Department for Professional Employees, AFL–CIO

Department for Professional Employees, AFL–CIO
Full name Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
Founded 1977
Country United States
Head union Paul E. Almeida
Affiliation AFL-CIO
Office location Washington, D.C.

The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) is a semi-autonomous "trade" department of the AFL-CIO, and serves as an advocate for professional workers within the federation, and before legislative bodies, the press and the public.

DPE has a three-fold mission: To promote the organization of professional workers into unions; to advocate for pro-worker legislation that affects professional workers; and to conduct research into professional work. Issues which DPE has been active on in the last several years include immigration, corporate ownership of news and entertainment media, mandatory overtime for health care professionals, freedom of expression in the arts and news media and higher education, and the definition of a professional under the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. A number of DPE studies have gained widespread media attention, including research on unionization rates of white-collar workers, obstacles to organizing professional workers, and the factors which lead women to join unions. DPE offers a number of educational programs for AFL-CIO members throughout the year at which it publicizes its work.



The 1960s saw a significant increase in the number of professional workers joining labor unions in the United States. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy granted collective bargaining rights to federal workers. Unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Government Employees, American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, American Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union, National Education Association and American Nurses Association added hundreds of thousands of new members in only a few years. The number of professionals also grew phenomenally: By 1977, there were 13.9 million professional workers in the U.S.

The fast-growing professional and public employee unions of the AFL-CIO pushed for a more effective voice within the federation. In 1967, the Council for Scientific Professional and Cultural Employees (SPACE), affiliated with the AFL-CIO, was formed. In 1974, it was renamed the Council for Professional Employees (CPE).

In 1977, the AFL-CIO constitution was amended to transform the council into the Department for Professional Employees. DPE's first president was Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers.


As a semi-autnomous department of the AFL-CIO, the DPE has its own constitution, elects its own board of directors and officers, holds its own convention, makes policy, and sets dues. In many respects, it acts like a labor federation of its own.

DPE is governed by its affiliate unions. Membership is DPE is open to affiliate unions of the AFL-CIO. Currently, 21 national unions representing over four million workers belong to DPE. The member unions meet in a quadrennial convention (the last was in 2009), at which members elect a board of directors and officers, set dues, and discuss and approve policies. DPE members are free to establish their own policies and procedures so long as they do not conflict with the constitution and policies of the AFL-CIO.

DPE members elect three executive officers—a president, first vice president and treasurer, as well as nine individuals to a board of directors. One of the nine is elected as chair of the board. Between conventions, the board is the governing body of DPE. Day-to-day operations are overseen by the president and an executive director.

Under the AFL-CIO constitution, DPE (as with all trade departments) has certain rights. DPE officers are entitled to attend meetings of the AFL-CIO executive council as well as certain standing and policy committees of the council. DPE also may elect delegates to represent it at the AFL-CIO quadrennial convention, and its delegates may participate in the convention's committees. As a matter of courtesy and AFL-CIO policy, DPE officers are also invited to participate in the activities of a wide variety of AFL-CIO councils, committees, policy-making groups, and staff and departmental meetings.

DPE is one of six constitutional departments of the AFL-CIO, which means that it may not be abolished without amending the AFL-CIO's constitution.

Currently, the chair of the DPE board of directors is J. David Cox, National Secretary-Treasuer of the American Federation of Government Employees. The first vice president is David White, National Executive Director of the Screen Actors Guild. The treasurer is Antonia Cortese, Secretary-Treasuer of the American Federation of Teachers.

DPE's president is Paul E. Almeida, a past-president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. In 2005, Almeida was elected to the national executive board of the Labor and Employment Relations Association. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Albert Shanker Institute.

DPE's executive director is David Cohen, an attorney and formerly DPE staff person in charge of education and organizing.

Recent changes

In 2004, DPE established a Committee on the Evolution of Professional Careers. Nearly 20 national unions have agreed to delegate members, staff and resources to the committee, which will identify and analyze trends affecting the future of white-collar work, identify the fastest-growing white-collar professions, identify the best strategies to organize these workers; and identify or develop new models of unions or professional association which will allow unions to expand membership in these professions.

In 2005, DPE head its first-ever organizing conference, "Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century."


  • Aronson, Robert L. "Unionism Among Professional Employees in the Private Sector." Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 38:3 (April 1985).
  • Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO. Program, Activities and Achievements, 2001-2005. Washington, D.C., 2005.[1]
  • Dewar, Helen. "AFL-CIO Plans to Increase Levy on Membership." Washington Post. December 8, 1977.
  • Grossfeld, Jim and Lake, Celinda. "A Union Hearing: A Retooled Approach to Discussing Organized Labor Would Resonate With Insecure White Collar Workers." The American Prospect. December 19, 2006.
  • Maher, Kris. "White-Collar Workers Turn to Unions for Support." Charleston Gazette. October 2, 2005.
  • Shear, Michael D. "Labor Labels Senate Hopeful 'Anti-Worker'." Washington Post. April 14, 2006.
  • "Unions Launch Network to Examine Issues of Concern to Professionals." Daily Labor Report. October 24, 2002.
  • Von Bergen, Jane M. "A Judge in a Union?" Philadelphia Inquirer. March 27, 2005.
  • "Writers Guild Votes." New York Times. May 12, 1989.

External links

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