EUROPEAN CORPORATIONS ARE ‘TWO FACED’ ON WORKERS RIGHTS says AFL-CIO and ETUC

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CWA workers in Atlanta rally on August 3 to support contract negotiations

EUROPEAN corporations are two-faced when it comes to respecting working people’s freedom of association and workers’ rights, argues a new report by the AFL-CIO and supported by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

The report, ‘The Double Standard at Work: European Corporate Investment and Workers’ Rights in the American South,’ uses several case studies to portray how some European corporations have exploited weak labour rights laws in Southern states in the United States, while boasting about having good relationships with trade unions and upholding standards for working people in western European nations.

This compelling text thoroughly analyses how low wages, low taxes, low levels of union representation and ‘right to work’ laws are magnets for European corporations to relocate jobs to the US South to escape European social standards.

It contains several case studies where known European corporations – among them Airbus, Fresenius, Ikea, LSG Sky Chefs, Nestlé, Schnellecke Logistics and Skanska – have used every loophole and opportunity to exploit working people in the states where they intentionally relocated to reduce their labour costs while maximising their profits.

Meanwhile, the report points out, they respect labour laws and freedom of association in their base countries.

‘The way all these European corporations operate in the American South is yet another example of corporate greed at its worst,’ said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who co-authored the report’s foreword with ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini.

‘This shows how low corporations can go to make profits at the expense of working people’s rights and freedoms. Their double standards are unacceptable at any level. If they can respect working people’s freedom to join unions and negotiate for a fair return on their hard work in their home countries, they can certainly set the example and do the same here in America.’

The ETUC, the main European labour confederation, contributed to the development of this report.

Recently it posted a statement signed by 80 nongovernmental organisations and trade unions titled: ‘A call for EU human rights and environmental due diligence legislation.’

‘Human rights, like freedom to join a trade union and negotiate collectively on wages and working conditions, must be upheld by companies wherever they operate,’ said the ETUC’s Visentini.

He continued: ‘So European companies that recognise trade unions and workers’ rights in their own countries should do the same in other countries in the world where they operate, including the USA.

‘The EU should require corporations to make sure that their operations inside and outside the EU, and of their subsidiaries and subcontractors, respect human rights, as is the case under French law.

‘What is needed is an EU law on due diligence to uphold human rights, and to give companies legal clarity and predictability on what they need to do.’

This report – which was mainly researched and written by Dr Lance Compa, a senior lecturer at the ILR School of Cornell University – concludes by making specific recommendations on how all the parties involved, from European corporations and governments to social organisations and labour unions, can do their part to change this situation and ensure that working people’s rights in the US South are respected.

  • Citing the importance and urgency of building workers’ power, the Communications Workers of America’s Executive Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to make supporting the Protecting the Right to Organising (PRO) Act a litmus test for 2020 incumbent political candidates to receive a CWA endorsement.

‘If a sitting Member of Congress or a Senator doesn’t vote for the PRO Act to expand workers’ rights, they won’t receive an endorsement for re-election from the Communications Workers of America in 2020,’ CWA President Chris Shelton said.

He warned: ‘The stakes have never been higher in this election for workers.

‘All incumbent House and Senate candidates seeking the support of CWA members who are gearing up to knock on thousands of doors, make phone calls, and get out the vote must fight to pass this crucial piece of legislation. Our future depends on it.’

The PRO Act will give CWA members and all workers more power to win better wages, benefits, and working conditions. It will protect strikers, make it easier for workers to join unions, prevent the misclassification of workers as independent contractors, deal a blow to ‘right-to-work’ laws, and much more.

Shelton declared: ‘It’s time for our elected officials to really start earning the support of labour union members. For too long, too many of them have sat by doing nothing to protect or expand workers’ rights as corporations and the top 1% have fought vigorously to destroy unions.

‘Our existing labour laws are out-of-date and not nearly strong enough to combat billionaires’ and corporations’ endless greed. The PRO Act gives working people, including CWA members, a fighting chance to fix the laws that make it so difficult for working people to join together for better working conditions.’

  • Billionaire Paul Singer’s hedge fund Elliott Management has bought shares of AT&T and launched a campaign arguing for the company to cut costs by laying off workers, divesting assets, and extracting cash to enrich shareholders.

This predatory attempt to pump up AT&T’s stock price would hollow out the company and put the Communication Workers of America members’ jobs at risk.

New CWA research released this week estimates that more than 30,000 family-supporting jobs will be at risk of elimination or a reduction in wages and benefits if AT&T’s leadership adopts these proposals. CWA opposes the Elliott Management’s agenda at AT&T and its members are ready to challenge Elliott’s attempt to destroy jobs and communities for short-term gain.

‘Elliott Management’s short-sighted activism has left families without jobs, and has harmed the long-term value of companies like Hess and Arconic,’ said CWA President Chris Shelton.

‘Boosting earnings through headcount reductions, outsourcing, and reduced investment surely benefits Paul Singer and Elliott Management’s wealthy investors, but what about everyone else?’

Congressman Ro Khanna joined CWA President Shelton for an op-ed warning that these harmful proposals could harm US workers and communities.

The Teamsters Union said it ‘stands in solidarity with AT&T workers and their union, Communications Workers of America (CWA), as they fight back against plans by a vulture capitalist hedge fund that would harm the company’s workers’.

The CWA has estimated some 30,000 AT&T workers could lose their jobs or face wage reductions if AT&T leadership adopts proposals put forth by Elliott Management, a hedge fund headed by billionaire Paul Singer. The overhaul of the company would include laying off workers and selling off assets to boost the stock price with billions in share buy-backs.

‘The 1.4 million members of the Teamsters Union stand with the thousands of dedicated AT&T workers in this fight. This predatory plan will only serve to deliver short term gain for billionaires while hurting thousands of AT&T workers and their families. We cannot allow this to happen,’ said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President.

AT&T is the nation’s largest union employer. More than 100,000 CWA members are employed at the telecommunications giant in addition to members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.