Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Labour Unions Everywhere Must Vertically and Horizontally Ally

The idea that unions need to mirror the new world order of multinational corporations sprang into my head while listening to the vernacular of the union movement, as expounded upon by a friend of mine at the local pub last night.

Until now unions have formed alliances based mainly on tactical issues with-in a narrow, usually regional set of variables.

Two tactics:

1) When times are good, one train of thought goes, the union wins it's members as may concessions from the company as it can; in bad times, the union offers concessions in exchange for 'labour peace'.

2) When times are bad, at the very time the rank and file need them most, is when union leaders need to take a strong stance to protect members from declining standards of living.

The second more antagonistic leadership style wins the hearts and mind of the membership in hard times; while at the same time, the more conservative tactics begin to be seen as appeasement towards multinational financial institutions and corporations at best, and at worst, collaboration with them.

This was the case in the post WW ll affluent society model, but now the very model it self is being challenged by self serving neo-con politicians and their silent partners, financial and corporate interests.

An effective response unions can offer to this new world order, is to mirror it.

This isn't necessarily a 'One Big Union' idea, as the Wobblies proposed during the Great Depression, but an alliance of unions working in a co-ordinated manner in each relevant sector of the economy in their own self interest. For example (and I ain't no economist so bare with me) the resource sector supplies raw materials mainly for the transportation sector. Both sectors are going international.

The resource sector is going international in a search for larger better quality caches of raw materials, less stringent environmental laws and cheaper labour rates. The transportation sector which is in a period of technological renewal (Detroit is old), find themselves in a position to play governments and labour pools, off one against the other.

Both sectors are trying to lower manufacturing costs and increase the value of the company for their stock holders, but in this case, at the expense of the rule of law the great society model and at the centre of all that, the wages and working conditions of industrial workers.

So the plan, with-in this small example, would be that the mining and auto workers unions work together though the length of each contract -- understanding their self interest in doing so. Economists of each sectors unions would sketch out the relevant topography of the industry and present it to a council of the two unions leaderships, who would then calculate a viable world wide strategy that would benefit both their interests and (in the best case scenario) the interest of the enlightenment.

Thanks to Betty from the bar, you made me think!

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