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Posts Tagged ‘global economy’

Politics Affect Unionization Rates, Study Finds

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Laura ClawsonIf union density is declining in the United States (and it is), it’s because unions can’t compete in the global economy, right? That’s the story we’re often told, anyway, but a new Center for Economic and Policy Research report says that actually, politics plays a major role (PDF). The CEPR study compares 21 countries with rich economies and facing similar levels of globalization and technological progress, and finds different outcomes for unions depending on the countries’ differing political environments.

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The study looks at both union membership and union coverage, which is the number of people who are covered by collective bargaining agreements regardless of whether they are union members. (In the United States, the two numbers are fairly close; in many countries, though, significantly more workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements than belong to unions.) The result is that:

Countries strongly identified during the postwar period with social democratic parties—Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland—have generally seen small increases in union coverage and only small decreases in union membership since 1980.

Over the same period, countries typically described as “liberal market economies”—the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and Japan—have generally seen sharp drops in union coverage and membership.

Countries in the broad Christian democratic tradition, sometimes referred to as “coordinated market economies” or “continental market economies”—Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Switzerland—typically have had outcomes somewhere in between the social democratic and liberal market economies, with small drops in union coverage and moderate declines in union membership.

That declining union membership and coverage in the U.S. is in part a result of political forces shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s assaults on public employees or read about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s threats to the National Labor Relations Board before it filed a complaint against Boeing. But since anti-union politicians and corporations always tell you that their assaults on workers’ rights are because unions can’t work in an era of globalization, this study offers a simple rejoinder.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on November 22, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

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

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

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

Sweatshop-Free Gifts For The Holidays

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Last month I told you how to buy union-made treats for Halloween. But now Christmas is coming, and that means even more shopping — and for a wide range of stuff beyond just chocolates.

With the rise of globalization and outsourcing, the shopper’s dilemma is especially acute when buying clothes. You don’t want your holiday shopping dollars enriching an absentee CEO who takes advantage of the North Pole’s weak labor regulations to force his workers to churn out product night and day year-round. (His apologists will tell you he’s “jolly.” But there’s nothing jolly about a repetitive stress injury.)

What’s a conscientious consumer to do?

Never fear! The International Labor Rights Forum and SweatFree Communities have stepped into the breach with the latest edition of their Shop With a Conscience Consumer Guide, which lists tons of places you can buy sweatshop-free clothing for everyone on your list. And their 2010 Sweatshop Hall of Shame is a handy list of retail outlets that don’t deserve your business until the way they treat the men and women who make their products moves from “naughty” to “nice”.

They’ve even got these materials available as PDF brochures (Consumer Guide, Hall of Shame), suitable for printing out and taking with you to the mall. Heck, you could even print out some extra copies and hand them out to other shoppers while you’re there, you know?

So this year, don’t give lumps of coal to the men and women who make the gifts you give — shop sweatshop-free!

*This post originally appeared in Change to Win on November 17, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author Jason Lefkowitz: is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect.

G8 Union Leaders Issue Urgent Call to Tackle Jobs Crisis

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The global union movement is issuing an urgent call for the leaders of the Group of Eight nations to tackle the deepening jobs crisis at their summit meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, next month.

The leaders must develop a coordinated and jobs-orientated international recovery and sustainable growth plan that focuses on creating good jobs and re-regulating the global financial system, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told a gathering of G8 union leaders today in Rome.

 The global economy continues to deteriorate at an unprecedented rate.  Workers around the world—who are the innocent victims of this crisis—are losing their jobs and incomes.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts that unemployment is likely to increase by up to 59 million worldwide by the end of 2009. Unemployment in the G8 countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and United States—is likely to almost double over the next 18 months, according to the ILO. At the same time, more than 200 million workers could be pushed into extreme poverty, lifting the number of working poor to 1.4 billion.

Earlier this week, President John Sweeney and the union leaders of the world’s top economies outlined a plan to stimulate the global economy. Click here to read more about that plan.

When the global economic crisis is over, said Sweeney, the G8 leaders must ensure there is no return to “business as usual.”

While this crisis was caused by global economic imbalances and financial speculation, it was underpinned by the lack of effective economic regulation over preceding decades. Rather than planning “exit strategies” that are a more brutal version of failed past policies, there is a need to establish a new model of economic development that is stronger and more efficient, socially just and environmentally sustainable.

And this time, workers’ views should be represented in the plan, Sweeney said.

Trade unions and the workers we represent have no confidence that this time governments and bankers alone will get it right.  We are asking for a seat at the table.

About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was 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. Parks is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has 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 AFL-CIO Now on June 26, 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.

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