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March 28, 2005

AFSCME Knocked Out of IL Child Care Vote

One purpose of the AFL-CIO is to mediate disputes between unions competing to represent the same workers-- avoiding wasted resources and making sure that unions that do early spade work on organizing don't lose out to unions swooping in at the last moment.

SEIU just used its membership in the AFL-CIO to get get an internal ruling that AFSCME cannot compete on a vote to represent 50,000 child-care workers in Illinois:

[AFSCME]was found to have launched its organizing drive following SEIU Local 880's effort, and was told it must shut down its campaign a day after a hearing before the national AFL-CIO on the matter...

SEIU had maintained that it had worked to organize the workers for nine years, and filed 20,000 union authorization cards with the state, triggering the representation election.

It accused AFSCME of jumping in at the last minute and raiding its organizing campaign.

AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer voiced disappointment at the AFL-CIO decision. "While we accept this decision, we do not affirm it," he said. "Clearly the mere fact that one union started an organizing effort in advance of a contending union should not determine who has the right to seek the support of a particular group of workers."

If SEIU leaves the AFl-CIO, it will lose access to the so-called "Article XXI" dispute proceedings that led to this decision protecting SEIU's exclusive rights in this vote.

While a split in the labor federation could lead to some healthy competition that might force unions to put resources into organizing or see other unions invade their jurisdiction, this decision highlights the kind of case where the AFL-CIO does play a role in mediating less healthy disputes between unions.

Posted by Nathan at March 28, 2005 07:04 AM