25 Lab. Stud. J. 3 (2000-2001)

handle is hein.journals/labstuj25 and id is 1 raw text is: 










Introduction


      Race and gender have been difficult issues for unions to address. His-
torically, discriminatory views and practices have divided the House  of
Labor, creating tension among co-workers and union members.  These divi-
sions have led to confusion as to who our partners really are in building a
broad movement   for social justice and equality.
      Over time, the structure and culture of organized labor in the United
States have gone  through many   transformations. Changes in production,
demographics, national and global markets have periodically forced labor to
examine  and, in a sense, recreate itself. Successive waves of immigrants
have  continually changed the demographics  and culture of working-class
communities  in this country. Slavery and other forms of oppression have
carved inequality and racial discrimination into the institutional foundations
of work  and unions.
     In April 1999, the American  Federation of Labor-Congress of Indus-
trial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the University and College Labor Edu-
cation Association (UCLEA)  held a conference in Atlanta to focus on issues
of labor solidarity. Specifically, the conference addressed race, class, gender,
and community,  the roots of division and the strategies for inclusion. For
decades, many  leaders had advised against a conference designed specifi-
cally to open and analyze the controversial and contradictory record of or-
ganized labor around discrimination and exclusion. Some warned  that the
very people we want  to include in this discussion would not attend. Others
argued that it was not a priority labor issue. At this difficult time in our
history, they argued, we should focus on what unites us, on our positive
work  and common   agenda based on organizing, bargaining and politics.
     A  new  leadership at the helm of both organizations, however, sup-
ported this initiative. In fact, they agreed that no issue is more important than
labor solidarity; moreover, they recognized that only when labor has made
a conscious effort to unite workers across differences have unions achieved
the unity that translates into growth and power.
     The  Conference  was  a milestone in open  discussion, exchange of

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