“Workers of the World Unite” is back by popular demand. And not just by demand, but by necessity.
Global transnational corporations and their partners finance capital are working full time to craft an economic solution to the world crisis that preserves their enormous profits and power while putting the burden of recovery on working people. How could it be otherwise?
The capitalist beast has not changed its spots. But it has mutated into a much larger, globally interconnected, behemoth. Its institutions, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization are in full swing. Not to mention the infamous G8 and G20 big country summits. Of course, none of these even have seats at the table for labor.
The global nature of the economic crisis, and the vast, new levels of global economic integration all demand that labor develop its own global strategy.
The recent meeting of world labor leaders in Washington, DC at the time of the last G20 emergency meeting was a very good start. (Read about it in the People’s Weekly World here) This meeting of labor leaders from the big economies mapped out some important strings that should be attached to any global deals to protect the public interest. But labor needs to go far beyond just adding its own conditions to the plans being hatched by these global capitalist forums.
First the crisis demands that world labor take steps to accelerate the growing trend of international labor cooperation and even organizational integration. An important first step is world labor unity. How about the merger of global labor federations and industry groups without regard to political or ideological conditions – an end to the cold war for good? It also means further development of initiatives like the United Steelworkers and the British Unite the Union merger into a new global union. (Read about it here) These are all parts of a growing objective process that matches labor unity to the actual conditions of global capital. Again Workers of the World Unite!
Secondly, global labor needs a global program. This will take a lot of discussion. It will take the best thinking of us all. The truth is that the massive impact of the global economic disaster on working families everywhere, can make demands that seemed utopian and impractical in the past, realistic solutions for today.
For example don’t we need a massive global economic stimulus that creates jobs? How about a project by the G8 nations to provide clean drinking water for the billions of people who live without it around the world? Not only would this global infrastructure project be a major blow for world health, it could create millions of jobs in areas that need them most. Such a project would help build sustainable infrastructure for further development in poverty stricken areas of the globe.
Or how about a global minimum wage? As a beginning, why not set minimum standards for transnational companies that prowl the globe in search of cheap labor? They can afford it. Such a minimum wage would have to be based on real circumstances in any given country. But a global minimum wage would protect the living standards of workers in developed countries by raising living standards everywhere. Better wages and benefits help lift standards all around.
Lastly global labor needs to intensify its fight for global labor rights. Stronger labor movements help curb the worst excesses of global capital run wild. At home we need the Employee Free Choice Act to better defend the interests of all working people. More labor power is a counter balance to corporate greed and corruption. The kind of greed and corruption that helped produced the current economic crisis in the first place. Sustainable economic development requires more democracy in the system. Unions contribute to democracy by giving workers a bigger collective voice.
Stronger labor organizations will result in workers and their families keeping more of the wealth they produce. Unions raise the standards for all workers by creating upward pressure on wages and working conditions around them. This in turn creates more demand from below for goods and services making for a more sustainable economy.
Workers of the world unite – now more than ever!