Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Andy Stern on Global Unions

An interview from Feb 2005 with Andy Stern. This is a thoughful guy but one thing he needs to understand is George Bush, Don Rumsfeld, Condolezza Rice, Tony Blair, and John Howard are doing more to globalize human rights then anyone in the Democratic Party. Labor should support the fight.
What is an effective union strategy, given that we're living in a highly globalized economy?

The first key decision you have to make is whether what you said is true. I happen to think it is, which means you have to rethink everything. You're not thinking about a country anymore, but a world. You're not thinking any more about jobs people hold for a lifetime, or jobs that can't be be outsourced or can't have people come to the country and do them instead. The solution is not to go back and try to say we should have closed the borders. Or that NAFTA was a bad idea. Yes, it didn't do the job it was supposed to do, but it's here now. The question now is whether we can change NAFTA.

So you just have to suspend history as an anchor and make it more of a guidepost. You have to integrate it with what's happening in today's world. So then the question is how do you have global unions when you have global employers? How do you have global institutions that not just protect patents of big corporations, but also make sure that people get their environment protected, people get their wages protected? So we're just not protecting property, we're protecting people. That we globalize rights, not just globalize capitalism and finances.

The labor movement was created appropriately (for its time). We had local employers — whether they were in construction, or hotels, phone companies — that then went on to be, in many cases, regional, national, and now international. Unfortunately, we have not been growing in proportion to the growth of these enterprises. So we're falling farther and farther behind because they are changing in nature, and because we represent less and less [sic] workers in the private sector. Had we done nothing differently, companies becoming global makes us — the U.S. part — the smaller part of their overall enterprise. And that in itself makes us have less strength in dealing with them.

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