AFL-CIO scales back Democratic convention involvement

Eshe Nelson Contributor
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The AFL-CIO, America’s largest union federation, will be scaling back its presence at this year’s Democratic National Convention.

In a memo to member union presidents, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that the federation will not be making any large monetary contributions or hosting events at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, The Huffington Post reports.

The AFL-CIO’s involvement with the convention will only extend to hosting a meeting for members who are serving as delegates.

As part of a new political strategy the group will move its resources away from spending on candidates and party structures and toward building its own infrastructure. (SEE ALSO: AFL-CIO shifts resources away from Obama, Democrats)

Trumka said the aim is to “engage in politics in a more effective and grassroots way”.

“Our resources this year will go instead to our core political work … the priority in this cycle is to register and protect voters,” he added.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the AFL-CIO’s largest member, faced internal struggles over the strategy shift during the election of its president last month. (SEE ALSO: Union woes ‘related to their own management issues,’ says critic)

Concerns were raised about members’ dues being used to bankroll favored Democratic causes with little concern for the interests of members.

The AFSCME election debate centred around whether it needed to reposition the union’s resources and spending to focus on combating membership losses and boosting member mobilization.

The failure to oust Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker was cited as an example of misplaced resources, whereby not enough attention was paid to retaining members.

The implementation of the federation’s new strategy could be seen as a direct reaction to what happened in Wisconsin, where relying on Democratic candidates failed.

In previous years the group has given large financial contributions to the DNC and hosted events including an economic forum at the 2008 convention in Denver.

The AFL-CIO may be shifting its funds, but Trumka insists that support for Democratic causes remains firmly in place. “We are deeply committed to re-electing President Obama and Vice President Biden,” he said. Trumka will also be attending the convention.

Despite almost a quarter of Democratic convention delegates coming from unions, the Democratic Party appears to be alienating this vital bloc of support.

More than a dozen unions are boycotting the convention in September because of its location in North Carolina, a right-to-work state that is the least unionized in the country.

A number of union leaders are planning to come together to hold a “shadow convention” on August 11 in Philadelphia to promote labor issues they feel are being ignored.

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