updated 7/26/2005 8:29:00 PM ET 2005-07-27T00:29:00

AFL-CIO leaders passed a resolution Tuesday to increase union organizing and political action across the country — issues that drove two major unions out of the organization a day earlier.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka declared that the country’s largest union was making “historic changes.”

But representatives of the two unions that dropped out said it was too little, too late. When the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union left Monday, they took 3.2 million of the AFL-CIO’s 13 million members with them, and labor officials say other unions may soon follow.

The resolution approved by voice vote Tuesday contains planks similar to those that the Teamsters and SEIU had demanded.

The resolution earmarks $22.5 million for affiliates to use in organizing. It also calls for training 100,000 union stewards on worksites and shifting the focus of political work from get-out-the-vote efforts during election cycles to year-round politicking at all levels of government.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney — whom the dissident unions wanted replaced — was defiant in his opening remarks at the group’s convention Tuesday.

“Nobody outside this hall is going to decide our future. We’re going to take our challenges, we’re going to grow stronger and nobody is going to change that,” Sweeney said. He is expected to be re-elected Thursday.

The Teamsters and SEIU had complained that the AFL-CIO had failed to stop a steep drop in union membership. They wanted more money for organizing, power to force smaller unions to merge, and other reforms aimed at adapting to changes to changes in society and the economy.

Now they say they intend to form a competing labor group to reverse labor’s long decline.

They already are part of the Change to Win Coalition. Four of the coalition’s seven unions boycotted the convention: the Teamsters, SEIU, United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE HERE, a group of textile, hotel and restaurant employees.

Change to Win Coalition spokesman Eric Hauser said the AFL-CIO resolution Tuesday lacked substance, and Teamsters spokeswoman Leigh Strope said that “it’s not enough and it’s too late.”

The AFL-CIO’s Trumka defended the resolution, saying it “focuses on how we change, refocus and recommit to strategies that can build a stronger labor movement.”

AFL-CIO delegates also authorized holding a special meeting soon to discuss how to handle the defections, including the loss of about $18 million a year the two unions had contributed.

The convention marks the 50th anniversary of the merger of the AFL and the CIO at a difficult time for organized labor.

When the AFL-CIO formed, union membership was at its height, with one in three private-sector workers belonging to a labor group. Today, fewer than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.

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