The AFL-CIO v. CTW: The competing visions, strategies, and structures

Marick F. Masters, Raymond F. Gibney, Jr., Tom Zagenczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


As the AFL-CIO approached its twenty-fifth biennial convention in July 2005, seven unions formed a new Change to Win (CTW) coalition to challenge the federation for lead position as the voice of the labor movement. These unions, most of which have disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO, formed the CTW to demonstrate their unsparing discontent with John Sweeney's leadership of the federation. We examine the reasons for the current breach in the house of labor, the competing visions offered by the AFL-CIO and CTW, and the likelihood that the CTW's strategy will revive unions. We find that the gulf between the two factions is philosophically deep and practically irreconcilable. The CTW advocates an "engineered breakthrough" approach to revitalize labor whereas the AFL-CIO relies on a more conservative "accelerated evolution" path. There are no guarantees that the CTW's strategy will work. It presupposes an unmet demand for unions that can be tapped through vast new investments. If the current model of unionism is lacking, as the CTW suggests, a viable replacement must be found. The CTW, with its limited resources, will have to experiment until it finds the right model, if one does indeed exist. The task of rebuilding labor is daunting, but it arguably requires a bold and fundamentally different course from what has been pursued. From this perspective, the breakup seems a logical development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-504
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Labor Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Strategy and Management


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