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ST. LOUIS -- Leaders from labor unions that bolted from the AFL-CIO vowed at their first formal meeting here yesterday to organize Wal-Mart's work force and reach out to people who lost their jobs because of Hurricane Katrina.
During what's being termed its first official conference, the Change to Win Coalition's 460 delegates rallied in support of speeches delivered by Teamsters president James P. Hoffa and Unite Here president Bruce Raynor, both of whom called on the assembly to organize Wal-Mart workers.
In published reports, Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman said, "Time and again, our associates have said no" to attempts to be organized by labor unions. Fogelman added that the world's largest retailers purchased goods valued at more than $150 billion from U.S. suppliers last year, thus "creating jobs all across the country," many of which are held by union workers.
Pointing to his union's strategy "to train workers to rebuild their communities," Hoffa said the new coalition would also work to help thousands of workers who were left jobless after the destruction of their Gulf Coast communities by Katrina.
Conference delegates -- representing workers from the Teamsters, Service Employees International Union, and the United Food and Commercial Workers -- adopted a new constitution by a voice vote, and speak for about 5.4 million workers.
The unions recently fled from the AFL-CIO because of mounting concerns that the nation's largest labor federation was unable to stem declining membership amid tensions surrounding the AFL-CIO's emphasis on backing political candidates rather than organizing new members.
The coalition's budget will come from charging its international unions 25 cents per capita for each union member. It plans to spend 75 percent on organizing and 25 percent on executive functions.