In a press conference Tuesday after the federation's day-and-a-half convention in Chicago closed, Burger also said CTW's Strategic Organizing Center would step up its services to the member unions, training organizers, coordinating campaigns and marshaling financial resources, among other things.
But the political assessment was a new move, given CTW's prior emphasis on organizing, rather than politics--the point which led seven unions to split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. The seven – Carpenters, Laborers, Service Employees Teamsters, United Farm Workers, United Food & Commercial Workers and UNITE HERE -- felt the older labor federation put too much emphasis, relatively, on politics.
The new emphasis means in some states, CTW is setting up its own statewide political/organizing operations, while in others its unions' locals signed "Solidarity Charters" with AFL-CIO state federations and central labor councils for joint operations.
"In some of these states, the AFL-CIO operation"--the state fed or CLC--"is our operation," Burger stated. She singled out New York, Nevada and California. As for the Solidarity Charters in general, she added: "Wherever locals want to work together they can, and where they don't want to, they won't."
The 10-cent surcharge, which may raise up to $14 million over the two years, will go for education campaigns centered around politics and several issues, notably including health care and the right to organize. "The way we focus on organizing and politics is very different" from the AFL-CIO, Burger added.
The convention resolution approving the assessment, and laying out the federation's overall plan for the next two years, says the money will be used "to build a state-of-the-art coordinated political program to ensure the election of a pro-labor president in 2008 and pro-labor majorities in the Senate and House in order to pass the Employee Free Choice Act."
The bill would help level the playing field between workers and bosses in organizing drives and bargaining for first contracts. It passed the Democratic-run House this year by a bipartisan 241-185 margin, fell victim to a GOP filibuster in the Senate, though it won a majority there, too.
"Passage and signing of EFCA will serve as the focus of all of Change to Win's political work leading into 2009," the resolution said. Besides the political assessment,
the resolution set out other goals for Change to Win for the next two years.
One was "continuing to realign our unions into the same industries" for the same groups of workers and increased emphasis on organizing in its core industries, Burger said. "We adopted a set of strategies around organizing and structure," she added.
Those strategies would lead to new and larger industry-wide organizing drives, Burger and other CTW leaders--including UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor and UFCW President Joe Hansen--said in an earlier interview.
One such organizing drive, already under way, will focus on 90,000 port workers nationwide, most of them in Los Angeles-Long Beach. The Teamsters are leading that, but CTW's Strategic Organizing Center is providing training, coordination of the use of financial clout--such as investment dollars--research and also helping member unions trying to find new organizers. The center will get 75 percent of CTW's $18 million budget, said Burger, whom the group's board elected to a new two-year term in August.
Other strategic industry-wide organizing drives will be in construction and transportation, but have yet to start.
"Change to Win affiliates have dramatically shifted resources in organizing and are restructuring their organizations for growth," the resolution says. Hansen said in the morning session that since the 2004 Southern California grocery workers' lockout-and-strike--which pushed his union to totally reorganize its operations--it has changed to devote most of its budget to organizing.
"We doubled our organizing staff and put tough standards out there" for organizers to meet, Hansen explained. "We raised organizing spending by 28% and we're looking to hire 50 more organizers." But he identified one key area where the Strategic Organizing Center can help its member unions: Finding qualified organizers to run nationwide campaigns, such as those CTW plans.
"We couldn't have big campaigns. We didn't have the capacity," he admitted. So The center helped UFCW's national grocery workers' drive--and that drive led to this year's settlements with the three big grocery chains that forced the 2004 confrontation.
Those settlements, in Southern California, St. Louis and elsewhere, brought excellent contracts, including rollbacks of the 2-tier wage system and health care cuts the grocery chains won in L.A. in 2004. "We didn't have a national strategy then. We have one now, and Safeway, Albertson's and Kroger knew it. They realized that if anything happened in Southern California, it would quickly spread. The results there, in Cincinnati, Texas and St. Louis bear that out," Hansen said.
Mark Gruenberg writes for Press Associates, Inc., news service. Used by permission.
For more information
Read the full text of Burger's remarks and more at www.changetowin.org