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  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.

Originally posted to Tasini on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 07:14 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement and German American Friendship Group.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Labor has to go global, (11+ / 0-)

    capital damned sure has. That said, does UAW-China have much of a chance ?

    •  So there are no cheaper places to make stuff (9+ / 0-)

      If other countries have to treat workers well and not let companies trash the environment, then our businesses will not need to outsource, no upside.

      that is the goal

      •  I agree w your basic view (7+ / 0-)

        with the slight caveat that there is no "our" business and "their" business--that has to be the fundamental framing of how we see the struggle. It's us--the workers--versus the corporate managers/owners who don't think in patriotic or "national" terms. Frankly, if every company here had a Japanese name attached to it but paid high wages and was unionized, I would not care where their headquarters happened to be.

        Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini

        Visit Working Life.

        by Tasini on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 07:46:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Honestly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Dude1701, Larsstephens

      I don't have an easy answer to China. My 2 cents are:

      1. A lot is happening in China every day--strikes, workers unrest--that we never hear of. The government there is trying to control a massive upheaval in society. It's hard to predict the arc of history--who would have predicted Egypt?--but...

      2. Let's start with the non-Chinese auto industry. If we win that, it will be huge.

      Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini

      Visit Working Life.

      by Tasini on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 07:43:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Labor unions have to go global AGAIN (6+ / 0-)

      I believe the organized labor movement peaked around the '70s after workers had gained a lot in the way of bargaining rights, safety regulations, equitable pay, and benefits. It's been since then that much of those gains have been chipped away, by mostly conservative administrations. But the anti- middle-class politicians have overplayed their hands, energizing and focusing attention on labor again. It's sad that this is what it took for that, but hopefully labor can come out stronger in the immediate future.

      "I'm a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will" - Antonio Gramsci

      by ewmorr on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 07:44:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  competing unions are illegal in China (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Larsstephens
      In 2008, a new labor law in China is forcing most companies - including most foreign owned ones - to create an ACFTU chaptered trade union within them.[1]

      ACFTU has a monopoly on trade unionizing in China and creation of competing unions is illegal.[1] As a tool of the government, ACFTU has been seen as not acting in the best interest of its members (workers), bowing to the government pressure on industry growth and not defending workers' rights.[1] This, however, may be changing in 2000s.[1]

      The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions maintains the position that the ACFTU is not an independent trade union organisation, and states in its policy:

          5. There are differing approaches among ICFTU affiliates and Global Union Federations concerning contacts with the ACFTU. They range from “no contacts” to “constructive dialogue”. The ICFTU, noting that the ACFTU is not an independent trade union organisation and, therefore, cannot be regarded as an authentic voice of Chinese workers, reaffirms its request to all affiliates and Global Union Federations having contacts with the Chinese authorities, including the ACFTU, to engage in critical dialogue. This includes raising violations of fundamental workers’ and trade union rights in any such meetings, especially concerning cases of detention of trade union and labour rights activists.[3]

      fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

      by mollyd on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 09:02:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not going to stick. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        China's already been having wildcat strikes.  The bureacracy has the choice of responding to workers' demands or facing wildcat unions.

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 03:19:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, neroden, nicolemm, Larsstephens

    is for sure how things need to happen. our rulers are not government. they are multinational corporations. so if we want equality we need to fight for it on their turf (which is all available turf)

    One great big festering neon distraction, I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied.

    by Orman West on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 07:39:57 AM PDT

  •  Global Unions (7+ / 0-)

    It has seemed to me since plants began moving overseas, that unions must be border free as well. I'm worried that this effort might be 25 years too late. The injustice of our free trade deals to labor have always been glaring. Transnational banks, transnational corporation, why the hell not transnational unions. But, we all no why.

  •  Trade policies. (7+ / 0-)

    If it’s illegal to operate Chinese-style sweatshops in the US, then it should be just as illegal for anyone to import (into the US) products made in those Chinese-style sweatshops. It’s an out-of-sight-out-of-mind deal. People have to SEE stuff before they get it.
    Every time they try to sell these trade policies to the American people, they always use the boosting exports shtick. It should be common sense, but people who make $1.00 a day aren’t going to be buying as much from us as what we’re going to be buying from them, which results in trade deficits, which translates into lost US jobs, and it happens every time. But the American people continue to be dumb enough to fall for the virtues of the free (in this case international) market.
    Another thing these world-renowned economists won’t tell us is, when the US runs trade deficits with low-wage labor markets, the US is effectively SUBSIDIZING THOSE LABOR PRACTICES, due to the money that is allowed to leave our economy and go into the economies of low-wage labor market (i.e. the effects of the trade deficits) because of US trade policy.
    We at least must maintain a balance of trade, or we will continue to subsidize oppressive regimes whose human rights standards are contrary to our spoken philosophy (i.e. what we preach).

  •  Workers of the world unite. (5+ / 0-)

    Capital is global; unions must be also.

    WWRHD? What Would Robin Hood Do?

    by TomP on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 08:09:46 AM PDT

  •  I wonder why (4+ / 0-)

    unions don't use their ability to raise money from their memberships to purchase controlling shares in the companies that employ said members. Imagine if the UAW had started buying up GM stock in 1939--how long would it have taken them to acquire 51%? How would such a company be run differently? Would CEOs be getting gargantuan paychecks for running the company into the ground while workers get the shaft?

    Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

    by drewfromct on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 09:02:34 AM PDT

    •  $4 Million Dollars Per Worker (4+ / 0-)

      appears to be the price for Exxon workers to buy their company.

      I'm not very financially literate but I found a listing for market valuation of exxon stock at 400 billion, and I found a reference saying they had 83,000 employees which I rounded up to 100,000.

      Now I could be way off in that.

      The problem with your approach is America beginning 1981. Before then we limited company sizes in a number of ways, and drastically limited the earning power of the top individuals so that far more of the total national wealth was held by common people than since.

      Then this happened:
      Image Hosted by

      Notice the only group gaining significant wealth from Reagan on, skyrocketing under Clinton, was the top 400 FAMILIES. The entire rest of the top 1% we hear so much about, with just those 400 families removed, only gained a modest amount of wealth during the Clinton boom, much of which was lost when the eventual crash came.

      Now the top 400 have more wealth than the bottom 150 MILLION Americans combined.

      That wealth is in corporate assets and these biggest companies are too big to fail, too big to buy out, too big to govern.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 09:19:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They don't need to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        buy 100% of Exxon or any other company. Just 51% of voting shares, or even a large enough block of such shares to constitute a controlling faction. If union leaders had had the foresight to implement such a plan 60 years ago, the 400 richest families might not now have as much money as the poorest 150 million Americans combined. Well, so much for 20/20 hindsight. It may be too late to take over Exxon, but hopefully labor unions may still yet be able to acquire controlling interests in many other smaller, rising companies that might turn out to be the Exxons of tomorrow.

        Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

        by drewfromct on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 10:57:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The problem lies in corporate structure. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nicolemm, drewfromct

          With a standard corporate structure, it's too easy for the "first group" of workers to decide "I got mine" and pull the ladders up behind them.  Recall that the pilots' union basically bought out United Airlines, and then the flight attendants' union ended up fighting with them....   It's also far too easy for the corporation to be hijacked by a self-dealing CEO, one of the biggest problems with US corporations these days.

          I suggest a co-op structure.  Get your up-and-coming business controlled by a co-op and you have a recipe for maintaining worker control.

          Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

          by neroden on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 03:24:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  German Corporations, Says Thom Hartmann, Must (5+ / 0-)

      have 50% of their corporate board members from labor.

      I don't think they have the same pay disparity. They also manage their trade to limit their exposure to slave labor.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 09:21:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Look up the history of the IWW (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It took a world war to turn worker against worker in the trenches.  If we succeed they'll do it again.

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 09:11:51 AM PDT

    •  No reason not to try. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky, nicolemm

      The plutocrats are quite capable of starting a world war for no good reason whatsoever, so it's not like unionizing is going to make it MORE likely.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 03:20:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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