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July 29, 2005

Actors’ Equity at the AFL-CIO Convention

Nearly 1,000 union delegates from more than 50 AFL-CIO unions met in Chicago at the AFL-CIO’s 25th Constitutional Convention July 25 –28. Representing Actors' Equity Association were Central Regional Vice President Dev Kennedy and Executive Director Alan Eisenberg.

The Convention was closely watched by the labor community, big business and politicians across the country as two powerful unions – SEIU and the Teamsters – notified the AFL-CIO that they have disaffiliated from the Federation. Two other unions, United Food and Commercial and Workers and UNITE HERE, refused to participate in the Convention. Over the past several months, the Federation, its affiliated unions and union members have engaged in extensive dialogue that culminated in scores of proposals outlining strategies for strengthening the union movement. In the end, the four unions that either disaffiliated or did not participate in the convention admitted that, while their proposals were similar to the goals set forth by the AFL-CIO’s Winning for Working Families Team, the real issue was control of the federation.

“At a time when our corporate and conservative adversaries have created the most powerful anti-worker political machine in the history of our country,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in his keynote address to the Convention delegates on Monday, July 25, 2005, “a divided movement hurts the hopes of working families for a better life. He stressed that the union movement must keep looking forward and that the Convention was about the future of the labor movement. Later in the week, Sweeney was nominated and reelected President of the federation.

At the Wednesday proceedings, Sweeney outlined an ambitious “blueprint” for the AFL-CIO, including a 22.5 million dollar fund for use by affiliates in organizing, and an effort to bring greater diversity to leadership roles in the federation. To encourage greater investment in organizing, approximately $15 million will be returned as rebates to the affiliates that have met high standards in changing their organizations to organize. Of the fund, $7.5 million is earmarked to assist strategic organizing campaigns by affiliates for drives of importance to the overall labor movement such as campaigns targeting Wal-Mart, Federal Express, Toyota or a major public employer.

A number of important resolutions were passed and these centered on diversity, good jobs, public health and retirement programs and the upcoming House vote on the Dominican Republic – Central American Free Trade Agreement. Other agenda items included organizing, political mobilization and strengthening state and local labor movements. Global and U.S. economies and how these affect the labor movement were also examined.

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