afl-cio resolution #16: urban sprawl and smart growth
The AFL-CIO passed its first-ever resolution on urban sprawl and smart growth (12/3) at its national convention in Las Vegas. The resolution was submitted by the Chicago Federation of Labor as well as the Cleveland Federation of Labor and the Contra Costa County AFL-CIO.

Resolution #16: Urban Sprawl and Smart Growth

Whereas the issues of urban sprawl and smart growth have become major public
and political issues, as demonstrated by the recent passage of hundreds of
ballot initiatives, ordinances and laws; and

Whereas urban sprawl strains all working families by creating overly-long
commuting times, fueling air pollution responsible for skyrocketing
children's asthma rates, creating a lack of affordable housing near jobs,
eroding public services, and denying workers a choice about how to get to
work; and

Whereas sprawling big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart undermine unionized
neighborhood grocery retailers that provide family-supporting wages and
benefits; and

Whereas unionized, inner-city hospitals have been disproportionately shut
down, partly because of the concentration of inner-city poverty caused by
sprawl; and

Whereas the abandonment of our cities, caused by sprawl, undermines their
tax base and thereby harms the quality of public services, which in turn
creates pressure for privatization of those services; and

Whereas the same tax-base erosion is a fundamental cause of school funding
inequities and classroom crowding, which fuel pressure for school vouchers;

Whereas the rise of "edge cities" on the fringe of urban areas has harmed
the collective bargaining strength of janitorial and building maintenance
unions and dispersed the hospitality industry, harming the wages of
restaurant and hotel employees; and

Whereas sprawling development on urban fringes creates new jobs beyond
public transit grids, leaving commuters no choice about how to get to work,
and undermining public transit ridership; and

Whereas anti-union manufacturers flee cities for outlying areas as part of
their union-avoidance strategies, making jobs inaccessible for many people
who need them most, including dislocated workers who have been victimized by
deindustrialization and NAFTA; and

Whereas many other unions have suffered as a direct result of the
disinvestments, corporate flight, and tax-base erosion caused by sprawl; and

Whereas many unions have long worked to defend urban institutions that
benefit all working families; and

Whereas unions of transit workers have for decades advocated to improve
public transportation that improves air quality and gives working families a
commuting choice; and

Whereas many locals of the United Food & Commercial Workers have joined
community coalitions against Wal-Mart and other anti-union "big box"
retailers; and

Whereas the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust has used Building Trades
pension-fund investments to construct tens of thousands of units of low- and
moderate-income housing, helping address America's affordable housing
crisis; and

Whereas many other central labor bodies and state labor federations have
long advocated for policies now collectively called "smart growth," such as
affordable housing, better public transit, school rehabilitation, and the
reclamation of brownfields; and

Whereas organized labor rightfully deserves credit for these many
achievements, but has so far been largely overlooked in this national
debate; and

Whereas "smart growth" is an ambiguous and evolving term that applies to
several different kinds of policies, and many competing interest groups are
now seeking to define it;

Now, therefore be it resolved that the AFL-CIO authorize and direct its
leadership to actively engage in the emerging public and political debates
surrounding urban sprawl and smart growth, asserting labor's rightful role
in the national debate about the future of America's cities for the benefit
of all working families.