Monday, May 26, 2008

Steelworkers in the UK and the USA Join Forces

After suffering the effects of companies who take advantage of the global labor market, unions are finding new ways of reacting. According to the NY Times today, two major unions have strengthened their bargaining power by forming the first trans-Atlantic alliance. United Steelworkers of the United States, and Britain's largest union, Unite, are putting the final touches on their plan to merge.

Globalization allows both companies and workers cross borders in competition. In order to have any bargaining power whatsoever, workers need to form trans-national organizations to prevent the disruption of local organizing.

Workers across oceans share the same interests and goals for improving their livelihoods and working conditions, but how much additional leverage can this alliance actually give workers when the laws regarding labor differ in the UK and USA? The real issue is the legal and economic gaps between nations that entice companies to areas where workers demand lower wages and there are fewer rules regarding working conditions or protection of workers' rights to organize.

According to the BBC, workers from Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America are being encouraged to co-operate. Also, United Steelworkers direct some of their efforts at supporting workers in Columbia. With the combined support of Unite's efforts in Columbia, the Unions may be able to prevent duplicative work. Both unions are watchdogs for labor practices around the world by working to enforce the International Labor Organization standards of the United Nations.

“Social justice is the best way to ensure sustainable peace and eradicate poverty. And I believe in people coming together organizing, joining forces, making their voices heard.”
Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General

BBC Article: "UK and US unions to 'join forces'"

NY Times Article: "British Union Sets Merger with Steelworkers"

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