Anna Burger, 55, a longtime feminist, labor organizer and political strategist, has been chosen to chair the Change to Win Coalition, a labor union federation that has broken away from the AFL-CIO. The union leaders who selected Burger, who is also secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), were all white men, but their choice of a woman leader exemplifies their goal of reviving America’s labor movement by involving more women and minorities. Still, the heads of the seven unions comprising the Change to Win Coalition are male, and only one (United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez) is a minority.
The new group hopes to pressure the Democratic Party to pay more attention to workers’ concerns. “Wages are down, hours are up, and the gap between rich and poor is staggering and growing,” said Burger at the coalition’s recent convention. “Today we are all here to answer the call, to rekindle the American dream, to once again have work valued and rewarded in our country…Unions are the antidote for what ails us.”
The Change To Win Coalition so far represents 5.4 million American workers, including Teamsters, service employees, food and commercial workers and hotel, restaurant and apparel workers. The AFL-CIO has been left with 9 million members.