AFL-CIO Backs New Labor-Community Coalition in D.C. Metro Area, Says It Could Be Model Nationwide

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

(Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO)

The AFL-CIO backs creation a wide-ranging Metro Washington Community Labor Coalition in the greater Washington, D.C., area.  It says the D.C. coalition could be a model for others nationwide – and part of its push to expand the labor movement beyond the nation’s unions.

The D.C. coalition of more than 40 groups held an initial meeting at AFL-CIO headquarters on Jan. 15, just before a downstairs celebration (DC-Area Unionists, Low-Wage Workers Celebrate Enactment Of Minimum Wage Hikes 1/16 UC) of its first big achievement: Enactment into law in D.C. and its big Maryland suburban counties of identical increases in the minimum wage, in three steps, to $11.50 an hour by 2016.

The coalition actually came together as a grass-roots effort area-wide to campaign for the minimum wage hikes, said staffers of the Metropolitan Washington Council.  The Council's president, Joslyn Williams, announced the wider coalition’s formation at the celebration, and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre endorsed it.

“We met with community groups that made this victory possible,” Williams said.  “This was not just a D.C.-Montgomery County-Prince George’s County victory.  We’re making history.”

Creation of the metro D.C. coalition is in line with the AFL-CIO’s decisions, reached at its convention last year, to open up the labor movement to outside pro-worker organizations and to represent all workers, union and non-union.  Gebre reiterated that union-and-non-union point in his remarks.

“This coalition is exactly what we’re trying to build at the national level,” Shuler added.  “The coalition parties were in this together.  We know how deep this crisis is” for working families, she explained.  “We need to increase the expectations for what our government, our economy and our unions can deliver. I can’t wait to build community labor councils all across the country,” Shuler said.

The mechanics and details of how the coalition will work are still being fleshed out, Metro Council staff told Press Associates Union News Service.  But it still would remain a grass-roots-driven effort, the staff added. That level of working out the details is similar to the nuts-and-bolts process the AFL-CIO is now going through as it reaches out and incorporates other progressive groups, their members and union and non-union workers.

The D.C. coalition already includes organizations representing millions of people in the D.C. metro area.  Some of its groups are Jobs With Justice, OurDC, the Employment Justice Center, RespectDC, Casa de Maryland, which represents and advocates for Latino workers, the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, the Restaurant Opportunities Center – a pro-union group campaigning for raising wages and working conditions at fast food restaurants in major U.S. cities – Progressive Maryland, the Prince George’s NAACP, and Jews United for Justice.
- Mark Gruenberg, Press Associates, Inc. 


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