Good for Steelworkers president Leo Gerard--from today's Wall Street Journal--
Unions in the U.S. and abroad have been slow to follow companies as they extend their overseas reach. The United Steelworkers and two of Britain's largest unions are considering a daring move to catch up.
The Steelworkers union is expected to sign an agreement tomorrow with Amicus and the Transport and General Workers' Union to explore a merger, the biggest step to date by a U.S. union toward creating a significant global union. Amicus and the United Kingdom transport-workers union, known as T&G, are finalizing a separate merger and will soon represent a total of 2.1 million members in a range of industrial and service sectors in the U.K. The Steelworkers union represents 850,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, in steel, aluminum, paper, tire and rubber and health care, among others industries.
The clout of a new global union is far from certain, given the waning power of organized labor in the U.S. and abroad. A merged union's effectiveness will depend largely on how it is structured, who leads it and how well it can marshal resources against common employers. Structuring the combined organization will be complicated, which is why the unions plan to give themselves 12 months to work out legal, constitutional and structural differences between the unions.
Such a merger comes at a time when unions around the world struggle to respond to globalization, which is pushing down wages and benefits for workers in many Western countries, labor experts say. They note union density has declined throughout much of the industrialized world and unions have been largely ineffective in maintaining wages and benefits when employers open new operations in different parts of the world. Talks between the unions were reported by the Times of London earlier this month.
The rest of the story for subscribers only is here. How you deal with marauding transnational corporations is a tough question, and the answers are no less easy. But, at least, this acknowledges the challenge and may even provide some new leverage. At least Leo is trying.