AFL-CIO & UTU: A powerful alliance

October 14, 2009

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

The AFL-CIO convention that elected new leadership and placed the UTU on its ruling Executive Council is the beginning of a powerful cooperative atmosphere that will be good for organized labor and, in particular, for the UTU membership.

Two comments of newly elected AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka are especially inspiring.

In his acceptance speech, Rich issued a tough warning that intra-union raiding would not be tolerated, and that raiding by organizations outside the AFL-CIO would be met with a forceful response by the 51 AFL-CIO labor organizations that represent almost 12 million working families.

Rich also pledged to make the labor movement appeal to a new generation of workers whom he said currently perceive unions as “only a grainy, faded picture from another time. We need,” he said, “a unionism that makes sense to the next generation – young women and men who either don’t have the money to go to college or are almost penniless by the time they come out.”

This thinking parallels what we are seeking to achieve within the UTU, and I am heartened that this approach has caused, in recent months, many hundreds of previously unorganized workers to choose the UTU as their bargaining agent.

The UTU continues to gain new members in the airline, bus and rail industries – working men and women who understand not only that in union there is strength, but that the UTU has a proven track record of negotiating world-class agreements and then enforcing those agreements.

Our cherished craft autonomy, beginning at the local level, permits every member an important say in crafting labor agreements.

Our craft autonomy begins with the individual member, who has the right and responsibility to document carrier violations of his or her agreement and be assured that every level of the organization – from local officer to general committee of adjustment to state legislative boards to the International is ready, willing, anxious and able to assist.

No member of the UTU stands alone. Our resources are substantial, and when we include the resources of our UTU PAC and the strength of the AFL-CIO, we match, and often exceed, the strength of the carriers.

A highlight of the AFL-CIO convention was the appearance of President Obama, who opened his speech by saying, “You know, the White House is pretty nice, but there is nothing like being back in the House of Labor.”

President Obama also said that among “the fundamental reasons I ran for president was to stand up for hardworking families; to ease the struggles, lift the hopes, and make possible the dreams of middle class Americans.”

Together, we can and will continue to improve the quality of life for the working men and women who say, “Union, yes!” I am proud to be playing a part on your behalf.