THE BLOG
10/16/2008 08:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

THE WORLD IS COUNTING ON US

I am just returning to the U.S. from two days of meetings in London. The meetings were part of our work to globalize our organizing, to globalize our struggle for justice. For a couple of years now we have increased our efforts to link up unions around the world, to develop a global consensus or an analysis of the global economic race to the bottom, and to better cooperate on ongoing and bargaining campaigns against multi-rational employers. These meetings in London on October 13 and 14 were a key part of that work.

On October 13, 30 organizers from Britain, Spain, Nigeria, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Ireland, and, of course the United States met to talk about our respective organizing programs and to further our dialogue abut how we can collectively deal with multinational corporations, neoliberalism, and the global economic race to the bottom.

On October 14 we joined 300 British organizers to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the British Trades Union Congress Organizing Academy which had been modeled on the AFL-CIO's Organizing Institute.

For the lone American there, two things were very striking-how hungry the world is for change in America and the election of Barak Obama and how eager international trade unionists and organizers are for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Philips Jennings, president of the powerful global union federation, UNI, said we must make certain that the U.S. labor market is not available for export. He spoke of the global union federation's commitment to the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act manifested when global labor leaders testified for the act at the Congress during the Global Organizing Summit on Wednesday, December 11, 2007. He spoke of the necessity for the worlds workers to restore the freedom to form union and bargain collectively in the U.S. and how detrimental it has been for workers all over the world for workers rights to have been crushed in the world's biggest economy and the only super power.

Ron Oswald of the global union federation, IUF, said, "a union-free U.S. economy is a disaster for the whole world. The Employee Free Choice Act is key for everyone. We need an international plan to press for its passage," including labor-friendly governments calling for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act as part of the global economic recovery plan.

The points are clear. How can workers in developing countries organize unions at companies owned in the U.S. or who sell goods and services to the U.S. companies when workers in the U.S. cannot organize and bargain collectively? And what does it do to workers in both the developed world and the developing world when U.S. style union-busting is exported around the world as the Burke Group has done? That is why the AFL-CIO signed an important organizing protocol with the British TUC to cooperate to stop U.S. style union busting in Britain. Phil Jennings called for that protocol to be globalized.

On October 14, 30 of us organizers from around the world joined 300 British organizers to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Organizing Academy. In Britain they have organized aggressively under Labour Government and Labour-inspired new union organizing and recognition policies and stopped their decline in union density. The day was both a celebration and a recommitment to organizing and to more organizing of vulnerable workers - immigrants, temporary agency workers, worker in the informal economy.

I was privileged to speak on a panel with Philip Jennings of UNI and the BBC economies editor Paul Mason whose brand new book is called Live Working or Die Fighting, a history of working class struggle. The subtitle is called How the Working Class Went Global. He speaks of worker struggle against corporate-fuelled globalization all over the world from the U.S. to China to India to Nigeria to Bolivia and in every corner of the world.

And so we see our challenge to link up across borders and national boundaries connecting with worker struggles around the world lending one another power and leverage, demanding a global economy that works for all of us, especially those of us who produce the wealth that powers that global economy.

My mates and colleagues from all over the world made it clear to me over and over again what our immediate role is - elect Barack Obama and pass the Employee Free Choice Act. People across the world wake up and check the polls online. They go to bed after going online to check the polls every night. Billions of average people and workers in every corner of this world are counting on us to make sure Barack Obama is elected. It is not exaggeration to say the world is counting on us.