What is the Texas AFL-CIO?
The Texas AFL-CIO is a state labor federation consisting of 235,000 affiliated union members who speak up together in support of working families in Texas. We seek a fair shot for all working people -- union and non-union alike – by working in the legislative and political arenas. We provide support for unions in organizing new members and we coordinate community service, volunteer and educational programs.
Legislation and Politics
The Texas AFL-CIO promotes a Raising Wages Agenda that benefits union families and the working public at large. This includes support for a higher minimum wage, prevailing wage laws, project labor agreements, expansion of health care to more working poor Texans and stronger workplace safety laws. We fight defensive battles against efforts to weaken pensions, prevailing wage laws, project labor agreements and unions themselves. We have a long history of support for civil rights initiatives and comprehensive immigration reform. In conjunction with our legislative program, we support political candidates who we believe will promote the cause of working people. Political endorsements are made through our Committee on Political Education (COPE). Legislative policies are established through our conventions, the United Labor Legislative Committee and our Executive Board. These policy-setting bodies are representative of our membership. Among labor-backed achievements in recent legislative sessions: a “Buy America” bill that applies to materials used in taxpayer-funded projects; pay raises for teachers; an electric deregulation bill with pro-worker provisions; a state holiday honoring UFW founder Cesar Chavez; pay raises for state employees; a hate crimes bill; and bargaining rights for some public employees.
The Texas AFL-CIO assists in labor-related actions and campaigns across the state. Campaigns in conjunction with Central Labor Councils and other labor organizations include but are not limited to organizing workers, message development, convening demonstrations and protests, helping with issue-related voter turnout drives, engaging in social media, and finding new ways to deliver labor’s message both inside and outside the Texas AFL-CIO.
This department helps working people who are on strike, victimized by disasters or otherwise in need of assistance. Our volunteers are a key to maintaining good community relations, helping not only when we promote a political cause, but when we are simply trying to help our neighbors. As an example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the state labor federation devoted most of its time to raising funds for and otherwise helping far-flung victims of the storm. The Texas AFL-CIO directs the operations of the Workers Assistance Program, a grant-funded, nationally recognized organization that helps workers navigate difficulties in their lives. The Human Relations Department also oversees Texas AFL-CIO conventions.
Field Education & Research
This department works on mobilization of working people around the state, organizing actions and maintaining grass-roots contact with a statewide network of activists. The department works on union voter lists and other ways of generating contacts with active union members in Texas. The Field Education & Research Department also oversees an annual golf tournament that raises funds for scholarships and other programs.
The Texas AFL-CIO publishes a daily e-mail newsletter that is available to union members, retirees, friends of labor and journalists. To subscribe, send name, e-mail address and union or media affiliation to firstname.lastname@example.org. The federation maintains active Facebook and Twitter pages. As part of our public relations program, we maintain relationships with reporters throughout the state. The public relations department helps individual unions with letters to the editor, editorials and honing of messages.
Expanding on traditional communications strategies and integrating with the Campaigns department, the Texas AFL-CIO Digital Strategist uses social media and other cutting-edge tools to expand labor’s message across the Internet and maintain contacts with our members, retirees and allies. The state labor federation offers digital training for local and regional union officers responsible for communications in Texas, keeping unions up to date on message delivery. To sign up for e-Activist messages from the Texas AFL-CIO, go to www.texasaflcio.org and click on the “Join the Fight!” button and text TXAFLCIO to 235246 on your mobile phone.
The Texas AFL-CIO prepares and conducts educational programs for affiliates and their members. Topics have included union organizing, labor law, political organizing, workers’ compensation, steward training, grievances and arbitration, communications, the Americans With Disabilities Act and job training. On request, we will address other topics as warranted. The Education Department also administers an annual Scholarship Program in which 25 to 30 graduating high school seniors who are children of union members receive one-time grants of $1,500.
The Texas AFL-CIO oversees the Ruth Ellinger Texas Labor Leaders School, a leadership development program for union members who want to step up their level of advocacy in Texas. The state federation has worked with Young Active Labor Leaders to convene meetings and a “Step Up” Young Workers Conference to develop leadership skills. These and other trainings work in tandem with local unions to help carve a path for any union member in Texas who wishes to take responsibility for important union-related tasks. The Texas AFL-CIO has employed paid interns who are seeking careers as union activists.
The Texas AFL-CIO provides support and information on labor laws, government regulations, campaign and lobbying laws and other matters that unions navigate every day.
Delegates at the Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention, held in the summer of odd-numbered years, govern the state federation through resolutions and other policy-setting. The policies set forth at our conventions are carried out by the officers of the Texas AFL-CIO – currently President Rick Levy, Secretary-Treasurer Montserrat Garibay and an Executive Board consisting of elected union officers from around the state – and the Texas AFL-CIO staff. The Texas AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) makes political endorsements, addressing statewide contests at its conventions in January of even years.
The Texas AFL-CIO works with approximately 30 international labor unions and with the national AFL-CIO in developing programs. The state federation also is aligned with Central Labor Councils (CLCs) and Area Labor Federations (ALFs) that oversee local labor issues. Also in the Texas labor family: constituency groups representing Hispanics (Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, or LCLAA), African-Americans (A. Philip Randolph Institute, or APRI), Asian-Americans (Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, or APALA), women (Coalition of Labor Unions Women, or CLUW), retirees (Alliance of Retired Americans, or ARA), young labor activists (Young Active Labor Leaders, or YALL) and, most recently, the LGBTQ community (Pride at Work). The federation works with many allies on issues of mutual concern.
Building a Workers Movement in Texas
Texas Union Membership
Membership of the Texas AFL-CIO tends to mirror the economy. The Texas AFL-CIO has approximately 235,000 affiliated members. Historically speaking, membership was slightly more than 150,000 at the time of the merger between the AFL and CIO in the mid-1950s. It peaked at more than 290,000 at the start of the Reagan presidency in 1981, then dropped dramatically during the oil bust of the 1980s to as low as 190,000. For the last two decades, the state federation has gradually added members.
These figures tell only part of the overall union story in Texas. The Lone Star State has substantial union membership that does not affiliate or pay dues to the Texas AFL-CIO. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says if you add non-affiliates, about 462,000 union members work in Texas. In addition, more than 138,000 workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements but decline to pay for their union representation, a stance permitted by the so-called “right to work” law. Nevertheless, unions are obligated by law to represent those workers in contract talks and grievance procedures.
Texas has more than 1,300 local unions. The largest Texas AFL-CIO affiliates in the state (memberships above 5,000) are the Texas AFT, American Federation of Government Employees, Communications Workers of America, United Steel Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Fire Fighters, United Auto Workers, Transport Workers Union, International Association of Machinists and SMART (railroad workers, sheet metal workers et al.)
Generally speaking, public employee unions have experienced the strongest growth in recent years, but building and construction trades unions and service employee unions remain engaged in promising organizing campaigns. The numbers reflect a national shift toward a service and information economy and the growing importance of public employees as standard-setters in the work world.
Affiliate Your Union today with the Texas AFL-CIO
Contact us at 512-477-6195 for more information.