AFL-CIO Convention Marked by High Hopes, Unfinished Business

IAM International President and AFL-CIO Executive Board member Tom Buffenbarger delivers the AFL-CIO Finance Committee report at the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles.

The AFL-CIO National Convention concluded this week after delegates approved a dizzying array of more than 45 resolutions, many designed to extend the benefits of the labor movement to like-minded community groups. The delegates also elected AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka and Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler to new four-year terms and chose Tefere Gebre to be Executive Vice-President, filling the vacancy left by retiring Executive Vice-President Arlene Holt Baker.

IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin speaks on behalf of an IAM resolution to protect the Tennessee Valley Authority at the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles.
IAM District 711 President and Directing Business Representative Rickey Wallace, at the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles, calls on fellow delegates to approve an IAM resolution to protect the Tennessee Valley Authority from privatization.
IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary Allen, at the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles, speaks on behalf of an IAM resolution to protect AFL-CIO unions from raids by non-affiliated unions.

Among the resolutions passed unanimously by the delegates was one submitted by the IAM urging Congress and the White House to reject any proposal to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Created in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the TVA stands today alongside Social Security as a landmark achievement of FDR’s New Deal. The fully self-sustaining agency provides electricity to more than nine million families in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia.

Calling on the delegates to approve the resolution was IAM Delegate to the AFL-CIO and District 711 President and Directing Business Representative Rickey Wallace. “Brothers and sisters, we’ve seen this privatizing movie before and we all know how it ends,” said Wallace, who described how thousands of high-paying and high-skilled TVA jobs help drive the economies of many struggling southern states. Also speaking on behalf of the IAM resolution to protect the TVA was Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin, who said the resolution calls on Congress to increase the $30 billion TVA debt ceiling that has been in place since 1979.

Delivering the AFL-CIO Finance Committee report was IAM International President and AFL-CIO Executive Board member Tom Buffenbarger, who described the federation’s financial condition as significantly improved since 2009, but still facing a deficit that Buffenbarger described as “not sustainable.”

Despite the number and variety of proposals considered by delegates, one that did not receive due consideration was a constitutional amendment submitted by the IAM to protect AFL-CIO unions from raids by non-affiliated unions. The amendment was referred to a committee, which would make recommendations and report back to the executive council by February. The move effectively prevented any floor debate by delegates on the issue.

Calling raids by non-affiliated unions “a cancer that is rotting the foundation of the House of Labor,” Western Territory General Vice President Gary Allen described raids by the non-affiliated International Brotherhood of Teamsters on IAM-represented facilities and implored the AFL-CIO to acknowledge and address the problem before it spreads any further.

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