Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Today Is World Day for Decent Work

October 7th, 2009 | James Parks

Today is World Day for Decent Work, and union members in more than 100 countries are mobilizing to address the global economic and employment crisis and demand fundamental reform of the world economy.

The deepest global recession since the 1930s has led to a jobs crisis with millions of people out of work. The International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts that as many as 50 million more workers could be kicked out of jobs worldwide in the next year and could lead to a dramatic increase in the number of working poor.

Live online coverage of the activities around the world, including videos, photographs and messages from events in every continent, will be broadcast on a special website, www.wddw.org, which will be updated via a 24-hour live feed.

At its recent convention, the AFL-CIO strongly underscored its support for decent work for workers in the United States and around the world by unanimously passing a major resolution, “A Labor Movement Agenda for a Stronger, Cleaner and More Just Global Economy.” The resolution stressed the need for the global labor movement to promote the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact to help coordinate government efforts to respond to the employment crisis.

Following the convention, the newly elected AFL-CIO leadership traveled to meet with working families around the country, leading up to the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh. At the G-20, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Guy Ryder, along with other international trade union leaders, met with President Obama. They stressed the elements of the June 2009 ILO “Jobs Pact” and the importance of enacting coordinated policies to create decent and environmentally sustainable work to combat growing unemployment, enact comprehensive and effective regulation of financial markets and promote the inclusion of key international labor standards in all assistance programs of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The economic crisis is far from over and the global stimulus packages will not be enough to keep joblessness from growing at a steady pace, according to a new report by the ITUC. The report, “Jobs—The Path to Recovery,” was released to mark World Day for Decent Work. It shows that only 1.8 percent of financial rescue efforts have been dedicated directly to employment.

The report highlights trade union actions to fight the crisis around the world and explains the steps needed to achieve a decent work-led recovery and build a fairer and more sustainable world economy for future generations.

The G-20 summit, which ended recently in Pittsburgh, made progress in some areas but failed to completely address the overwhelming need to create new jobs now. “The current situation needs mending,” says Ryder:

Trade unions are raising their voices across the continents, to keep up the pressure for fundamental change, for justice and equity.

They face tremendous resistance from those who have profited from the exploitation of others in the past. Trade unions are determined to confront and defeat that resistance, and to ensure that governments everywhere get the message that they must deliver the results that working people demand.

Click here to read the full report, “The Path to Recovery: How Employment is Central to Ending the Global Crisis.”

Nowhere is the need for decent work more obvious than in the sweatshops of Asia, where workers toil long hours for little pay and few, if any, benefits to make apparel and other items for export that they could never afford to buy themselves.

Today, in New Delhi, India, and in cities in the United States, United Kingdom and throughout Europe, workers will launch a campaign for a living wage called the Asia Floor Wage.

In rallies, workshops, meetings with government and business leaders, public lectures by prominent human rights supporters and press conferences, they will promote a new strategy for global economic growth based on protecting workers’ rights and guaranteeing a living wage.

With so many of the world’s garments and other products being manufactured in Asia, corporations have exploited the workers there, forcing them to work long hours with little pay and few benefits. The campaign challenges this race-to-the-bottom by calling for raising the minimum wage in all major garment producing countries.

In the United States, Jobs with Justice is teaming up with the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), the Asia Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and the AFL-CIO for an educational campaign with our members and allies.

To learn more about the Asia Floor Wage campaign, click here.

About the Author James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

This article originally appeared in the AFL-CIO blog on October 7, 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.

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