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Historic agreement signed to form first global union

Reliable Plant Magazine  |  July 3, 2008  |  Share  |  Source article

The United Steelworkers (USW), North America's largest private-sector union, and Unite the Union, the largest labor organization in the United Kingdom and Ireland, on July 2 signed an agreement clearing the way for the creation of Workers Uniting, the world's first global union.

Workers Uniting will draw on the energies of the two unions more than three million active and retired workers from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland who work in virtually every sector of the global economy, including manufacturing, service, mining and transportation.

"This union is crucial for challenging the growing power of global capital," said USW president Leo W. Gerard. "Globalization has given financiers license to exploit workers in developing countries at the expense of our members in the developed world. Only global solidarity among workers can overcome this sort of global exploitation wherever it occurs."

"In addition to empowering the interests of our unions' members," said Derek Simpson, general secretary of Unite's Amicus section, "our mission is to advance the interests of millions of workers throughout the world who are being shamefully exploited."

In a video broadcast at the USW's convention, Tony Woodley, General Secretary of Unite's T&GU section said, "The creation of our new union is only the beginning. We're laying the foundations of an even larger and stronger global union yet to come."

The new global union's founding Constitution calls on its combined membership to "build global union activism, recognizing that uniting as workers across international boundaries is the only way to challenge the injustices of globalization."

Consistent with this calling, Workers Uniting will "match our words with action and resources, utilizing our collective expertise and knowledge through collective bargaining, organizing, global political action and international solidarity."

During the past year while discussions about the creation of a new global union have been ongoing, the two unions have been actively engaged in joint efforts to advance global union activism, including:

- Extensive discussions about strategies that each of the unions has adopted for saving manufacturing capacity in their respective countries.

- Joint collective bargaining efforts with common employers in the paper, chemical and titanium industries.

- International solidarity projects, such as efforts to protect the rights and safety of trade unionists in Colombia and Mexico.

- Participation by rank and file delegations of activists in each other's education, rapid response, health and safety, civil rights and women's conferences.

- Exposure to the political processes in each other's countries, including Democratic Party primaries and Labor Party conferences.

Workers Uniting will be a fully functional and registered labor organization in the United Kingdom, United States, Ireland and Canada, with the ability to fully represent all of the members of its founding unions. It will be governed by a steering committee with equal membership from each participating union.

The new union's staff will be headed by an executive director who will oversee an initial budget of several million dollars, and a staff that includes research, international affairs and communications specialists.

Both participating unions have pledged to have Workers Uniting "challenge exploitation anywhere in the global economy, since it is fundamentally unjust and is destructive of decent living standards everywhere." Toward this end, the new union, in conjunction with the National Labor Committee, is creating a Global Labor Rights Network that will have allied staff on the ground in Central America, the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and other regions.

Signing of the merger document took place on July 2 in Las Vegas at the USW's Constitutional Convention.

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