AFL-CIO praises Canadian NAFTA negotiating team!

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THE AFL-CIO, America’s trade union body, released a statement on September 20th giving its position on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and how it wants to go forward.

The written statement said: ‘Finally, after nearly a quarter of a century, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated. This is a good thing. NAFTA is called a “trade deal”, but it’s mostly a collection of rules that give corporations more power over the three economies of North America.

‘It gives companies tools to undermine laws and rules that protect America’s working families. It increased threats by US employers to close workplaces and move to Mexico. And once the companies got there, NAFTA provided strict rules for them, but only vague guidelines to protect working people’s rights and freedoms.

‘NAFTA negotiations have not progressed very far, and it is too early to say whether the effort will bring a New Economic Deal to working people or simply more crony capitalism. But there was some fantastic, surprising, excellent news recently.

‘The Canadian negotiating team did something big: They told the US negotiators that US laws that interfere with people’s freedom to negotiate on the job are dragging down standards for Canada and need to be abolished. Guess what? Canada is right.

‘These laws, known as “right to work”, are another example of the wealthiest 1% rigging the rules to weaken the freedom of people joining together in union and negotiating with employers for better pay, benefits and conditions at work. States with these freedom-crushing laws are less safe and have lower wages, dragging down workplace standards for those in other states, and apparently in Canada, too.

‘Canada gets the obvious: These laws take away workers’ freedom to join together and raise their wages. Canada is pushing the United States to be fairer to working people, just as the US is pushing Mexico to be fairer to its workers. Will the US negotiators see the light and agree to this proposal in NAFTA? We certainly hope so. It will tell us a lot about who the president stands with: Corporate CEOs or working families?’

• Leading trade unions in the rubber sector held their four-yearly world conference this week and resolved to take joint and coordinated action to tackle common challenges in the sector. The IndustriALL Global Union World Conference for Rubber Industries took place at the United Steelworkers’ headquarters in Pittsburgh with 80 participants from 18 countries.

Stan Johnson, United Steelworkers Union (USW) International Secretary-Treasurer and Co-chair of the Rubber Industries section of IndustriALL said: ‘We are facing hard times in our industry. We will stand with you, we will fight with you, despite the challenges facing workers. USW is always committed to global solidarity.’

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary said: ‘Since the last world rubber conference in Hungary four years ago, changes have continued across our sector. Global inequality is growing; workers are losing their jobs, their rights, and social protections. We need to fight for an economic and social model based on rights, fairness and dignity.’

Panellists from the USA, UK, Japan, Brazil and South Africa spoke on industry developments and their impacts on trade unions in the rubber sector. Unions globally are facing the same challenges which means unions must come together to find solutions. Dawid Baardman from IndustriALL affiliate NUMSA reported that there were no temporary workers in the rubber industry in South Africa, as they have managed to negotiate an industry agreement that ensures no temporary workers in the sector.

Marcio Ferreira from Caucho-FS in Brazil said they have benefitted from rubber unions coming together for industry-level bargaining in the sector. He explained that they are trying to create one unified rubber union in the federation. Tom Grinter, IndustriALL industry and research officer, who now takes over responsibility for the rubber sector said: ‘Let’s continue to build power through networks, connect with auto industry unions, and work together to build the strong global voice of rubber workers.’

Helmut Lense, IndustriALL Automotive and Rubber Director, who the conference honoured as he now retires said: ‘In our networks we have action plans to ensure that we stabilise and extend our networks and organise in non-organised plants.’

Concluding the two-day conference, participants re-elected Stan Johnson as co-chair, set up a new Work Group of leading affiliates to steer the work, and adopted a full Action Plan

Özkan looked forward to an active four years, said: ‘We will make further development and progress in our trade union networks in the rubber industry.

‘The energy and appetite of the Conference participants clearly demonstrated that the next four years will be vibrant in the rubber sector for IndustriALL and its affiliates. The struggle continues!’

• American Airlines aircraft maintenance and ground support workers rallied this week at San Francisco International Airport. The protest is the latest in a series of huge pickets at major American Airlines hubs since July, calling for a fair contract that doesn’t outsource jobs overseas.

The protest was organised by Brian Parker of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 513. Parker said: ‘This campaign’s all about outsourcing American jobs. They’re outsourcing safety and security, simply put. They’re sending our jobs to China and Chile and Brazil, and we simply can’t allow that to happen. They made a billion and a half dollars this last quarter and what’s really sad is the sacrifices these employees have made to keep these planes in the air and keep them safe.

There’s no other reason for them to be outsourcing this work other than greed.’

Parker says overseas workers are not subject to the same level of oversight as US workers, threatening safety and security for the American public. Members of several TWU locals were joined on the picket line by members of other unions, including the APFA, CWA-AFA, IAM and Teamsters.

The union’s 30,000 mechanics have been negotiating a contract with the airline for nearly two years and are still working under a bankruptcy contract from 2011 after taking numerous concessions from the company.

Jennifer Platt, President of TWU Local 505, said: ‘They’re not bargaining fairly at the table. They’re just not playing ball. So, we’re out here to American Airlines: we’re not gonna take it! We’re strong. We’re unified. We want a contract that we deserve.’

• Despite soaring corporate profits, and the lowest unemployment rate in sixteen years, millions of workers shouldn’t expect to see much in the way of raises next year, according to a new survey.

The survey of a thousand companies by global professional services company Aon suggests that US workers should only expect a base pay increase of three per cent in 2018 and incentives and bonuses at the lowest levels since 2013.

Forty per cent of companies said they are actually reducing or eliminating raises for workers they feel are underperforming. The AFL-CIO reports that worker pay has stagnated for the last fifty years. Things are much rosier for one group of employees: an Associated Press report earlier this year reveals that compensation for CEOs at S&P 500 companies jumped nearly 20% in 2016, to a median income of 11.5 million dollars.