POLITICS
08/08/2013 01:40 pm ET Updated Aug 08, 2013

UFCW Rejoins AFL-CIO, Ending 8-Year Absence From Labor Federation

AP

WASHINGTON -- The United Food and Commercial Workers, one of the largest private-sector unions in the country, re-affiliated with the AFL-CIO labor federation on Thursday, ending the union's eight-year absence from the group and boosting the AFL-CIO's ranks by 1.3 million workers.

Earlier this week, UFCW President Joe Hansen asked the union's executive board to vote on whether or not to rejoin the federation, according to union spokeswoman Jill Cashen. The board voted unanimously in support of the move.

"We join the AFL-CIO because it is the right thing to do for UFCW members, giving them more power and influence," Hansen said in a statement Thursday. "This is not about which building in Washington D.C. we call home -- it is about fostering more opportunities for workers to have a true voice on the job."

The UFCW's reuniting with the AFL-CIO effectively ends the union's membership in the Change to Win labor federation, which includes the Service Employees International Union, the United Farm Workers and the Teamsters, though UFCW will still be involved in the group's organizing campaigns.

That federation was launched in 2005 after a group of unions broke off from the AFL-CIO, in part due to philosophical differences. While the AFL-CIO is largely seen as a political animal, Change to Win unions have generally put more of their resources directly into worker organizing.

While Hansen said in his statement that the affiliation with Change to Win has been a "rewarding one," union leadership apparently believes it will have more clout on Capitol Hill and at the White House as a part of the more robust AFL-CIO. Hansen said the re-affiliation made sense given the legislative efforts around the country to weaken unions since the 2010 elections.

"The attacks on workers brought the UFCW into direct strategic partnership with the AFL-CIO and the entire labor movement," he said. "Our shared campaign revealed a dynamic and revitalized AFL-CIO and made it clear that it was time for the UFCW to redouble our efforts to build a more robust and unified labor movement."

The UFCW may also find more financial support in its organizing efforts, such as its long-running Walmart campaign. The union's Walmart worker affiliate, OUR Walmart, made national headlines last fall, helping orchestrate one-day strikes by Walmart workers around the country.

"We're looking forward to this as building a broader ground flow of support, like with the Walmart campaign and other burning issues that retail workers are facing," Cashen explained. "Personally, I'm excited about what this means for the Walmart campaign."

A reuniting of the UFCW and AFL-CIO has been rumored for years. Last month, In These Times magazine reported that UFCW was expected to rejoin the federation ahead of the AFL-CIO's quadrennial convention in September.

Cashen said the union still plans to work with Change to Win unions on organizing campaigns, even if the UFCW isn't formally affiliated with the federation.

"UFCW is a great union and we wish them and their members well," a Change to Win spokesman told HuffPost. "We're also looking forward to organizing workers with UFCW " through the group's organizing branch.

Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, called the addition of UFCW "great news" for organized labor in a statement Thursday. "A stronger, more unified grassroots movement of working men and women is exactly what’s needed to raise wages for workers and rebuild an American middle class," he said.

This post has been updated with comment from Change to Win and the AFL-CIO.

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