Yves here. It’s hard to have much hope for the American labor movement, at least based on the shape it’s in now, and I hope readers outside the US can tell us about the status and cohesiveness of labor movements in their countries.
In the US, things we once took for granted (and are on their way out) like the 8 hour day and workplace safety rules, were won at considerable cost. The fact that labor activists were often killed in particularly brutal ways has been airbrushed out of US history.
And what is distressing about the labor movement in the US now is its inability to claim the moral high ground. There are some important exceptions, such as nurses’ unions, which have been politically active, savvy in their messaging, and are well respected. But in too many other cases, the strong feature of unions, that of their solidarity, has become a weakness as no one in the labor movement seems willing to call out corrupt or merely feckless leaders and local bosses. In keeping, a savvy and very much left leaning colleague said, “I wouldn’t trust anyone in the American labor movement as far as I can throw them.” It’s discouraging to recognize that reality in light of the list of the estimable and sensible goals set forth in the L20 below. I wonder if organizations oversea have had more success in self-policiing.
By Erinç Yeldan, Dean of the faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Yasar University. Originally published at Triple Crisis
The G20 Summit has met, convened, and dispersed for the next year after a massive show in the tourist heart of Turkey, Antalya. The meetings had convened under the shadow of massive social exclusion and terror overrunning the global political economy. the G20 communiqué that had been released on November 15 was little more than a simple wish-list for a stable and participatory global economy—the main motto of Turkey’s presidency over 2015.
But to billions of working families across the globe, there was more than the standard wish-list of the G20 communiqué: the Labour20 (L20). The L20 was founded by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the OECD’s Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) and was convened with the call coming from Turkish hosts, the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-Iş), Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK), and Confederation of Turkish Right Trade Unions (Hak-Iş).
The call of L20 came, at a historical moment of the heightening of the global crisis, with appeals to:
- Move away from austerity policies, with their negative spill-over effects, and instead support for aggregate demand, investment, skills and innovation, public services, and progressive tax and redistributive systems.
- Reduce income inequality and informality as major drags on growth and social well-being. Raise low and middle incomes through living minimum wages and by supporting collective bargaining and, in doing so, injecting purchasing power into economies.
- Adopt the G20 Policy Priorities on Labour Income Share and Inequalities, and implement them at the national level including by strengthening labour market institutions, setting minimum wages, promoting the coverage of collective agreements and universal social protection, and integrating vulnerable groups into the formal economy.
- Pursue further work on financial reforms, including internationally harmonised measures to shield retail banking from volatile trading and investment banking activities, and consider a financial transaction tax (FTT).
- Raise and set targets for public infrastructure investment (physical and social) by at least 1% of GDP across the G20 as the primary route to growth and employment recovery.
- Link investment plans to the creation of clean energy and green jobs.
- Protect public services, ensure full financial transparency over risk arrangements, and grant leadership to independent public auditors. Greater labour law “flexibility” is not the right approach to promote PPPs.
- Recognise the finance gap to achieving a just transition to a low carbon economy and spur investments into climate-friendly infrastructure and energy, while ensuring transparency of climate finance flows.
- Commit to energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, including initiatives for training workers in these sectors.
- Put in place Just Transition strategies for workers, companies, and regions depending on the fossil fuel value chain, and include trade unions in their design.
- Promote social upgrading in supply chains and ensure that international labour standards and human rights are applied by G20 companies, including the UN Guiding Principles, ILO conventions, and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Strengthen the rule of law with cross-border legislation that mandates due diligence.
- Strengthen workers’ rights and social protection systems, and introduce social protection floors to support the transition from the informal economy in developing and middle-income countries.
- Ensure follow-up to the “integrated and comprehensive policy approach to foster strong, sustainable and inclusive growth … to tackle inequalities, promote inclusiveness and strengthen the links between employment and growth … with corresponding efforts in other work streams” as outlined in the “Ankara Declaration” of G20 Labour and Employment Ministers.
According to ILO data, open unemployment has reached to 200 million worldwide.
Under the pressures of the unemployment threat, more than 900 million workers are trapped in labour activities with less than $2 of income per day. ILO data reveal that most of these workers are young women and children.
Over 5 billion people on our planet lack social security protection and basic health services.
Despite all this evidence, the global economy has now entered a phase with the lowest fixed investment as a share of income. While the scarce resources of the global economy are being wasted at the speculation games of the global casino, the future of our planet’s well-being is increasingly put at risk from climate change driven by carbon dioxide emissions and urban pollution.
What could have been more important than these facts to be articulated at the Antalya meetings of the G20?