Labor Stats and Facts: Has Change to Win Out-Organized AFL-CIO?

In 2005, seven major AFL-CIO affiliate unions formed a coalition to oppose the labor federation’s organizing efforts—a coalition that quickly led to an all-new federation, Change to Win. Offering itself as a high-energy organizing alternative to what it claimed was sluggishness by the AFL-CIO, Change to Win drafted a new constitution that devoted three-quarters of its contributions to organizing efforts.

In the six full years since, how has Change to Win stacked up against the AFL-CIO in the race to organize workers? Representation statistics from the National Labor Relations Board tell a rather balanced story.

From 2006 through 2011, Change to Win unions participated in 4,039 NLRB representation elections, while AFL-CIO unions were involved in 3,998. But while CTW unions prevailed in 2,350 of their elections, for a win rate of 58.2 percent, AFL-CIO unions won 2,565 of theirs, for 64.1 percent win rate.

However, in terms of the number of workers organized, Change to Win holds the edge. CTW’s 2,350 union wins led to the organization of 170,679 workers, for an average bargaining-unit size of 73 workers per win. Over the same period, AFL-CIO unions organized 125,906 workers in their successful elections, or 49 workers per win.

One thing’s for sure: Working separately, these unions have been unable to duplicate the success that they had when they were working together. In the six years leading up to the split, AFL-CIO unions averaged 1,254 wins in 2,332 NLRB elections per year. In the six years since, the AFL-CIO and CTW have averaged just 819 wins in 1,340 elections per year.

Notes: These figures are from an analysis of Bloomberg BNA’s NLRB Election Statistics, Year-End 2011 Report. The original Change to Win unions are: Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE, Carpenters and Joiners of America, United Farm Workers, and Laborers' International Union of North America. The Farm Workers and LIUNA joined officially in 2006; their 2005 numbers are grouped with the AFL-CIO. The Carpenters disaffiliated from CTW in 2008 and are independent. UNITE HERE and LIUNA disaffiliated and rejoined AFL-CIO in 2009 and 2010, respectively.