AFL-CIO COMMUNITY SERVICES PROGRAM INTRODUCTION

To revitalize American communities, workers must address massive economic shifts that have occurred in the last 20 years.  These economic shifts have removed the “ladder of opportunity” and replaced it with a deepening “well of dependence” where workers and their families must rely on the goodwill of others to survive.  Dedicated leadership and creative approaches are needed to bring forth a new labor vision within our communities realizing that each community has a unique combination of assets on which to build their future.

The mission of the AFL-CIO is to improve the lives of working families—to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation.  To accomplish this mission we will build and change the American labor movement.

  • We will build a broad movement of American workers by organizing workers into unions.
  • We will build a strong political voice for workers in our nation.
  • We will change our unions to provide a new voice to workers in a changing economy.
  • We will change our labor movement by creating a new voice for workers in our communities.

The AFL-CIO Community Services Program supports the mission of the AFL-CIO and is guided by three basic principles.

  1. The AFL-CIO Community Services Program activates and builds on the strength and capacities of workers and working communities.
  2. The AFL-CIO Community Services Program is “relationship driven.”  The program will develop new and rebuild existing relationships between and among workers, unions, worker and community organizations.  The program recognizes that these strong ties form the basis for building strong working communities and a strong labor movement.
  3. The AFL-CIO Community Services Program is community focused, concentrating on an agenda that captures local definition, creativity, hope and most importantly promotes and supports local leadership.

The AFL-CIO Community Services Program is designed to discover capacities and assets to rebuild the labor movement from the grass roots and therefore build real power for working families.  The Community Services Program recognizes that this building of stronger communities takes place when workers and working communities make a personal investment of their time as well as other resources to the effort.  An AFL-CIO Executive Council statement passed in February of 1956 developed the statement of principles for the AFL-CIO Community Services program.  Two very important principles from that statement are:

  1. The union member is first and foremost a member of the community.
  2. Prevention of social problems is preferable to the best treatment of social ills.

Historically the United Way and the AFL-CIO serve as partners in community development efforts and resource development for organizations who provide assistance to those in need.  The AFL-CIO Community Services Program provides the opportunity for the United Way and the Red Cross (locally) to expand their operations through the liaison and labor agency programs to include advocacy and empowerment as well as the more traditional service role provided by the organizations.

A community’s primary responsibility is to its people.  It must be prepared to meet those social needs that individuals or families cannot meet, or meet adequately, with their own resources.  Unions as community organizations have a responsibility for the health and welfare of members and their families that extends beyond the workplace.  Building strong unions with an activist base strengthens the community by raising standards of living for all workers and encouraging participation in the development of an environment that supports working families.

Family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, union by union, labor recognizes the talents and skills necessary for community building and mobilizes this strength into action, not as clients, but as full contributors to the building process.  This program guide is designed to help union leaders build a strong vibrant community that supports workers and their families and provides dignity and respect on the job as well as at home.

Over 160 full-time state and local AFL-CIO Community Services Liaisons serve as links between their state federations and central labor councils and United Ways and Red Cross Chapters in 160 communities across the United States.  In addition, 20 local labor agencies and five state labor agencies receive direct United Way support.