Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

G-20 Labor Leaders Meet at AFL-CIO for Labor Summit

April 22nd, 2010 | James Parks

When the world’s banks were going under, governments jumped to their aid. Now with record numbers of people out of work, it’s past time for governments to put working people first, or the fledgling economic recovery could fall apart. Leaders from the G-20 nations issued this warning while in Washington, D.C., this week for the first-ever meeting of G-20 labor ministers and employment ministers with labor and business leaders April 20-21.

The meeting stems from the efforts by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and others at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh last September to make jobs the central element in any global economic recovery. The G-20 includes the leaders of the world’s top 19 economies and the European Union.

During their meetings at the AFL-CIO before the labor ministers’ summit, the union leaders again strongly urged their governments to support the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Global Jobs Pact, which includes comprehensive measures to stimulate employment growth and provide basic protections for workers and their families.

Sharan Burrow, president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), told the ministers:

Governments must show the same political will to attack global unemployment and underemployment as they did to tackle the banking crisis in late 2008. We cannot afford a lost decade of stagnant labor markets.

Trumka made it clear that if the jobs of the future are to be good, family supporting jobs, workers in all nations must have the fundamental right to form unions and bargain collectively:

In the U.S, tens of thousands of workers are fired every year for attempting to form unions. For example, there can be no excuse for T-Mobile, the U.S. telecommunications company, to viciously oppose unions in the U.S. while its corporate parent, Deutsche Telekom supports bargaining rights and unions throughout Europe. Unless workers’ rights are enforced in all countries, there will be a “race to the bottom” in wages and working conditions, a race that will undermine decent work everywhere.

For more information on the ongoing campaign to bring justice to T-Mobile, click here and here.

The union leaders also insisted that governments not reduce stimulus efforts until employment rates return to pre-crisis levels on a sustainable basis, and called for an equitable sharing of the cost of the recovery costs through more progressive tax systems, including the adoption of a financial transactions tax, actions the AFL-CIO strongly backs.

ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder said:

We must halt the continuing rise in unemployment and create new jobs.  Furthermore, there needs to be an ongoing role for labor ministers within the G-20 in order to address the employment impact of the crisis with effective measures to help all workers, including the most vulnerable.

John Evans, general secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), added:

Increasing economic inequality over two decades helped cause this crisis. Fairer income distribution and restoring real purchasing power to working people is essential for sustainable economic growth in the future.

Check out the detailed proposals presented by the union delegation here. Read the ITUC/TUAC evaluation of the meeting’s outcomes here.

*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on April 22, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

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. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

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One Response to “G-20 Labor Leaders Meet at AFL-CIO for Labor Summit”

  1. don mitchel Says:

    How can any member of an American labor union support this adninistration, when their theme about economic globalization being the answer to American jobs is clear by their lack of action to address: Going Green dose not work with Globalization.
    Economic Globalization requires the movement of goods and unfortunately this is being allowed in our waters by mostly foreign ships according to a report prepared for congress in DEC 2009 without Federal laws to protect our waters from the pollution of ballast dumping. There is also a huge carbon footprint these ships present. Manufacturing jobs are created where cost are lower. If international shipping was held accountable for water pollution and the carbon footprint caused, bringing foreign goods into our country, their cost would rise and could allow us to be cost effective producers again. The following is from a report prepared for congress in DEC 2009

    “Although estimates of the costs of ballast treatment may be imprecise and vary from vessel to
    vessel, there is some general agreement on average costs.14 For example, it may cost an estimated
    $400,000 per vessel for modification of container/bulk vessels to use onshore ballast water
    treatment facilities at California ports. More generally, the cost of retrofitting vessels to treat
    ballast water has been estimated at between $200,000 and $310,000 per vessel for mechanical
    treatment and around $300,000 for chemical treatment.15 Most of this expense will be borne by
    foreign shipping companies, as the U.S. flag fleet is a small percentage of the global fleet,16 and
    likely passed along to consumers of products imported on these ships.”

    Until the media,unions,manufactures,health professionals, inform the general public about jobs lost, the human health effects of water borne virus, human pathogens, and invasive’s, ballast water presents, bringing foreign goods into our country while taking Americans jobs, or the terrorist threat it presents, the Senate will not act. Action creating national ballast water legislation, would curtail the “vision of economic globalization” as the answer to help the American economy. They will not admit this policy of economic globalization, has flaws despite the continued destruction of our environment by foreign economic interest. So far all we can hope for under this administration is delay by another study,and a two decade plan by the Coast Guard to address invasive’s, while delegating out the pollution, by other materials, and the terrorist threat ballast system pose, to several branches of government without any infrastructure to enforce. Unfortunately they know that not being a comprehensive plan it will not be adequate and will be able to be circumvented by industry. Preventing chemicals, like rat poison used by sea captains to kill invasive’s will not be possible, by the EPA through Clean Water Act as they do not have infrastructure for enforcement. This was recently apparent by the lack of enforcement during the Gulf disaster allowing ballast systems to move tar balls into Lake Pontchartrain, despite this administration having been repeatedly warned that release of material through ocean development would allow ballast system to spread it. They continue to force states to spend enormous amounts of money to create state laws, that pit, competition among the states negotiating with foreign shipping, without the states having an infrastructure for enforcement. Perhaps if the American worker and the American labor unions understood this problem and withheld their support for this administration, they would then understand the need to direct the Senate to address the frivolous states rights issue of one Senator Boxer over her alleged belief that national legislation would hinder her states right to tougher laws. She killed the bi-partisan legislation, passed by the house 395-7 for the change we needed in 2008. Economic Americanization will only take president over economic globalization if our elected leaders realize they will be out of office if they do not put our country first. Putting America first can not be done by this administrations plan to negotiate hidden carbon emissions and currency manipulation with a communist country while limiting US carbon emissions, and while allowing foreign shipping to destroy our economy and environment bringing cheap foreign manufactured goods into our country.

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