U.S. Chamber Report Profiles Five Leading Worker Centers at the Forefront of New Union Organizing Push

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 11:30am

Groups to Play Key Part in Announced Efforts to 'Organize the South'

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative (WFI) today released a study profiling five leading worker centers at the forefront of a new union organizing push. The report, The New Model of Representation: An Overview of Leading Worker Centers, examines the history, funding, tactics, and relationships between traditional labor unions and the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), Warehouse Workers United, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha.

“Worker centers are the new model for union organizing,” said Glenn Spencer, vice president of WFI. “Employees and employers alike must understand that labor unions often use them as a smokescreen to conceal traditional organizing goals.”

At its annual winter meeting last week, the AFL-CIO vowed to double down on recent efforts to reinvigorate union organizing, particularly in the South, where worker centers have been active in protesting against employers. The labor association previously promised to increase partnerships with worker centers, meaning that the groups profiled in WFI’s study will play a key role in this campaign.

The report outlines deep ties between unions and worker centers including senior leadership crossover between the United Food and Commercial Workers union and OUR Walmart, the Service Employees International Union and NYCC, and close relationships between both those unions and the CIW, among others.

The study also highlights the fact that many worker centers do not comply with the regulations regarding financial transparency and organizational democracy under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. Similarly, it shows that worker centers engage in conduct—including protests, secondary boycotts, and other picketing activities—that would likely be unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act if done by traditional labor unions.

“Given their activities, the deep ties between unions and worker centers, and the similarity of their ultimate objectives, worker centers should be held to the same standards as traditional unions,” Spencer concluded.  “Federal agencies should no longer allow these groups to receive special treatment under the law.”

The Workforce Freedom Initiative is a grassroots mobilization and advocacy campaign to preserve democracy in the American workplace, restrain abusive union pension fund activism, and block the anti-competitive agenda advocated by many labor unions.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.