Thinking of Labor's Future: June 5, 2012

How Will Unions of Tomorrow Function
In a New Global Competitive Economy?

“Thinking about Labor’s Future”

(The seventh in a Series of articles)

By Harry Kelber

In Europe, as well as in Asia, several large international union federations are merging into even larger organizations, because they feel that is the best way to challenge giant multinational corporations that have been swallowing companies and creating subsidiaries throughout the world.

The world’s largest trade union was formed on Nov. 1, 2006 out of the merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labor (WCL). At its founding Congress in Vienna, Austria, the International Confederation of Trade Unions (ITUC) represented 175 million workers through, its 311 affiliated organizations in within 155 countries and territories.

Less than a year later (July 2, 2008), a new huge conglomerate union called “UNITE” was formed by a merger of AMICUS, an Irish union, with the British Trade Union Congress (TUC). UNITE, with more than 3 million members, went on to negotiate an agreement with British Airways for its ground crew. Other global unions have been formed and are now involved in organizing and political activities

But where is the AFL-CIO in the global labor picture? Its leaders have made no mention about these important developments, apparently focusing all their energies on the U.S. domestic crisis. The United Steelworkers is the only American union that appears to be working closely with the new global unions. AFL-CIO members have been kept mostly in the dark about what’s happening abroad.

Are American workers affected by what happens in the global job market? You bet they are! The 21st century will witness mass migrations of people from different countries in search for employment. That’s what happened when large numbers of Polish workers migrated to the U..K., causing dissension with British workers.

Many thousands of Burmese workers are now on jobs in Thailand. Saudi Arabia has hired millions of domestic workers from many countries. When people can’t find jobs in their homeland, they will migrate anywhere where they can earn a paycheck. The migration trend is certain to continue. Will American workers be immune from the effects of mass migration, particularly from young people? (Let’s not forget our problems with Mexico.)

Will U.S. Workers Be Trapped into a ‘Race to the Bottom?’

With millions of workers unemployed in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and most underdeveloped countries, their governments are still struggling under an austerity budget which is not likely to change much in the near future. There is bound to be a worldwide search for jobs, through mass migration?

Most American unionists are unaware of the struggles of the workers on every continent to survive, even by working harder for less wages and benefits. But we have lost hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs through outsourcing, by not fighting hard enough to save them.

How should the unions of tomorrow deal with the unemployment problem? They should join with the global unions in a united fight to compel the big banks and the rich Wall Street financial institutions to agree to an Investment Transaction Tax (ITT) that could raise multi-billions of dollars to compensate the jobless victims of a world economic crisis.

What we need now — and in the future — is Global Labor Unity. It makes sense for the AFL-CIO to establish friendly working relations with the growing global unions, who are fighting many of the same corporations that we are.

The eighth in our series on “Thinking about Labor’s Future” will be posted here on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, and on our two web sites: and on