Labor expert warns unions to be 'self-critical'

Mar 7, 2014

A national labor leader is warning unions to rethink and realign their efforts in the labor movement. Bill Fletcher, Jr., who works with the National AFL-CIO, will be appearing in Buffalo Saturday. WBFO's Eileen Buckley will be the keynote speaker at the Western New York Area Labor Federation's 2014 meeting in Cheektowaga.

Protesting workers in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News file photo

"We have made, as a movement, a number of mistakes that have put us into a situation and made it difficult to turn it around," said Fletcher, who serves as the executive assistant to the national vice president of the AFL-CIO. 

Fletcher tells WBFO News it's time for labor to rethink their work.  He says unions should be self-critical as they deal with challenges and solutions that stand before organized labor.

"There are many people in my movement that are reluctant to be self-critical. They think that somehow gives aid and comfort to the other side. And I think the reality is you begin with that self criticism and you go forward," said Fletcher

Even with some gains in union membership in the private sector, union membership nationwide remained unchanged last year at 11.3 percent, giving the appearance of weaker unions. But Fletcher said unions need to reposition themselves and speak for all workers on many different topics.

In his planned appearance at Saturday's local AFL-CIO gathering, Fletcher said he plans to be "very direct, very blunt and very honest."

Bill Fletcher, Jr. serves as the executive assistant to national vice president of the AFL-CIO.

"I think that we are in a situation that is dire," said Fletcher. "Organized labor has been under a series of viscous assaults.

Fletcher once worked as a shipyard welder and has been a longtime activists for racial justice and labor The Harvard graduate is also the author the 'They're Bankrupting Us'  and '20 Other Myths About Unions.'

Fletcher said he believes more urgency is needed by labor. He stressed unions have been outspoken proponents of of economic and social justice should continue that effort especially surrounding immigration and the fight to increase minimum wage.