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63rd National
UE Convention

Globalization Requires
Unions to Cooperate
Across Borders

Ken Zinn
North American Director, ICEM

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Unions must cooperate together, bargain together, and, if necessary, strike together on an international basis, proposed Ken Zinn, North American director of the International Confederation of Energy, Mining and General Workers (ICEM).

UE is now one of 18 unions in North America affiliated to the ICEM; the federation speaks for more than 20 million workers in 115 countries.

"For us, solidarity has to be more than a word in a song," said Zinn. "It must be a way of life."

Globalization is not just interconnected markets, said Zinn. It’s a question of power — power taken out of the hands of workers and communities. NAFTA, GATT and the pending Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) are about allowing corporations to operate where they want and how they want around the world.

The U.S. has "labor market flexibility," meaning the right of bosses to do what they want. European companies that are highly unionized at home engage in unionbusting in the United States for one simple reason, Zinn said — "they can get away with it."

Mexican jobs are being lost to Asia as corporations cash in on the collapse of the Asian markets, Zinn observed. "In Malaysia, the urban wages of $130 a month before the crisis "now seem like a rich bounty," he said. Multinational corporations are insisting on union-free zones in Malaysia.

Zinn, a former special projects coordinator for the United Mine Workers of America, cited several specific examples of international cooperation coordinated by the ICEM in organizing campaigns and strikes.

"Unite and organize — the new world order doesn’t give us any other choice," Zinn declared.

Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Convention Coverage

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