Don’t Need More Speeches’—
Practice Acts of Actual
Solidarity, Kingsley Tells
‘We believe that our common interests require a common commitment to
struggle. Our vision is that of a militant and aggressive approach to
international solidarity, a fighting form of solidarity which puts us into joint
action on issues from fundamental labor rights to future employment security.
Acting together, fighting together we can challenge corporate power and
strengthen the hand of workers everywhere to fight for jobs, peace and justice.’
— UE Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley at the International Symposium on Employment
Security and the Role of Trade Unions, Hakone, Japan.
Kingsley and conferees from India, Australia and Japan celebrate the
occasion in local style at the symposium’s opening reception.
Speeches and resolutions are okay, but what unions around the
world need are acts of real solidarity, UE Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley told
a conference in Hakone, Japan. He backed up this appeal by proposing a bold plan
of cooperation between UE and Japan’s militant National Confederation of Trade
Kingsley represented UE at a Zenroren-sponsored conference on
employment security and the role of trade unions Oct. 30 to Nov. 1. (As host,
Zenroren paid the expenses of this trip.)
The UE officer called for "a fighting form of solidarity to
counter the growing global power of our corporate adversaries." UE is
interested in working with Zenroren to advance workers’ rights in Japan and
the United States within the same multinational corporations, he told the UE
UE seeks to work with Zenroren to identify those corporations
with operations in both Japan and the U.S. that can be targeted for joint
organizing campaigns, Kingsley said.
This approach builds from the existing, mature relationship
between Zenroren and UE, the organizing director suggested. UE has been
represented at two previous international conferences sponsored by Zenroren; a
high-ranking Zenroren delegation attended the 1999 UE Convention.
What’s more, Zenroren successfully put pressure on the
Japanese corporation Iris to rehire a worker fired during a UE organizing
campaign in Wisconsin. Zenroren demanded that Kobe Steel negotiate with UE
members at the then-Kobe-owned Glastics plant in Jefferson, Ohio. "This is
the very definition of fighting solidarity," declared Kingsley. Joint
organizing would logically be the next stop, Kingsley suggested.
In a separate meeting following the international symposium
Kingsley and Zenroren leaders discussed this proposal in greater detail.
The symposium heard considerable discussion on the common
experience of deindustrialization. Accompanying the expanded economic boom are
continuing threats to employment security. Japanese workers are experiencing the
nightmare of plant closings, downsizing and restructuring that UE members have
lived through for the past two decades. UE’s Kingsley offered the union’s
experience in fighting plant closings to the leaders of other Pacific Rim
Seiji Terama, a Zenroren leader, told the symposium that
"the Japanese government is trying to pull out the nation’s economy from
the current deep crisis at the cost of the well-being of workers and the
population." Zenroren’s answer includes a nationwide, public campaign
focusing on a reduction of working hours, creation of jobs, expansion of social
insurance, a halt to consumption taxes and redirected budget priorities.
"Massive job losses, deterioration in working conditions,
wage cuts and unfair labor practices have been common situations at the
workplace in Korea," reported trade union leader Hoon Joong Kang.
Tom Roberts of Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining
and Energy Union reported on the union’s successful fight for shorter working
hours. Vjk Nair of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions spoke of the
devastation accompanying an 11 percent increase in unemployment from 1991 to
1998. Rekson Silaban from SBSI in Indonesia said that structural changes
in the economy have contributed to 36 million being unemployed and many millions
more underemployed out of a workforce of some 120 million.
In his remarks, Kingsley explained how U.S. workers are not
reaping the full benefits of their country’s economic boom, and in fact are
working longer hours for less. He prescribed union organization, independent
political action and international solidarity as the solutions.
Referring to the international phenomenon of downsizing and wage
cuts, Kingsley declared, "We in UE are also keenly aware that the United
States and U.S.-based multinationals are among the loudest proponents of new
world trade and investment schemes which promote this race to the bottom. We
recognize the hypocrisy of U.S. trade policies which seek to include workers’
rights provisions in new world trade agreements when the United States itself
violates freedom of association standards by failing to protect the rights of
workers to organize, bargain and strike."
(Full texts of symposium remarks — in English — can be found
on the Zenroren
website at: http://www.iijnet.or.jp/c-pro/union/aa_e/sympo/index.html;
Brother Kingsley's remarks can be found at: http://www.iijnet.or.jp/c-pro/union/aa_e/sympo/e-26.htm).
UE News - 11/00