24/02/2006 - 06:00 am

Laborers’ Union, Operating Engineers Disaffiliate from AFL-CIO

Long discussion of the Laborers' International Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers leaving the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department has finally come to a head. Two of the largest basic trade unions in the United States have decided to leave the AFL-CIO and join several other construction trade unions to form the National Construction Alliance, which will represent virtually all union basic trade workers.

The Alliance will focus on helping lift working and living standards for the nation's approximately 8 million construction workers, increasing the union share of the construction market and helping union contractors compete in today's construction industry. Details regarding the National Construction Alliance will be released on March 1, which is also the effective disaffiliation date of the Laborers' Union and Operating Engineers.

“The construction industry has changed,” said Laborers' Union General President Terence M. O'Sullivan. “If our union is going to provide our members with good jobs, good wages, good training and safe workplaces, we must embrace change and opportunities. It is our obligation to stop decades of decline and begin a renaissance of unions in construction.”

IUOE General President Vincent J. Giblin echoed the sentiment that a new direction was needed to promote growth in the unionized construction industry, stating that the disaffiliation will not be taken lightly. “We must • and we will • pursue a course of action that best serves the interests of our members, our local unions, and the construction industry in which we work,” he added.

Giblin and O'Sullivan said the key to that is reaching out to the vast majority of construction workers and their employers who do not have a union, which is more than 85% of construction workers in the United States. The National Construction Alliance will aim to remove barriers to growth for construction unions and union contractors.

O'Sullivan and Giblin said persistent and lengthy attempts to reform the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department were not successful. They said needed reforms included changing the department's governance structure and changing jurisdictional rules. These rules dictate which union members can do what type of work.

“The real question is not whether our action today is good for any particular institution, but is it good for millions of hard-working men and women,” O'Sullivan said. “We believe forging a new path for construction workers will be good for them and good for America.”

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