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Unions To Hold White-Collar Organizing Summit
March 9, 2005

Organized labor is often perceived as a movement of blue-collar assembly-line workers and construction tradesmen—the reality is far different. Professional and technical occupations are the fastest growing segment within union ranks. More than half of the
AFL-CIO’s membership today is composed of white collar workers.

What will it take to further expand the numbers of nurses, IT professionals, teachers and professors, actors, journalists, engineers, scientists and other professionals in the ranks of labor? “Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century”, scheduled for March 14-16, at the Crystal City Hilton in Arlington, VA will bring the best white collar organizers from across the country together for three days with union decision-makers and outside researchers to study new polling data, to look at successful campaigns here and abroad, and to hear from outside experts about models that the union movement should consider.

The conference will look at:

  • How multiple unions cooperated to grow union membership at Kaiser Permanente from 56,000 to 86,000 in six years.
  • What unions can do to help the swelling ranks of part-time and contingent workers in the workforce?
  • What lessons professional unions can learn from successful professional associations?
  • How professional unions serve the public interest – and can organize more members – by protecting academic freedom for professors and artistic expression for entertainers, negotiating smaller class sizes for teachers and more reasonable staffing ratios for nurses and social workers, and strengthening the ability of professionals to function as professionals.
  • Why professionals such as dental hygienists and psychologists have recently joined the labor movement in search of political clout.

The Department for Professional Employees (DPE) is composed of 25 AFL-CIO unions. DPE represents 4 million white collar union members who work in a variety of professional and technical occupations including health care, education, science and engineering, the arts, entertainment, the media, and public administration.

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