Union leaders to G20: World must focus recovery on workers, jobs

CANNES, France - World leaders must pivot and focus the international economy - and its recovery - on getting workers into jobs, union leaders will tell international leaders meeting in Cannes, France.

In the unionists' own "Labor 20" summit, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, National Nurses Union (NNU) Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro and other unionists said getting workers into jobs should drive the recovery, not the other way around.  Their summit will be held to present conclusions to the "G-20" summit on Nov. 3-4 of international leaders in the French seaside city.

Excessive emphasis on budget-cutting, deficits and forcing nations to eliminate programs to help stricken people must stop, the union leaders said in their report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).  "Appropriate public revenues must be raised to sustain public services," ITUC added.

Whether the international leaders, including Democratic President Barack Obama, will listen and agree is another matter.  A deficit-cutting GOP-run Congress is hamstringing Obama.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel may well heed the unionists, along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  That leaves others unaccounted for.

 "The dismal and faltering recovery, spiraling unemployment figures and record poverty levels in the deregulated U.S. labor market contrast with stronger, job-rich growth in Germany, which harnessed strong employment protection, collectively negotiated flexible working time agreements and short-time working schemes to keep workers in jobs when the crisis hit," ITUC pointed out in its report to the G-20.

"Employment needs to be at the center of recovery action plans, requiring G-20 governments to prioritize raising demand and restoring growth.  In addition, development and financial regulation are issues the G-20 needs to prioritize," the "L-20" leaders said, introducing the ITUC report.  The union leaders demanded that its recovery proposals "be taken into account in the final G-20 conclusions."

In a statement released before he left for Cannes, Trumka said that, "in the U.S. alone, 25 million workers are unemployed or looking for full time employment."  The G-20, he said, must "adopt a plan for jobs and recovery that sustains the recovery and stems the immediate jobs crisis."

That plan should include a small tax on financial speculation, imposed on each financial trade.  The tax is one of the recommendations in the ITUC report, and its presence drew DeMoro to Cannes, too.  NNU has made enactment of the tax a key part of its nationwide discussion about the economy and its effect on workers.

But Obama might not be listening to that tax plan, which would also curb the unregulated gambling casino the world financial markets became before their collapse caused the ensuing crash and worldwide recession. 

"It is long past time for" Treasury Secretary Tim "Geithner and President Obama to get on board with other world leaders in supporting this common-sense approach to raise badly needed revenues to help fund the critical programs we need to revive the U.S. and other global economies," she will tell the L-20 press conference in Cannes.

The financial transactions would mainly target "the big banks and investment firms whose reckless activities caused the current economic crisis," NNU says.  It calculates the tax would raise as much as $350 billion annually in the U.S., which could be devoted to job creation, universal health care and quality public education.

"The Obama administration has been an obstacle for the Wall Street tax, and in the face of a growing international demand for other nations, especially in Europe, to adopt their own FTT, Geithner lobbied European finance ministers to oppose the FTT," NNU said.  Besides enacting the financial transfer tax, ITUC also recommended:

* "Give a strong message of confidence to working families, not just financial markets, by breaking the vicious circle of jobs insecurity, depressed wages, suppressed consumption and blocked investment.  Employment expansion is now necessary for restoring growth, not just growth for restoring employment.

* "Establish differentiated but coordinated jobs targets for the G-20 countries" to "include immediate measures of job-intensive infrastructure programs, 'green jobs' investment and labor market programs to raise skills.

* "Transform the structural policy agenda to strengthen labor market institutions, social partnership, collective bargaining, negotiated and legislated minimum wages, and income support for low-income groups so as to reduce income inequality.

* "Move forward on conclusions of the G-20 labor ministers to establish a social protection floor supported by adequate funding according to levels of development.

* "Implement rapidly the reforms to the financial sector agreed upon at the G-20 London Summit but never effectively enacted, and go beyond this to effectively restructure financial groups that have become too-big-to-fail and establish a financial transaction tax."

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