I suppose maybe I'm a bit weary of the "check out this new outrage by Scott Walker's assault on the workers" so time to be positive, forward-looking, at least for a moment, by thinking about a really intriguing effort by the United Auto Workers to take a serious shot at organizing against the stupendous class warfare--by taking it around the globe.
So, in my opinion, and I do not think this is a particularly original thought, there is just no way to defeat the current state of class warfare by keeping the offense within our own borders. Our world is littered every day with examples of the global scale of class warfare--whether it be the worldwide financial pollution brought to us courtesy of Goldman Sachs-Citibank-Robert Rubin-AIG et al or the foolish wage-depressing assault via, among other things, middle-class destroying trade deals.
To which the UAW says:
The United Auto Workers outlined a new push to recruit U.S. workers at one or more foreign auto makers and will bolster the effort by training and sending activists abroad to organize rallies and protests in support of the union campaign.
On Tuesday, UAW leaders meeting here described plans to reach out to foreign unions and consumers in what would be their first major campaign since failed efforts in the last decade at Nissan Motor Co. and auto-parts supplier Denso Corp. They hope to be more successful by reaching out to foreign unions at the auto makers' overseas plants and bringing pressure from prayer vigils, fasts or protests at dealerships.
On Tuesday, UAW President Bob King suggested the way to win back concessions made to U.S. auto makers is "rebuilding UAW power" by organizing workers at foreign-owned auto plants in the U.S., and by seeking unity with overseas trade organizations.
The UAW chief insists it is chastened and more cooperative with corporations where it represents workers. "We made some serious mistakes," Mr. King conceded. "We got into a mindset where we had the whole industry organized here in the United States and it was a captured market and we didn't respond quickly enough to the changes in the global economy."
Mr. King, who won election to the union's top spot last summer, said that "our members understand that it's in their self-interest" to organize outside the Detroit Three, calling it "the single most important thing we can do for our members is to re-organize the whole industry."
The UAW has set aside tens of millions of dollars from its strike fund to bankroll its campaign. International actions are to be coordinated with foreign unions and run by some three dozen student interns recruited globally, UAW officials said. When the interns return to their home countries after learning about the UAW efforts in the U.S., they'll be expected to organize protests against the auto maker, UAW officials said.
The UAW also set up a team to identify weaknesses of foreign-owned auto makers that it can use to apply public pressure, according to a person familiar with the matter. This could include highlighting matters such as past safety problems.
UAW representatives have worked with Germany's IG Metall union and other overseas trade groups to form a coalition representing workers at Ford plants. Similar efforts are happening at Chrysler and the Italian auto maker Fiat SpA, which owns Chrysler.
My thoughts. This is not easy. I've heard a lot of talk about organizing globally for a long time--and most of those efforts have failed when it comes to pro-active, before-the-crisis-comes, work. That isn't entirely the fault of labor here, or elsewhere--we are always outgunned by superior resources. There are significant barriers to uniting unions in different countries--like language, culture and different legal systems. You can't dismiss those challenges.
That said, the optimism here starts, IMHO, with King saying, "we made serious mistakes". That's true, too. The list of mistakes is long for the labor movement but let's just say we got too comfortable and, like all institutions that grow comfortable and big, sometimes you don't see what's coming to cut you down.
Is it too late? King knows the end is near for the labor movement if things don't change. For all the optimism we can rightly glean from the challenges to attacks on public workers, it's a grim picture generally--private sector unions are so small most people have no clue what a union is because they've never come in contact with a union member. We have very little sway to move wages in the economy.
So, King and his team, and the union as a whole, figure it's time to put the UAW's smaller but still very substantial financial resources (mainly from building up a strike fund over time--a fund underwritten by members' dues, by the way) into a big play to move history in a different direction.
We--every person on this planet--can only hope it's a smashing success.