The G20 Summit and Unions

by Chris Sturr | March 29, 2009

From a blog I think I hadn’t seen before (hat-tip to LF), Labor Is Not a Commodity. I will add it to our blogroll.

The G20 Summit and Unions

Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum

Next week, representatives of G-20 governments will be meeting in London to discuss strategies for addressing the global economic crisis. As working people around the world are facing the LondonSummit-resized consequences of this crisis, unions are responding with their own proposals for the G-20.

This Monday, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released a “London Declaration” that focuses on five key policy recommendations for the G-20:

  • a coordinated international recovery and sustainable growth plan to create jobs and ensure public investment;
  • nationalization of insolvent banks and new financial regulations;
  • action to combat the risk of wage deflation and reverse decades of increasing inequality;
  • far-reaching action on climate change;
  • a new international legal framework to regulate the global economy along with reform of the global financial and economic institutions (IMF, World Bank, OECD, WTO).

You can read the full document online here. The introduction to the declaration states,

Workers around the world, who are losing their jobs and their homes, are the innocent victims of this crisis: a crisis precipitated by greed and incompetence in the financial sector, but which is underpinned by the policies of privatisation, liberalisation and labour market deregulation of recent decades. The effects of these policies—stagnating wages, cuts in social protection, erosion of workers’ rights, increased precarious work, and financialisation—have combined to increase inequality and vulnerability…

When our economies begin to recover there can be no return to ‘business as usual’. The crisis must mark the end of an ideology of unfettered financial markets, where self-regulation has been exposed as a fraud and greed has overridden rational judgement to the detriment of the real economy. A new national and global regulatory architecture needs to be built, which restores financial markets to their primary function of ensuring stable and cost-effective financing of productive investment in the real economy. Beyond this, there is a need to establish a new model of economic development that is economically efficient, socially just and environmentally sustainable. It must bring to an end the policies that have generated massive inequality over the past two decades.

While all of ITUC’s policy recommendations are very important, the third recommendation definitely requires attention. As the full declaration explains, wage deflation and increasing inequality can be reversed in part “by extending the coverage of collective bargaining and strengthening wage setting institutions so as to establish a decent floor in labour markets.”

Here in the US, a report released this week by Government Accountability Office [we blogged on this NYT article here; it's the article that quotes Kim Bobo. —D&S] showed that the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is failing in its role of protecting workers from wage theft, child labor and other abuses. With a new Secretary of Labor, it is vital that the government strictly enforce the labor laws we already have on the books. We also need to take additional steps to ensure that workers can use collective bargaining agreements to improve wages and working conditions. That means passing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as a first step. EFCA is an important part of ensuring that US workers are able to exercise the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

At the G20 summit in London, it is also essential that world leaders support alternative systems and Egg_a_Politician policies that can improve the lives of the workers facing poverty. Divine Chocolate, a pioneering Fair Trade chocolate company co-owned by cocoa farmers in Ghana, has shown that paying a fair price to farmers does more than create a sustainable future for a few farmers — it is a model that can be replicated on a mass scale. Divine set up a new website where you can “Egg a Politician” — meaning that you can toss a chocolate egg at one of the G20 leaders and then send them a message telling them to keep fair trade on the agenda.

Unfortunately, I fear that the representatives at the G-20 will not be promoting policies focused on reducing inequality, protecting workers’ rights and promoting fair trade. Labor rights advocates globally will have to keep the pressure on governments to support better policies and work together to raise standards for workers everywhere. As one example, workers all across the Americas are participating in an upcoming Continental Day of Action against the Crisis. How do you think unions and worker organizations around the world can work together to address the impact of the global economic crisis on workers?

[This is the full post, though I didn't reproduce all the hyperlinks; to see them click here.]

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  1. Great question–how can workers connect. Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative, is asking this question too–how can we as worker organization benefit workers around the world. We are starting by reaching school children. The curriculum, Win-Win Solutions: an Introduction to Fair Trade and Cooperative Economics, is a way for children age 8-15 to understand more how their daily actions can strengthen workers and farmers who grow their cocoa for chocolate (or make their clothes) across the globe. Over 300 schools are also using Equal Exchange as a way to fundraise with a Fair Trade Fundraiser, http://www.equalexchange.coop/fundraiser. http://www.equalexchange.coop/educationaltools. -Virginia

  2. Let us travel to Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit on 24-25 September, to demonstrate and protest the attendance of Meles Zenawi, the prime minister and dictator ruling Ethiopia for nearly two decades, who will be there in the capacity of the representative for Africa.As you all know, Meles Zenawi and the current Ethiopian regime has been responsible for unspeakable atrocities against masses of innocent civilians in many parts of Ethiopia, including genocide. But the international community allows him to operate with impunity because the regime is seen as a staunch ally in the “war on terror”. We strongly believe that he should not be graced and honoured by an appearance in such a high-level meeting in the United States, leave alone as “Africa’s voice”. Africa deserves better!For those near Los Angeles , California area the Ethiopian-American Enterprenuers Association(EAEA) have grunted funds to cover round trip air ticket from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and back to LAX on 09/26. If interested contact any of the sponsors near you.The sponsors are listed Tessema Dosho Shifferaw, Charlie Zawde, Elias Negash; Agonafer Shiferaw, Elias Wondimu; Leah Niederstadt and Asqual Teferi.For Exact departure time please contact Tel: 213-365-6651 Ext. 100
    Fax: 213 365 6670

  3. Let us travel to Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit on 24-25 September, to demonstrate and protest the attendance of Meles Zenawi, the prime minister and dictator ruling Ethiopia for nearly two decades, who will be there in the capacity of the representative for Africa.As you all know, Meles Zenawi and the current Ethiopian regime has been responsible for unspeakable atrocities against masses of innocent civilians in many parts of Ethiopia, including genocide. But the international community allows him to operate with impunity because the regime is seen as a staunch ally in the “war on terror”. We strongly believe that he should not be graced and honoured by an appearance in such a high-level meeting in the United States, leave alone as “Africa’s voice”. Africa deserves better!For those near Los Angeles , California area the Ethiopian-American Enterprenuers Association(EAEA) have grunted funds to cover round trip air ticket from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and back to LAX on 09/26. If interested contact any of the sponsors near you.The sponsors are listed Tessema Dosho Shifferaw, Charlie Zawde, Elias Negash; Agonafer Shiferaw, Elias Wondimu; Leah Niederstadt and Asqual Teferi.For Exact departure time please contact Tel: 213-365-6651 Ext. 100
    Fax: 213 365 6670

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