North Carolina AFL-CIO: How a Small State Federation Builds Political and Legislative Power Without Money or Numbers

Source: Monica Bieski Boris and Randall G. Wright, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 10 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

It would not be surprising if in a state like North Carolina, whose union density is less than 3 percent and whose labor budgets are small and tight, the state federation concentrated on a traditional labor agenda of only servicing the remaining union members in an effort to merely survive. All of the main ingredients of building effective labor power—deepening relationships with community partners, developing a progressive agenda, electing and holding accountable political champions, leadership development, and support for organizing—require significant resources. Yet, because the resource base is small, the state federation has become the natural base from which to grow such strategies. By pooling resources to hire talented staff and by fostering deep relationships among community players with key resources, the North Carolina AFL–CIO is able to have an impact far greater than its paper strength. Although there is a paucity of literature on central labor councils, recent research points to the model as an important element of building a strong labor movement (Ness and Elmer 2001; Ruffini 2002; Richter 2003; Rogers and Streeck 1995).

Leave a Reply