big split in organized labor. Seven unions left the AFL-CIO and organized a new group. Change to Win, they called it. Looks like now they’re emphasizing the “win” part over “change.”

From New York, Ashley Milne-Tyte reports labor has the November elections in its sights.

ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: The two union coalitions are planning to coordinate their efforts to get working people to the polls. Greg Tarpinian is executive director of Change to Win:

GREG TARPINIAN: There’s more that unites us than divides us in many areas so it’s natural for us to come together on those areas that we agree. And it’s clear that one thing we agree on is creating a shift in the political climate in this country that favors working people.

That climate, says Clark University labor relations professor Gary Chaison, has turned particularly cool under the Bush administration. He says labor wants a Democratic majority in the House.

GARY CHAISON: They wanna be able to come out of the midterm elections victorious or relatively victorious and go onto the next election with a feeling that they’ve regained their role as a political power.

Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University says there’s a good chance of that. She says there have always been disagreements within the labor movement.

KATE BRONFENBRENNER: When they have come together has been when they’ve been most effective. And we have concrete examples of that: The last time minimum wage was increased, that was when the entire labor movement came together and did a nationwide campaign.

As to whether the newly combined groups will stay together, Gary Chaison of Clark University is hopeful.

CHAISON: I think they will patch up their relations permanently if they see they can be successful working together.

He says the original falling-out was between the top officers at the AFL-CIO, but the rank-and-file have been getting along. Union members are inherently practical, he says, and will do whatever it takes to elect a Congress that will support better wages, pensions and workplace safety.

In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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