United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen announced Thursday that his union would be re-affiliating with the AFL-CIO. The move ends an eight-year rift caused when 1.3 million member UFCW split from the coalition to form a rival group called Change To Win with the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters.
At the time, the new coalition had argued that the AFL-CIO had not devoted enough time and energy to bolstering organized labor’s dwindling membership. Change to Win did not do much better better though and its profile has declined since then. Unite Here, one of the other founders, rejoined the AFL-CIO in 2009.
The announcement gives AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka a major accomplishment to tout at the coalition’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles in September. It will boost the 12 million member coalition to well over 13 million members and expand its treasury by $10 million annually. Unite Here officially rejoined during the 2009 convention.
“We join the AFL-CIO because it is the right thing to do for UFCW members, giving them more power and influence,” Hansen said in a statement posted online. He said that the “need for unity became paramount after the 2010 elections” — which was when the the Republicans regained control of the House.
The news confirmed rumors that have been circulating for weeks.
“A unified movement can make a difference for today’s workers,” AFL-CIO said in its official Twitter account.
One of Hansen’s major concerns is “fixing the Affordable Care Act so workers in multiemployer plans can keep the health care they currently have.” Hansen has publicly expressed his frustration with President Obama over his healthcare law, which could undermine union members’ insurance. He evidently believes rejoining the AFL-CIO will give him more leverage to pressure the administration for changes.
Ironically, Hansen had been a major booster of Obamacare. After it became law, UFC W issued a statement calling it “an achievement that will rank among the highest in our national experience.”