Above: At the IUF World Congress in August, Intl. Pres. David Durkee (center) and Asst. to the Intl. Pres. Harry Kaiser (right) greet the officers and delegates from the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) of the U.K.
When Oreo maker Mondelēz International began moving production from BCTGM-represented American and Canadian plants to a new $450 million plant in Mexico, it was taking advantage of a rigged economic system that rewards multi-national corporations for exploiting workers in low-wage, low-regulatory countries.
In North America, we have seen jobs disappear as industries such as textile, electronic, auto, garment and candy companies have moved production to low-wage nations.
Our global partners are having the same debate and are asking the same questions. Manufacturing companies have departed Western Europe for Eastern European countries where worker pay rates are lower and there is less regulatory oversight. Once again, it is the workers in these countries who are being exploited.
We know the decline in union density around the world is linked to growing income inequality and impacts how much bargaining power we will have in the future world of work.
And yet, there is an overwhelming hunger for global solidarity. Working people from every corner of the world are tired of simply surviving in economies that favor the rich and powerful without shared prosperity.
I witnessed this call for worldwide unity as a delegate to the IUF 27th World Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, at the end of the summer.
We met as a global community of labor leaders and trade unionists to discuss ways to combat the worldwide corporate and political attacks on unions and working families. We discussed mergers, acquisitions, plant closings and our relationships with multinationals like Mondelēz, Groupe Danone, Nestle, Cargill, Pepsico, and Coca-Cola amongst others.
In particular, we discussed the global campaign against the Mondelēz corporate business model that destroys good, middle- class jobs and exploits workers in low-wage countires. The BCTGM’s Nabisco/Mondelēz campaign is a galvanizing force and the BCTGM is recognized as being a prominent global leader of this fight for worker justice and solidarity.
At the end of the World Congress, there was great confidence that the global labor movement was stronger when workers reached across borders in solidarity and action.
In the United States, we have reached a tipping point – just focusing on protecting what we have is far more dangerous than taking risks. The anti-worker forces saw in the outcome of the 2016 elections an opportunity to regain control over policies that would allow them, once again, to enact laws that favor corporations and the wealthy and doom American workers.
But this lust for power is being met with a resistance from working people not seen in this country in nearly a century. Since January 20, workers, union and non-union alike, from both public and private sectors, have come together in extraordinary numbers to defend workers’ and human rights. Their resolve has inspired workers across the country to stand up and speak out loudly for workers’ rights and a new freedom from corporate greed and control over our quality of life.
At the 28th AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention in St. Louis, the BCTGM’s campaign against Nabisco/Mondelēz was highlighted and celebrated for the enormous support it has gained throughout the North American labor movement.
Convention delegates approved policy agenda and political accountability measures that will put us on a path to the change we need. The final act of the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention was to overwhelmingly pass this Workers’ Bill of Rights.
- A Good Job with Fair Wages: Everyone who wants to work has the right to a good job where we earn a fair return on our work and receive a wage that allows us to support ourselves and our families.
- Quality Health Care: Regardless of income, job or a pre-existing condition.
- A Safe Job: Free from harassment and violence.
- Paid Time Off and Flexible Scheduling
- Freedom from Discrimination: In hiring, firing and promotions.
- Retire with Dignity: And financial security.
- Education: Public K-12, higher education and career training that advances our knowledge and skills without leaving us in debt.
- Freedom to Join Together: To negotiate with our co-workers for better wages and working conditions, whether we are in a union or not.
- A Voice in Democracy: To freely exercise our democratic voice through voting and civic participation so that we can make sure our government stands up for this Workers’ Bill of Rights.
The labor movement, led by the AFL-CIO, has come together in true unity and with a renewed sense of purpose to seize this moment in history on behalf of American workers and the middle class. The BCTGM is proud to be in the forefront of labor’s counterattack.
— David B. Durkee, BCTGM International President