Thursday, April 19, 2007

M&A in the Labour Movement

M&A is Mergers and Acquisitions. Today this is the case between three of the worlds largest unions. This M&A in labour reflects the growing oligopolies in the Steel industry as I wrote here last year; Mittal Plays Monopoly

Also see: Time For A Canadian Steel Workers Union

And as I wrote in my paper Global Labour in the Age of Empire

Let us look at the impact of capitalism on the union movement. Unions are a business, they look at gaining large numbers of members in order to bargain with the bosses. To effectively bargain they need a steady work force, in many cases their disconnect from their members is this servicing model, the membership see a bureaucracy of union reps and leaders, who bargain for them, who service them, who do not challenge capitalism, but maintain business as usual. .

I will not go into examples of specific unions, but overall, their purpose is to maintain themselves in power, not to mobilize for workers power. As a result union membership in North America is on a serious decline. Where unions have spent their energy in the past decade has not been organizing the unorganized, or the poorest workers, or even the growing part time or contracted out workers, but in raiding each other. That’s right, gangsterism has replaced revolutionary struggle. Competing unions want each other’s membership, or as the old industries collapse the unions move into non traditional areas, such as the public sector to compete with existing public sector unions for a decreasing membership base.

In a real tribute to Wall Street, a number of unions have adopted the methods of big business; merger and acquisitions. The Brotherhood of Railway workers is talking about merging with the Teamsters. Talks are under way for Steel and other Metal workers unions to merge with Coal and Transportation unions, nationally and internationally.

Unlike the One Big Union of the last century, that believed all working people, regardless of their jobs, should be in a union to overthrow capitalism, these mergers will create new capitalist enterprises that guarantee the union bosses their jobs, in a declining growth market.

And while some might consider my assessment harsh let us not forget that the General Transportation Workers Union in the UK sold out the Mersey Side Dockworkers ten years ago. They surrendered the battle against globalization without firing a shot. Today they join with the Steelworkers and Amicus to become the negotiators of a gentler kinder globalization of capitalism. As I predicted; Will Canadian Labour Accept Free Trade?

Steelworkers and Amicus take first steps towards global super-union

    Merger exploration group to create 3.4 million member Trans-Atlantic

OTTAWA, April 18 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers (USW), together with
Amicus and the Transportation & General Workers Union (T&GWU) of the United
Kingdom, today announced a formal process to prepare the ground for the
creation of the first Trans-Atlantic trade union.
At a ceremony held in Ottawa at the USW's Canadian National Policy
Congress, representatives of the three unions signed an accord to set up a
merger exploration committee which will be tasked with laying down a
foundation for a legal merger within one year.
The new union would represent more than 3.4 million members in the US,
Canada, UK and Ireland. It would be the world's biggest union and would be
expected to attract other union organizations throughout the world into
During the exploration process, the unions will engage in coordinated
campaigning and common approaches to collective bargaining with multinational
This agreement follows a strategic alliance signed between Amicus and the
USW two years ago. Amicus and the T&GWU will join together as one union with
two million members after May 1, 2007. The new union, based in London, will be
called "Unite".
Statements were issued after a press call and signing of the 'Ottawa
Accord' by USW President Leo W. Gerard and Derek Simpson, General Secretary
for Amicus, as follows:

Amicus, General Secretary, Derek Simpson said,

"One of the main reasons for the merger between Amicus and the T&GWU was
our desire to create an international trade union that would be able to deal
with multinational companies on an equal footing. Coming as it does hot on the
heels of our mergers, today's announcement demonstrates the resonance that the
idea of a global super union has. "Multinational companies are pushing down
wages and conditions for workers the world over by playing one national
workforce off against another. The only beneficiaries of globalization are the
exploiters of working people and the only way working people can resist this
is to band together.
"I hope today's announcements marks the beginning of the creation of a
formidable international trade union organization."

USW International President Leo W. Gerard said,

"Workers in this new century need a trans-Atlantic union to tame the
exploitation of global corporations, international banks and world trade
"The time for global unionism has arrived. We need cross-border
organizing strategies to protect workers against the mobility of capital that
knows no borders. Workers want their unions to develop labor contracts that
encompass global employers. We must meet the challenge and defend human rights
standards for all.
"USW members in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean Basin know the
benefits of international unionism and are ready to commit support to today's
announcement for exploring the first trans-Atlantic union for workers in two

T&GWU General Secretary, Tony Woodley, said:

"This is an historic step for global trade unionism, and will help
working people to look even the biggest employer in the eye. Closer working
and agreement with North American trade unionists forms a crucial part of our
global organizing agenda, designed to stop bosses playing off workers in one
country against those in another."

Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, said the document signed
at the National Policy Conference was a historic moment for the 600 delegates
representing USW members across Canada.
"It is important for our members to be able to participate in the signing
of a document that will affect their future as workers in a global economy.
"Our union has never been satisfied with limiting our reach exclusively
to Canada. And we are more than an international union. We are a global
network of workers and their organizations."

The 'Ottawa Accord' signed by the three unions was titled: "Exploring a
Global Union for the 21st Century."

The Accord stated: "Amicus-T&G and the USW firmly believe that over the
coming years only through greater international solidarity and cooperation can
we as a trade union movement, effectively represent the interests of our
members against the threats posed by global capital."

It committed the North American and UK unions to:
<< - Creation of a Merger Exploration Committee of five principals from each union to study the legal framework, constitutions, rules and structures of the current unions during the next 12 months to suggest a framework for a formal merger. - A regular exchange between senior officers to take place every quarter to monitor and develop areas of joint work and to find ways of integrating common programs to enhance the understanding and culture of the unions. - Provide materials and financial resources for joint international solidarity projects that might include support of Columbia's trade union movement in the face of continued attacks on labour and human rights; capacity building projects with partner unions in Africa; solidarity work with the ship breakers of India and joint exploration of transnational corporations in China. - Development of common approaches to collective bargaining in sectors and multinational companies where our joint membership work. - Engage in regular participation in each union's educational and political conferences and activities. >>

The full 'Ottawa Accord' signed by the USW, Amicus and the T&GWU, plus
details of the announcement creating a formal Merger Exploration Committee are
available by accessing or

United Steelworkers and Independent Steelworkers Unions Merge

In the Bible, Jeremiah 29, verse 11 offers a message of optimism: “For I
know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm
you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Members of the former Independent Steelworkers Union say the message reflects

how they feel now that they are members of the United Steelworkers.

Leaders from the unions met Friday in Pittsburgh to sign a merger agreement.

The ISU and its 1,150 members at Arcelor-Mittal’s Weirton, W.Va., mill

are now USW Local 2911, named for the Bible verse.

“When you read it, it’s hope for the future,” said Mark Glyptis,
former president of the 56-year-old ISU and now president of the new
USW local. “We certainly believe this gives (our members) hope.”

Glyptis said he and his members were elated about the merger,
approved 913-89 by ISU members last month. It means workers can speak
with one voice in bargaining with Mittal, the world’s largest steel

“It’s a historic day,” said USW International President Leo W.
Gerard, who noted the Weirton union’s strong record of battling for its
members and the industry. “We’re proud of the history, the
tenaciousness, the respect that people have for the ISU.”

Glyptis said members will benefit from greater financial, legal,
mobilizing and lobbying strength, a message echoed by USW District 1
Director Dave McCall.

Joining forces “gives us more power, more energy,” McCall said.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, spoke to
the gathering by telephone from Washington, D.C., saying he believes
the merger is good news for Weirton workers.

“They’re joining a very strong force in the labor movement,”

Rockefeller said, promising his support.

“If I’m not in a fight for people producing steel, I feel like I’m
neglecting life _ I’m part of you, you’re part of me,” he said to loud

The decision to merge the ISU with the larger USW followed profound
changes in the management of Weirton, which has gone from an
employee-owned corporation to part of Arcelor-Mittal.

Gerard and Glyptis vowed to work hard on several issues, including
having a say in the sale of Arcelor Mittal’s Sparrows Point, Md., plant
where the USW represents some 2,100 production workers.

The ISU and the USW have worked together on the Stand Up for Steel Campaign,

retiree health care and pension issues.

Hoisting their joined hands in the air after signing the merger
agreement, Gerard and Glyptis promised to build on those efforts.

“We’re going to fight together,” Gerard said.

“Absolutely,” Glyptis said. “And we’re going to win.”

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