AFL-CIO to Cut 167 Jobs, Spend More to Organize

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney is up for reelection this summer.
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney is up for reelection this summer. (By Hillery Smith Garrison -- Associated Press)
By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

The AFL-CIO told 167 of its employees yesterday that their jobs will be cut in a reorganization of the labor federation, but they will have the chance to apply for 61 new jobs.

President John J. Sweeney last week said the organization was planning to cut its workforce as part of an effort to redirect limited resources to help bolster union membership, which has dropped from 33 percent of the workforce to 12.5 percent over the past 50 years.

"In order to meet this restructuring, resources are being shifted," said Lane Windham, an AFL-CIO spokeswoman.

Employees whose jobs will be cut will not be asked to leave immediately. The phasing out of the jobs will take "months and months," Windham said. The AFL-CIO's new budget year starts in July.

There will be cuts in every department, and the reorganization will result in four fewer departments.

The politics and field mobilization departments will become one. The policy, safety and health and legislation departments will merge. The international affairs department will be cut, but some of its efforts will be folded into organizing efforts. The AFL-CIO also plans to increase the organizing department's budget by $10 million a year. The organization's magazine will be discontinued and the federation will cut administrative and consulting costs.

The AFL-CIO is restructuring to slow the decline of union membership and to increase political and lobbying efforts.

The employees met yesterday with their managers and their own union representatives. Most of the 61 new jobs will be filled by AFL-CIO employees, Windham said.

"It's a really difficult day," Windham said.

Sweeney, who was elected president in 1995 after promising to increase the percentage of workers represented by unions, contends he will run again at the federation's July convention. Some member unions are threatening to pull out of the AFL-CIO, and other union heads may challenge Sweeney.

John W. Wilhelm, who runs the hospitality industry division of the union Unite Here, is considering challenging Sweeney for the presidency of the federation at its meeting in Chicago in July. Service Employees International Union President Andrew L. Stern has threatened to pull out of the AFL-CIO unless major policy and program changes are made.

Under Sweeney's presidency, the AFL-CIO's reserve fund has dropped to $31 million from $61 million.

The changes revealed yesterday were "not because we have no money," Windham said. "Our budget is balanced. We are reorganizing."

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