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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that “five dissident unions, including the Teamsters, are threatening to ‘disaffiliate’ from the nation's largest federation of labor unions, taking five million members with them, or about 38% of the AFL-CIO's membership – a move that would effectively dismember the organization.”

The infighting seems to center on perceptions that AFL-CIO president John Sweeney has spent too much union money on political campaigns, and not enough on recruiting new members. Unionized employees in the US represented 12.5 percent of the workforce in 2004, down from 19 percent a decade earlier.

And the dissidents would like to see more money put toward national recruiting campaigns aimed at companies such as Wal-Mart.

“Should the unions secede,” the WSJ reports, “it would create even more animosity within labor. But it could result in a new assertiveness, particularly among the members of the Service Employees International Union, which is leading the fight and is the fastest growing union in the federation.”

The disaffiliation could come as early as this weekend.
KC's View:
There seem to be different evaluations of what such a move by the dissidents could mean. While some companies seem to think that any dissension weakens organized labor, there is another, troubling possibility. There is always the chance that if a new national labor organization is formed, it could go in and try to re-organize at various companies.

They might not be successful. But they certainly could create discord and disharmony. That wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Destabilization is almost never a good thing.