The Arkansas American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations serves as the umbrella organization for more than 190 local unions, central labor councils and subordinate bodies, such as state associations and district councils, whose parent international unions are affiliated with the national AFL-CIO. It is one of 50 state federations operated under a charter granted by the AFL-CIO.
The Arkansas AFL-CIO was chartered on March 20, 1956. It was the first in the nation to merge the AFL and CIO into one state central body. The State Federation represents more than 30,000 working people in diverse occupations. The Arkansas AFL-CIO is affiliated with the National AFL-CIO, whose member unions total more than 11 million working men and women.
Like the National AFL-CIO, the Arkansas AFL-CIO does no bargaining with employers. It is not a union, but a union of unions. Each member local union of the State Federation remains autonomous, conducting its own affairs in the manner determined by its own members. Each decides its own economic policies, carries on its own contract negotiations and provides its own membership services.
Affiliated local unions of the Arkansas AFL-CIO participate voluntarily and play a role in establishing overall policies for the Arkansas labor movement, which in turn advance the interests of every union. The collective power of many unions is superior to the individual power of one. It is this structure that makes us a movement.
The Arkansas AFL-CIO's operations are financed chiefly through regular dues, known as per capita taxes. These are paid by affiliated local unions on behalf of each of their members. The policies of the organization are set and officers are elected at convention.
The Arkansas AFL-CIO has a number of responsibilities and serves its constituent unions by working primarily in four major areas:
Political Action: Endorsing, supporting and electing the right people for Congress, state legislature and state government. Unless government understands labor's agenda, we are not likely to receive a fair hearing. The Arkansas AFL-CIO is very active in the political process. In addition to financial assistance, the Arkansas labor movement is capable of offering endorsed candidates people power. Activist supporters are sought by all candidates.
Legislative Action: Promoting a sound legislative program for the benefit of all Arkansas workers. The Arkansas AFL-CIO legislative package is developed through consultation with affiliates. It attempts to reflect the individual and collective needs of each union. The Arkansas AFL-CIO lobbies on behalf of its membership.
Education: Training programs that focus attention on the skills needed by effective trade unionists are provided to affiliates by the Arkansas AFL-CIO. The Labor Education Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock coordinates the State Federation's education, training and research activities.
Community Service: The Arkansas AFL-CIO plays a vital role in assisting individual communities, union members and their families in their time of need. Food banks, blood drives and other emergency assistance programs are often coordinated by organized labor.