World Labor Unions Urge Halt to TPP Negotiations

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has called on governments to stop negotiations on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” agreement, criticising the secrecy and corporate bias in the current negotiations.

The Communication Workers of America (CWA), the Teamsters and the Machinists are leading the AFL-CIO’s efforts.  Together with a broad coalition of organizations put together by the Citizen’s Trade Campaign, they delivered a total of 663,373 petition signatures and letters opposing Fast Track trade authority to House and Senate leaders.

CWA President Larry Cohen promised that CWA activists would turn their attention to stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as “a dangerous trade deal that threatens our jobs, communities and the environment by giving big business new powers to undermine important laws and regulations.”  Cohen added:”We’ll be demanding that the White House and Congress put its citizens before the corporate and financial interests that already define and dominate the global economy.”

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “This secretive trade deal is good for some multinational corporations, but deeply damaging to ordinary people and the very role of governments. Corporate interests are at the negotiating table, but national parliaments and other democratic actors are being kept in the dark. What we do know, much of it through leaks, is that this proposed deal is not about ensuring better livelihoods for people, but about giving multinational companies a big boost to profits. Governments should shut down the negotiations, and not re-open them unless they get genuine and transparent public mandates at home that put people’s interest in the centre.”

The current TPP proposals include provisions which would:
- Make governments submit to so-called investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures whereby investors can sue governments on a wide range of policies, including environmental and social policies ;
- Introduce patent protections that would boost pharmaceutical companies’ profits, but put vital medicines out of reach for millions of poorer people;
- Severely restrict governments’ ability to make national laws for public health, safety and general welfare with a ‘regulatory coherence’ chapter;
- Stop governments from giving priority to public policy aims when making decisions about public procurement;
- Impose a series of restrictions on governments’ abilities to regulate the financial sector, thus holding back efforts to reform damaging financial speculation and impeding governments from taking measures to maintain their balance of payment.

Proposals for protection of workers’ rights have met with heavy resistance from some countries, and appear to not cover all ILO Conventions that establish Fundamental Rights at Work or subnational (state and province) labour legislation. The proposals also contain no enforcement for environmental provisions, and fail to address the need for action to mitigate climate change.

“A fair and open global trading system is essential to prosperity, but this proposed TPP is nothing of the sort. Global and regional trade needs to create jobs and prosperity for the many, not just provide welfare for corporations and transfer more power from the parliaments to the boardroom,” said Burrow.

National trade union centers in the countries negotiating the TPP are today formally calling on their governments to stop the negotiations, and to seek a proper negotiation mandate if they are to engage in the negotiations again.

The national trade union centers that support this call are: Australia, ACTU; Canada, CSN and CSD; Japan, JTUC-RENGO; Mexico, UNT; New Zealand, NZCTU; Peru, CUT and CATP; United States, AFL-CIO. Some of these trade unions, as well as the unions of Chile (CUT-Chile) and Malaysia (MTUC) had asked for the negotiations to stop at an earlier stage.

For more information on the global trade union effort, contact the ITUC Press Department on +32 2 224 02 04

Global Worker Solidarity Gets Real

 

by Paul Garver

Fast Food for 15 Labor activists have long called for international solidarity to confront global corporations, but sentimental and rhetorical appeals to the workers of the world to unite failed to produce lasting results throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, recent global organizing campaigns in fast food, which employs millions worldwide, and telecommunications show promise.

Fast Food

The international coordinated actions of fast-food workers on May 15, 2014, took place in 158 U.S. cities and 93 other cities across 36 countries. More than 10,000 workers and their supporters participated. This represented an unprecedented level of global labor solidarity.

Organizing fast-food workers on a global scale poses enormous challenges. There are relatively few workers in any outlet, and they are mostly precariously employed by third parties other than the global corporations. Labor law in the United States and most other countries is ill-adapted to facilitate worker representation and collective bargaining for such an atomized work force. Fast-food unions have gained small toeholds in only a few European countries that have collective bargaining by sector. Only in New Zealand has a determined union membership been able to conduct repeated, if brief, strikes to raise wages.

After the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began putting significant resources into community-based organizations and worker centers, fast-food worker organizing has taken off into a powerful movement for raising the minimum wage for all workers.

Global coordination to raise the minimum wage by raising public consciousness rather than through sector or workplace organizing is done through the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association (IUF). The IUF, using funding from its own member unions, including the SEIU, held a global meeting of 80 fast-food workers and union representatives from 26 countries in New York in the week prior to the May 15 actions. Many of the foreign delegates remained in the United States to help organize the protest actions in U.S. cities. IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald notes that “The Fight for 15” is “just the beginning of an unprecedented international fast-food worker movement.”

Telecommunications Organizing

Another major global organizing campaign is talking place within Deutsche Telecom (DT), parent of T-Mobile U.S., which the Communication Workers of America (CWA) has been trying to organize. The large union ver.di, which represents DT workers in Germany, has been supporting the CWA organizing drive, trying to compel DT to apply higher worker rights’ standards to its operations in the United States. In May 2014, ver.di sponsored a thousand-strong rally at DT’s Berlin headquarters that included hundreds of international trade unionists in Berlin for an International Trade Union Confederation World Congress, CWA President Larry Cohen. and fired T-Mobile U.S. union activist Josh Coleman. Because of ver.di’s tireless media campaign, Coleman has become well known in Germany as a symbol of DT’s anti-union conduct in the United States.

This was not a one-off event. Ver.di members on the DT works council have visited several Southern U.S. cities where CWA is trying to organize at T-Mobile, and the two unions have formed a joint organization called T-Mobile Workers United (TU) to encourage contacts between German and U.S. workers, including an online discussion forum.

To be effective, global labor solidarity must be mutual and long-term, built around the common interests of workers in particular sectors and transnational companies. Global campaigns like these are moving in the direction of deeper practical organization and strategic planning.

Paul Garver is a retired organizer for the IUF and for SEIU and has been active in DSA for more than three decades. This article also appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Democratic Left.

Verizon Wireless Workers Make History in Brooklyn

by Mike Elk

cwa-verizen

Verizon technicians at the Avenue H garage in Brooklyn show their support for retail workers at the company. (CWA Local 1109)

Tim Dubnau, District 1 organizing coordinator for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), saw something earlier this month that he’d never witnessed before in all his years in the labor movement. On May 14, when Verizon Wireless workers throughout Brooklyn held an election to unionize with CWA, a pregnant employee arrived at the Bayridge store at about 11:45 a.m. Already in labor, this worker was unable to descend the stairs to the voting area. In response, the National Labor Relations Board shut down voting and set up a special voting area in the bathroom of the store so the woman could vote.

“It was incredible that this union vote was so important to this woman that she came in to vote while going into contractions,” says Dubnau.

That day, Dubnau also experienced another first in his tenure with the CWA: a victory for the union among Verizon Wireless retail workers. Continue reading

Labor dispute may push shuttle drivers’ pay below poverty line

by Dave Anderson

SuperShuttle drivers

SuperShuttle drivers

If you’ve had an early morning flight from DIA, you might have gotten a ride to the airport with SuperShuttle. Everything seemed normal. The driver came to your door and was helpful and friendly. What you didn’t know is that, for five years, the drivers have been in a fierce fight against a humiliating system of indentured servitude.

In 2009, 94 drivers began organizing for a union after Denver SuperShuttle brought on many new employees, a move that reduced the take-home pay across the unit. Drivers had to work 60-hour weeks and six to seven days each week to compensate. They joined Communication Workers of America (CWA). Al Kogler, the CWA organizing coordinator, notes that it took two years before the workers could vote. In the meantime, he says the company fired union leaders without cause, instituted harsh disciplinary actions, manipulated the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) procedures, made unilateral changes to the conditions of employment and tripled driver fees.

Continue reading

CWA Members Join Fight Against Fast Track Trade Promotion

CWA Local 1103 Members Lobby Against Fast Track during work break

CWA Local 1103 Members Lobby Against Fast Track during work break

Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) are joining other citizens’ group in opposing
fast track authorizing legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, introduced on 9th January by Senator Max Baucus (Dem) and Representative Dave Camp (Rep).

CWA members are responding to this statement by CWA President Larry Cohen:

“Fast track is the wrong track when it comes to a trade deal like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will affect our laws, our jobs, our food and our environment. Fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, forces Congress to give up its Constitutional right to amend and improve this trade deal, which now is reportedly more than 1,000 pages long. Continue reading

T-Mobile US Workers Unite for Respect

T-Mobile Workers United photo.

With a new website—TMobileWorkersUnited.org—workers at T-Mobile US are connecting with each other to build strength in their drive for workplace justice and respect.

Working with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), T-Mobile Workers United (TU) is an alliance of hundreds of call center representatives, retail associates and technicians who are standing up to discuss the issues and challenges they face at the new T-Mobile US, a merger of T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS.

For the past several years, T-Mobile workers say they have faced an extensive anti-union campaign by the company that last year closed seven call centers in the United States and shipped more than 3,300 jobs overseas. Continue reading

Unions Join MLK 50th Anniversary Rally, Renew Call for ‘Jobs and Freedom’

by Bruce Vail

Bayard Rustin (left) and union leader Cleveland Robinson

Bayard Rustin (left) and union leader Cleveland Robinson

Unions are strongly backing a march in Washington, D.C., next week to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. Participating unions are heralding King’s strong ties to labor, and many are using the opportunity to renew the original march’s call for jobs and freedom.

AFSCME [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees] is one of at least 15 unions who are financially sponsoring the August 24 rally and bringing members to participate. AFSCME has chartered about 100 buses and plans to bring 3,000 to 5,000 marchers, says spokesperson Chris Fleming.

“At AFSCME, we have a special connection to Dr. King,” says Fleming. “Many will remember that he died in Memphis in 1968 when he went there to support the sanitation workers who were organizing with AFSCME. The same struggle for economic justice continues today, so we are proud to honor him by continuing the struggle.”

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