There is no question that corporations will go global whether or not unions will. Union members realize that jobs, decisions that may shape their lives and bargaining power are increasingly made in the boardrooms of multinational corporations that compete in the global economy. As the result of globalization the labor movement will be forced to organize on a very complex level. One of the most important levels is learning how to interact with others from different backgrounds and cultures. Labor as well as corporate managers/CEO understand that intercultural aspects and perspectives on International trade are now more important than ever in this era of globalization.
The idea that past organizing models or any one influential person can determine decisions in a global environment is not realistic. Organizing theories of the past such as the "industrial-based organizing" model or a sole charismatic leader do not fix the current needs in a global world. A more inclusive and informal understanding of organizing across borders and on international level with a shared social process where union members are influential is a far better perspective.
The union movement comprising rank and file members within the United States remains a widely multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multigenerational and a gender-integrated movement, each with some different views of the world. These labor movement trends along with globalization changes are challenging the adaptability of traditional structures and organizing patterns within the labor movement. Labor leaders and the U.S. trade union movement because of globalization are developing a different mindset as they move forward in this era of globalization.
Thus, the ability to organize effectively for labor to combat negative globalization policies means developing strategies between unions here in the United States and unions around the world.
A laid-off steelworker now realizes that foreign imports made by U.S. corporations abroad and exported to the U.S. are due to the fact that it creates more profits. Union members from the Communications of America (CWA), the United Auto Workers (UAW), United Steel Workers (USW) and numerous other unions have seen thousands of good paying jobs move overseas. All this movement of capital resources overseas is due to the constant need to expand markets and find new ways of making more profits. It is in this global environment that the labor movement has made an issue of 'globalization' and the need to participate in developing cross border alliances their major issues.
Unions in the U.S. are aware that multinational corporations, in order to increase their profits, will attempt to restrict Labor's right to organize. They will aggressively push to stop any efforts to negotiate collective labor agreements. The only pro-active response for labor is to organize solidarity efforts between workers of all nations. The question for labor is how to activate and maximize the unity of a very diverse multi-cultural base and continue a fluid coalition in the course of globalization struggles.
In order for labor to remain strong, every union and its leadership must bring an unprecedented range of skills and experience to the union movement mission while assuming leadership responsibility. This includes all aspects of national organizing and global union coalition building. The Trade union movement must create new alliances with other unions, creating global unions, in key industries and key companies if labor is serious about confronting globalization.
One important major challenge for labor is to better prepare union leaders who can effectively create this change and navigate worldwide efforts to build collective coalition union building. One such example of preparing union leaders is the UCLA Labor Center in Los Angeles. Kent Wong, Director of the Labor Center has facilitated exchanges between the United States and Pacific Rim Countries, such as China and Vietnam. Recently the Labor Center participated in a binational US-China conference hosted by the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). Other examples include cross-border organizing between the Unions in the U. S. and Mexico/Latin American countries. The world is rapidly changing and in this global environment such exchanges and information sharing will be critical.
The Union movement has never faced such extreme global movement of finance and corporate restructuring as it must face today. In this world of corporate globalization, multinational corporations have merged, reinvested, refinanced, and restructured their organizations to compete in a new-world market. Unions now face the difficult task of organizing in this competitive global environment, where goods and capital cross borders freely. In addition, Unions must face the reality that the current U.S. trade policies are constantly moving toward in fast track legislation which will give authority to the President to sign trade agreements without any Congressional debate, public input or added amendments.
Needless to say, these trade agreements are developed to make it easier for corporations to have foreign ownership, affecting everything from factories to real estate. In addition, economic reforms that are promised by these trade policies are no guarantee that conditions in these countries will improve. These so-called reforms will restrict labor's influence on wages and workplace environment standards and in the process allow corporate multinationals to maximize profits at the expense of workers. One thing is sure to remain constant during these times is the need for Unions be forward looking. The only question is can the Union movement take past events and current experiences and translate this experience into a dramatic new approach to organizing worldwide?
In summary, it is no secret that the globalization of the economy has led to record high profits for corporations, but also the stagnation of living standards and unprecedented job insecurity for working people. Over the past two decades, American businesses responded to this international competition by outsourcing, shipping jobs to foreign countries, cutting the work force and driving down wages. Today, multinational corporations freely cross national boundaries in search of the cheapest labor possible and the highest profit margins.
The possibilities for continuing cross border alliances and global unionism are increasing on a daily bases. As multinational corporations globalize their operations, unions and their allies will have to continue to develop structures and alliances that will ensure the total workforce is afforded strong representation.
Globalization is a new movement in the development of capitalism. This development is characterized by economic concentration in the hands of multinational corporations. For Unions, this concentration and globalization of capital are the main cause of the worsening unemployment, poverty and social disintegration in the world today. In order for the multinationals to maintain control they must continue to increase their profits, restrict labor's right to organize and negotiate favorable collective labor agreements. In the mean time, multinational corporations will also continue to rely on U.S. trade policies to relax regulations that govern social, environmental and labor conditions.
For now, Unions will need in to continue to provide beyond information sharing by coordinating actions including strikers for worker rights and labor struggles with rank-and-file union members in other countries. U.S. Unions will have to increase signing solidarity agreements and alliances with other countries. In addition, labor needs to build day-to-day ties with global leaders and continue global conferences.
There has been some progress by the union movement recently to influence globalization policies. In one aspect, union leaders are increasingly more educated and informed. Union leaders understand that increasing diversity, advancing technology and globalization require new approaches to organizing.
Today Unions must have the ability to meet global problems that are unanticipated, and focus on developing organizing models that are inactive and one that achieve shared vision, mutual trust and respect for workers around the world.
"International solidarity is not just in our blood in the trade union movement, it's also in our interest. The lessons that we have to learn from the economic catastrophe of the last year are that it's just not safe to leave the globalized economy in the hands of rampant global capitalism. The lesson is that labor has to forge its links of solidarity across the world in steel so that they will not break down when those who try to pit workers of nation against those of all other nations because if we let them, they'll do it." (AFL-CIO)
Finally, in examining 'globalization' the issue is not the expansion of production and trade to the entire world. That seems inevitable. The real issue is that capitalism is the driving force behind this globalization of economic activity. The answer, as we have suggested, as well as many others, is in the solidarity of workers of all nations. The fight is ultimately for the elimination of private ownership in industry, finance and trade and for the enormous wealth that working people everywhere have created to be used for the benefit of working people.
While there are union leaders who practice and promote a progressive leadership there still is a view that there is lack of uniformity among labor unions on how to best develop global unionism to combat against Multinational efforts globalization. However to the union movement's credit they continue to research and use best practice approach to globalize organizing.
Only by building the broadest trade union solidarity and forming strategic global, national and labor-community coalitions will the trade union movement have a chance to stop multinational global campaigns from attempting to destroy the labor movement worldwide.