Change to Win Denies Report of Rift

WASHINGTON Change to Win, the coalition of labor unions that broke off from the AFL-CIO two years ago, downplayed a report of internal division within the organization published in last week's Los Angeles Times. There's nothing that threatens the viability of the organization. We intend to go through with our stated goals, T.J. Michels, a spokeswoman for Change to Win, told SN. The Times report, based

WASHINGTON — Change to Win, the coalition of labor unions that broke off from the AFL-CIO two years ago, downplayed a report of internal division within the organization published in last week's Los Angeles Times.

“There's nothing that threatens the viability of the organization. We intend to go through with our stated goals,” T.J. Michels, a spokeswoman for Change to Win, told SN.

The Times report, based in part on internal correspondence obtained by the newspaper, suggested that Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, feared that Change to Win was drifting toward “autocratic and less productive” initiatives and away from the goals of organizing and union recruitment that Change to Win founded itself upon.

Hansen in a letter to Change to Win leaders added that the UFCW would withhold a $200,000 contribution toward a Change to Win program aimed to pressure Wal-Mart Stores. The letter also reportedly criticized Change to Win member union Service Employees International for partnering with Wal-Mart in federal discussions on health care. Hansen called that “a publicity stunt that Wal-Mart orchestrated.”

UFCW spokeswoman Jill Cashen confirmed that the union was holding back the donation, telling SN last week that Hansen felt “it was a better use of resources to focus on our own ‘Wake Up Wal-Mart' campaign,” considered more developed than its counterpart at Change to Win.

Cashen added, however, that the UFCW's relationship with Change to Win “is as strong as ever,” and downplayed concerns that discussion over the organization's policies indicated the coalition was under stress.

Change to Win was formed by seven labor unions in 2005 intending to focus on recruitment and organizing, and less on the political activities of the AFL-CIO. In addition to the UFCW and SEIU, Change to Win includes the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Laborers International, Unite Here, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and the United Farm Workers.