THE BLOG
07/10/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The New Workers Uniting Union Means Global Solidarity

Today, in Las Vegas, a town where jackpots are sought and fortunes are lost, Derek Simpson, general secretary of the UK-based international union, Unite the Union (Amicus Section) and I together staked everything on a worthy cause -- working men and women world wide.

We signed an agreement at the USW convention in the Paris-Bally's Conference Center joining our two great unions, creating the first global one. It is called Workers Uniting, the Global Union because we foresee industrial unions from other continents joining us to face off unregulated multinational corporations that exploit labor worldwide.

Workers Uniting is labor's response to corporate globalization -- corporations that have no particular national loyalty, or allegiance to dedicated workers or adherence to anything other than the almighty dollar or pound sterling.

Halliburton, even though it was once led by the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, is an example. Here's a corporation supposedly headquartered in Houston, Texas, that made billions from American taxpayers thought its military contracting subsidiary, KBR, which received no-bid contracts from the Pentagon to supply services for the Iraq war. Never mind that KBR was caught cheating U.S. taxpayers on many of those contracts, by, for example, billing tens of millions for meals never served, among many other abuses. What's more important is that now, after picking all that money out of American pockets, Halliburton has decided to move its CEO Dave Lesar to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and much of the corporation's operations along with him.

Halliburton, which has paid out billions in settlements in asbestos litigation, and is under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegations of improper dealings in Iraq, Kuwait and Nigeria, clearly lacks a corporate conscience. That's why abandoning the U.S. after receiving untold billions in profits from American taxpayers is so easy for its executives and board of directors.

And Halliburton is hardly an isolated corporate case. In fact, it's typical. Corporations announce they've lost a billion dollars in a quarter, and still the CEOs get bonuses. Where do those windfalls come from? They always come from workers' pockets. Somehow CEOs can always find a way to layoff working stiffs, cut the pay of craftsmen who actually manufacture something for a living or eliminate promised benefits like pensions.

Global corporations have set up a situation in which they are herding workers in a stampede to the bottom. First they close a good union factory in New England and move it to a right-to-work (for less) southern state. But even the non-union salaries there eventually don't compete with the submerged wage rates in Mexico, so the corporation moves the factory across the border. Now, however, it's far cheaper to manufacture in China, so corporations are packing up in Mexican towns and transferring there, leaving behind more unemployed workers and economically abandoned communities.

That's not what corporations care about.

We do. So we created a global union whose fealty will always be to the goals of workers. This organization will give workers the tool we need to deal with multinational corporations whose civic consciousness and basic humanity are always subordinated to base profit.

Even before Derek Simpson and I signed the merger papers today, we began working together. Our first joint action took place not far from the glittering casinos of Las Vegas. It was six months ago under glowering skies in Henderson, Nev., when members of both unions marched together against a common employer.

That was Titanium Metals Corp., known as Timet. Some 400 USW members work for Timet in Nevada. Late in January, just days before their labor agreement was to expire, they watched as Timet executives had a tractor trailer full of food hauled into the plant. The motive was clear - the highly-profitable multinational corporation intended to lock us out rather than negotiate a reasonable contract.

So our brothers and sisters from Unite the Union, with whom we'd already formed an alliance, provided the USW with information about Timet to help us in bargaining and flew from the UK to join us in a rally at the plant gates.

Behind a banner that read, "Solidarity at Timet," with the USW and Unite the Union logos on either side, we marched to the plant gates. Unite the Union national officers carried their union flags.

We called for a fair contract and removal of a human resources officer who caused friction in the plant.

Within days we had a contract. That human resource officer is gone. And Timet donated the food to non-profit organizations, so in the end, it went to good causes, not to feed scabs.

This is the kind of international solidarity we will use in bargaining with our common multinational employers, which include International Paper, Kimberly Clark, Georgia Pacific, Rexam, Pilkington, Alcan and Alcoa.

Our new global union, Workers Uniting, represents more than 3 million active and retired workers in Canada, the United States, Ireland and Great Britain. It is our collective statement that we will not cut each other's throats for the profit and pleasure of CEOs. We will not be divided and crushed. We will stand together to secure the best interest of workers worldwide.

Workers Uniting means global solidarity among workers.

Works Uniting puts global meaning to the old labor adage: "An injury to one is an injury to all."