Publication Title

Wayne Law Review


AFL-CIO, dispute resolution, labor organizations

Document Type



Labor, as embodied by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), is perceived by many as a monolithic force but, in reality, is composed of a coalition of sometimes competing interests. Not surprisingly, and often raucously, the unions within the AFL-CIO compete for members in both representation and work assignment disputes. Traditional legal doctrine implies that National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) proceedings present the only means to resolve inter-union disputes and that these disputes can be understood solely as legal issues; however, this is not the case. For almost thirty years, the AFL-CIO has maintained its own internal dispute resolution mechanism under Article XX of its constitution. Intended to avoid resort to NLRB procedures, this internal dispute resolution plan is little noticed within the wider labor-management community. This Article proposes to bring the AFL-CIO process to the fore.

In achieving this end, this Article describes the process on several levels. Level one will be historical, describing Article XX's origins and workings. The thesis of this Article is that Article XX is an important mechanism within the labor movement that strengthens the AFLCIO coalition, providing its members with a "voice." At a time of union decline, the Internal Disputes Plan provides a mechanism for avoiding destructive competition and allocating scarce resources; it, therefore, both enhances and protects solidarity. Article XX decisions provide a cohesive body of doctrine that reveal how a political organization functions in the overwhelmingly legal environment of modern labor relations. To the extent Article XX decisions illustrate values or policies not reflected in court or Board decisions, they provide new information about labor relations, and can suggest possible deficiencies in current labor law and Board procedures.

Part II of this Article will explain, in a preliminary fashion, what inter-union disputes are, and why they are significant. 6 In Part III, the events that led to Article XX will be described. Because it was enacted in response to both the merger of the AFL and the CIO, and to the legal environment created by the passage of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, both of these events will be chronicled. Part IV will set forth the legislative history of Article XX, and the procedures utilized in Article XX cases will be detailed. This will be followed by an analysis of Article XX cases. Finally, I will conclude with observations as to how Article XX fits into the prevailing legal environment, and why it is a noteworthy achievement.



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