Carrying out their ever-closer alliance, the Steelworkers and a top British union, Unite, held a joint congress in London on Nov. 11 to help flesh out the structure and goals of their new joint group, Workers Uniting.
“Workers Uniting’s strength is built on its three million members on both sides of the Atlantic. In order to raise awareness among members of the severity of the situation, provide rapid support for those in danger and discourage those responsible from carrying out such attacks in the first place, Workers Uniting will create an urgent action network,” one of the points in its initial framework, adopted several years ago, says.
Workers Uniting’s convention in London adopted a theme of “Fighting Back Globally.” In his opening speech there, Steelworkers President Leo Gerard added, “Standing up for the world’s 99 percent is the Workers Uniting mission. We can globalize the fight for working people all around the world. We have the vehicle to fight back.”
Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey said the Workers Uniting Congress “is taking place against a backdrop of global economic chaos and a global attack against working people.”
Delegates in London discussed strategies each of Workers United member unions adopted for saving manufacturing capacity in their respective countries, joint collective bargaining efforts with common employers in the paper, chemical and titanium industries and international solidarity to protect trade unionists’ rights elsewhere, notably Colombia and Mexico.
The Steelworkers already have a strong working alliance with Mexico’s leading independent union of metal workers and mine workers, Los Mineros. Gerard told a job safety and health conference in D.C. that USW and Los Mineros “are talking about uniting our unions, so we have one union from the tip of Mexico to the top of Alaska.”
The London conference also discussed participation by rank and file delegations of activists in each other’s education, rapid response, health and safety, civil rights, and women’s conferences.
In his Washington remarks, just before he left for London, Gerard said, “You can’t allow globalization to cause deterioration of health and safety standards here.” But he quickly made it clear that wasn’t the only area of workers’ rights the wrong kind of globalization harms.
“We can’t allow globalization and rotten trade deals to cause deterioration anywhere in the world,” he declared. “We don’t have too much globalization — we have too little of the right kind.