Thursday, July 28, 2005

AFL-CIO Convention Passes Health and Safety Resolutions. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda?

The AFL-CIO convention has passed two safety and health resolutions. The most activist, Protecting Workers’ Safety and Health, was proposed by the Buffalo, NY, Central Labor Council and resolved that the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions:
maintain a strong commitment to protecting workers’ safety and health and to fully incorporate these issues into expanded mobilization, political and organizing programs. Further, the federation will take a leadership and coordinating role, working with affiliates to build grassroots safety and health campaigns as part of these mobilizing, political and organizing programs.
The resolution points to the important role that health and safety issues can play in organizing:
Historically and currently, safety and health concerns have been a major reason workers have been
willing to organize and join unions. Even when employers have intimidated or overwhelmed organizers on wage, benefit, job security and retirement issues, workers still respond enthusiastically to effective organizing strategies based on workplace safety and health issues.

America’s workers are particularly concerned about safety and health issues that grow out of basic conflicts between workers and employers. These conflicts include abusive workload pressure, speed ups, excessive overtime, short staffing, dangerous exploitation of immigrants, cruel mistreatment of injured workers, etc. Most workers can appreciate a well-crafted message about the basic injustice of their jobs and the effects on their safety and health.
Although the resolution doesn't call for the resurrection of the recently abolished health and safety department (otherwise it wouldn't have made it to the floor), sponsors hoped that AFL-CIO leadership would realize that the goals of the resolution couldn't be attained any other way.

After all, without a fully staffed department, how does this happen?
The expansion of the federation’s efforts to move forward on safety and health issues and to stop assaults on existing laws and standards requires strategic leadership and the capacity to plan and implement these initiatives. To do anything less would be a serious disservice both to workers’ safety and health and to our hopes for a stronger labor movement.
The second health and safety resolution passed was essentailly the "House" resolution that apears at every convention and calls on the AFL-CIO to "continue to protect workers’ lives and health through a strong commitment to occupational safety and health."

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Ultimately, of course, most resolutions just provide filler between convention speeches. The test will be whether the unions in and outside of the AFL-CIO start to aggressivelly employ health and safety issues in their organizing campaigns, and whether the unions and the federation(s) have the strategic sense, capacity, resources and support that will be needed to fight off the coming attacks on worker safety from corporate America and Republicans in Congress.