AFL-CIO approves California inspired plan to expand ranks by reaching out to more grass-roots organizations

AFL CIO MEETING DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES

Corey Moore/KPCC

Members of the AFL-CIO – including President Rich Trumka in the suit behind the podium – during the union's convention in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 9, 2013.

Thousands of labor union members and supporters from across the country are gathering in downtown Los Angeles for the AFL-CIO convention. The event kicked off Sunday at the LA Convention Center. The country’s largest labor federation is looking to take California's lead to strengthen its dwindling membership.

Tefere Gebre, Executive Director of the Orange County Labor Federation, spoke about a plan delegates approved Monday morning to muscle up the labor movement. It includes building community outreach programs in every state, engaging young workers and pushing for immigration reform. 

“I want to get those great ideas in quantum in our labor council and state federations," said Gebre. "And bring anybody who has an idea about any locality, any local community – to bring it together as long as it’s going to raise wages, it’s going to bring more respect for workers, I'm going to be working on those."

RELATED: Hundreds of labor leaders and supporters look to the future at AFL-CIO convention in LA

Even though union membership is up in California, it’s down by about 400,000 nationwide. The reasons vary, from the relocation of manufacturing jobs overseas to a strong political movement to weaken what some claim was the overly strong influence of unions.

Through Gebre's direction, the OC Labor Federation claims it brought in more than 15,000 new members by forging coalitions throughout the state. He says he’ll push to do that nationwide.

“We have been linking politics to policies that advance working people’s agenda," said Gebre. "We actually have grown the ranks of working people joining a union and having democracy at the workplace.” 

Gebre expects to implement the plan as the AFL-CIO’s new executive vice-president. Delegates are set to vote on the post during the conference, which wraps up Wednesday.

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