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Resolutions & Amendments

30th International Convention - Las Vegas, NV (1992)

Organizing the Unorganized

Resolution No. 125
30th International Convention
June 15-19, 1992
Las Vegas, NV


AFSCME recognized long ago that the decline in the number of unionized U.S. workers, from over 35 percent of the labor force to 16 percent today, imperils our members and threatens the American way of life, a way of life built upon the foundation of free and strong unions; and


AFSCME has been a leader in organizing by matching the rhetorical commitment to organizing with real resources, a devoted corps of organizers, and innovative organizing techniques and strategies; and


AFSCME's commitment to organizing resulted in 200,000 new members during the 1980s, despite Reagan-Bush policies, and almost 100,000 new members since this decade began; and


Organizing the unorganized remains AFSCME's top priority; and


AFSCME is tooling up for the organizing challenge by mobilizing community support and solidarity, training organizers, worker education and utilizing volunteer and lost-time activist organizers.


That AFSCME supports the following nine-part organizing program, the most ambitious and demanding organizing effort of any union. AFSCME will:

  1. Fight for the enactment of public employee bargaining laws in the 23 states without such laws and in the 4 states with weak laws, and win representation for the largest portion of eligible workers, utilizing coalitions with other unions where desirable to avert destructive competition.
  2. Mount aggressive internal organizing campaigns to convert fair share fee-payers and to sign-up free riders. We will reinvigorate our affiliates and strengthen our membership by vigorously recruiting these non-members.
  3. Organize hospital and other health care workers. The U.S. health care industry, with over 7 million workers, is the fastest growing employment sector. Less than 20 percent of these workers are unionized. AFSCME, with 325,000 members in the health care field, is the largest health care union. Through our National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees (1199), and other AFSCME affiliates, we will remain on the front line, battling to organize workers who need and seek representation.
  4. Break through anti-union barriers in non-bargaining law states. The enactment of new statutes — a comprehensive public employee bargaining law in New Mexico and payroll deduction for Texas state employees — points to the future for all public employees in the Southwest, Southeast and Rocky Mountain states. We will make the most of these breakthroughs by organizing actively in New Mexico and Texas and we will demand these same rights for other employees in these areas. Only two other states in these regions, Montana and Florida, had a comprehensive bargaining law, prior to New Mexico. Most of the states have "right-to-work" laws prohibiting union security, and several even prohibit public employers from voluntarily recognizing and bargaining with any employee groups. In the face of this resistance, AFSCME has increased our efforts, launching new projects in almost every state. Our approach requires a long-term commitment and patient union-building by the local unions on the front lines. AFSCME makes that commitment.
  5. Stop decertification challenges. Employers and rivals continue to test our bargaining certifications, and we continue to fight back by strengthening and revitalizing our union. Major challenges have been voted down by our members in the city of Jacksonville, Florida and the state of Delaware Correction Department. By voting for representation by NAPE-AFSCME Local 61, the 900 corrections officers in Nebraska showed the way for similar groups in other states who decertified AFSCME in the 1980s and now want to come home.
  6. Organize aggressively in higher education. AFSCME's standing as the largest union representing university and college employees was reinforced by election victories in clerical and secretarial bargaining units of over 2,000 workers each at the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois. We reaffirm our commitment to organizing these employees.
  7. Expand our organizing in bargaining law states. AFSCME, the trailblazer in public sector organizing and the most experienced union in the public sector, can best assist unrepresented workers. Our current members benefit directly and indirectly from increased unionization. This is particularly the case where the workers seeking representation work for the same employer, or for adjacent or comparable employers in similar occupations. Our commitment includes negotiating accretions, seeking employer neutrality to permit workers in residual units to unionize, and testing the legal barriers used to deny representation to large categories of excluded workers.
  8. Affiliate independent associations. Scores of employee associations have decided to affiliate with AFSCME over the years because they saw that their members and ours had so much in common and so much to gain by working together. The principles of autonomy and common strength remain the basis of our invitation to state civil service associations, classified school employee associations, and employee associations of every other type.
  9. Organize private agencies in health, mental health, mental retardation and social services. Deinstitutionalization and privatization have created a large and rapidly growing industry of both non-profit and for-profit agencies. Almost entirely union-free, these agencies provide home health services, operate group homes, operate day care centers, and provide other kinds of community-based services. Low wages and substandard working conditions in these unorganized agencies sabotage the jobs and working conditions of our members. Government agencies pit these groups against each other in bidding wars and offer contracts to those with the lowest costs — i.e., those paying the lowest wages. AFSCME will seek to bring the benefits of unionization to the employees of these agencies.