The AFL-CIO and the Future
- Samuel Gompers, the father of the modern American labor
movement and the first president of the AFL, was asked on many
- occasions, "What do unions really want?"
- In an eloquent speech, Gompers summed up the philosophy
and hopes that guide the union movement today just as they did at
- its founding.
- As Gompers put it, "We want more school houses and
less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice;
- more constant work and less crime; more leisure and less
greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the
- opportunities to cultivate our better natures . . . ."
- The fundamental reason for the very existence of unions
is in fact to help workers achieve a better life. That purpose will remain
- valid as long as there are unachieved goals on the horizon,
as long as a single worker remains subject to unfair treatment.
- The AFL-CIO is committed just as firmly to the belief
that union members can gain nothing of value at the expense of their
- fellow citizens, that "what is good for America
is good for labor."
- The unachieved goals of labor and the nation are many-the
complete eradication of the poverty that grips millions of people, a
- job at fair wages and a decent place to live for every
American, fulfillment of democracy's promise of equal rights and equal
- opportunity for men and women and for persons of every
race and creed, full education for every youngster with no ceiling
- except individual ability, adequate security against
the hazards of Unless and old age, and above all a world where peace and
- freedom prevail.
- These are just the high priority objectives, the immediate
"more" that labor is seeking. The AFL-CIO will pursue them with
- same determination, the same dedication to democratic
principles that in the past have produced such gains as the basic social
- security program, public education, the federal minimum
wage, the elimination of child labor, and the highest living standards
- the world for the American worker.
- Critics and enemies of organized labor have predicted
its demise time and again over the past century, frequently with a sneer
- that collective bargaining was "obsolete" or
had "outlived its usefulness." These critics were proved wrong,
and labor and the
- bargaining process not only survived but grew more vigorous.
- Under the aegis of its Committee on the Evolution of
Work, the AFL-CIO is examining organized labor's role in a rapidly
- changing world of work and has adopted a series of recommendations
aimed at continuing the process of "renewal and
- regeneration" that enables unions "to remain
the authentic voice of workers."
- Against the background of its traditional principles,
the AFL-CIO reviewed "the numerous and complex factors which have
- created the current situation facing workers and their
unions," pointing out that "the United States-indeed, every industrialized
- nation-is undergoing a scientific, technological, economic
revolution every bit as significant as the industrial revolution of the
- 19th Century."
- Stressing that "unions must come to grips with the
current and changed realities workers face," the AFL-CIO adopted a
- number of new programs, including innovative organizing
strategies, a membership benefits program, and a grassroots campaign
- to increase participation of local members.
- By recognizing the realities of the future of work and
anticipating the needs of tomorrow's workers, the labor movement will
- remain a vital force for progress and will thrive amidst
such changing conditions.
- Today, as the AFL-CIO moves forward into its second hundred
years, organized labor faces new challenges in an increasingly
- complex industrial society. The Federation will meet
these challenges with confidence in its ability to adjust to change, to
- respond to the needs and opportunities of the times,
and to apply the pragmatic lessons of its history.
- Back to the Preamble