AFL-CIO Forms Unit to Monitor, Coordinate Activity at Banks
Marshall, Jeffrey, American Banker
NEW YORK -- The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is creating a new unit to monitor and coordinate labor efforts to exert pressure on banks and other corporations.
Ten or 11 people will be hired to staff a Washington office that is being remodeled to handle the new unit, according to Murray Seeger, director of information for the Washington-based AFL-CIO. The department will be known as the Office of Comprehensive Organizing Strategies and Tactics, he said.
Formation of the organizing office by the nation's foremost labor body may signal a new phase in labor's largely unfruitful campaign to pressure banks to adopt labor goals and permit unionization. Only 28 banks in the country are unionized, according to one recent count, and local union efforts to steer deposits and customers away from certain banks have had limited success.
"We're always cautious about expanding authority unless [AFL] affiliates want us to do so; clearly, they do want it," said Mr. Seeger of the new office. He added that the AFL-CIO would not do any actual organizing, but would work to coordinate such activities by affiliates.
A major role of the new office, he said, would be to gather information on "financial interlocks" between companies and union pension fund investments. Pension fund investments -- some in the billions of dollars -- represent a potent weapon in the unions' arsenal, for threats of withdrawal can get a bank's attention very quickly. …