Stewart Acuff

Feb 11

We Need a Global Network of Unions

Today I leave for British Columbia, Canada to conduct a training of the Canadian Labour Congress’ senior organizers. They’ve already bought both my books to use as textbooks. I am very excited to spend time with our brothers and sisters to the north. I begin this training with a great deal of humility. Their union density is about 30%. They have lower unemployment and still have a manufacturing base.

As you know I just spent a week on a book tour of Britain. All those book readings turned into discussions of organizing tactics and strategies.

This Canadian training and the discussions on the British book tour come from the same place – the global assault that multinational corporation and rightwing governments are waging against workers and their unions, the economics of austerity to force workers into poverty to pay for the global financial meltdown caused by American banks and financial firms, and the easy flow of capital to those places where labor is most vulnerable.

American style union busting is spreading from the US and the developing world to other western developed democracies. One of America’s most notorious union busters, the Burke Group, opened office in Britain and The Netherlands more than five years ago.

A good friend and colleague responded to my blog of this past Friday by talking about how capital and corporations will always seek the cheapest and most vulnerable. He is right.

We need a global network of unions and national federations that can cooperate on organizing and bargaining campaigns, strikes, and national austerity policies.

Workers and unions in the United States and in the developing world have long suffered vicious and brutal union busting with disastrous results – spreading poverty, workers being forced into work in the informal sector, forced prostitution and sex slavery, the Walmartization of the US economy, and the global race to the bottom.

Some who read this might respond that we have global structures, which is true. But the current structures cannot engage in campaigns and national and global worker-union struggles.

Both the Communications Workers, the Steelworkers, and now the Auto Workers have worked hard to develop alliances in their own industries. Laudable, even effective, but not enough to stop the global race to the bottom and establish floor under which no worker nor working family will be forced to live.


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Stewart Acuff is the former organizing Director of the AFL-CIO. Acuff has also written two books: Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing, and Getting America Back to Work.

Playing Bigger Than You Are - A Life in OrganizingGet the e-book edition of Playing Bigger Than You Are by clicking here!

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