New York State Labor Movement Ratifies ‘New Alliance’

Volume CI, No. 7/8July, 2001

Union officials from across New York State joined together on June 5 to unanimously ratify a historic “New Alliance” initiative that is intended to strengthen and more clearly define the priorities of organized labor in the state. New York is the first state in the country to ratify such an initiative.

The term “New Alliance” refers to the reorganization of 25 central labor councils into five new area labor federations, stretching from the lower Hudson Valley west to Buffalo. Each of these entities will represent approximately 100,000 workers. Six currently existing CLC’s will remain, including New York City and Long Island, both in the Local 802 jurisdiction.

Denis Hughes, as President of the New York State Fed and, along with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, chief mover behind the project, said, “The labor movement in New York State has a rich and proud history. Our position of greatness flows from high union density and the political and economic power that comes from strength in numbers.

“However that strength is under attack here, as it is across the nation. Our membership numbers have stagnated at two million, while the labor force continues to grow. Even with our status as the most unionized state in the country, we still lose some four out of every 10 organizing campaigns, and many others never make it to an election or recognition.”

Hughes said the New Alliance’s overarching goal is “the building of a unified movement for the working families of New York – one powerful enough to bring entire communities together when employers interfere with the freedom of workers to join unions, one strong enough to take on corporate interests and to help control the excesses of the global economy.”

In addition to creating the new area federations, the convocation recommended that the state labor movement:

  • Launch a movement-wide “Solidarity Project” through the New York State Fed and charge it with creating an organizing environment that eliminates employer coercion and allows workers a free choice to form or join unions.
  • Expand our statewide grassroots political action network and utilize it to activate, educate and motivate more union members.
  • Increase the size and scope of our lobbying efforts and use our increased clout to help us pass a working family agenda and legislation supporting the right of workers to organize.
  • Take aggressive action to attract and place more women and people of color in leadership positions in our movement.

Nationally, the AFL-CIO has set a goal of helping one million workers organize every year in order to regain power in the workplace, the community, the government and the global economy. Under the New Alliance, New York’s share of that goal is 130,000 new members per year.

The initiative was created by a New Alliance drafting committee made up of 23 national, state and local union leaders, led by Sweeney and Hughes. Local 802 President Bill Moriarity represented the AFM. The convocation that ratified the New Alliance was held on June 5 at the Sheraton New York Hotel in New York City.