Top U.S. Labor Federation Faces Split; Two Unions Withdraw

The top U.S. labor federation, the AFL-CIO, faced a devastating split July 25 after two of its largest unions broke away on the opening day of its 50th anniversary convention. The loss of the 1.2 million member Teamsters union and the 1.3 million member Service Employees International Union dealt a blow to the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Unions as it tries to reverse a slide in membership and loss of political influence.

Two other major unions, the United Food and Commercial Workers and Unite Here, boycotted the convention while the remaining three unions who have joined the dissident "Change To Win" coalition chose to attend the convention. The seven unions represent nearly half of AFL-CIO's 13 million members.

The U.S. labor movement has suffered a decades-long decline in union membership and erosion of labor-protection laws. About 12.5% of U.S. workers were union members in 2004, according to government statistics, down from about one-third 50 years ago. In the private sector, unions represent only about eight percent of employees.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005

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