Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
Next week, representatives of G-20 governments will be meeting in London to discuss strategies for addressing the global economic crisis. As working people around the world are facing the consequences of this crisis, unions are responding with their own proposals for the G-20.
This Monday, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released a "London Declaration" that focuses on five key policy recommendations for the G-20:
- a coordinated international recovery and sustainable growth plan to create jobs and ensure public investment;
- nationalization of insolvent banks and new financial regulations;
- action to combat the risk of wage deflation and reverse decades of increasing inequality;
- far-reaching action on climate change;
- a new international legal framework to regulate the global economy along with reform of the global financial and economic institutions (IMF, World Bank, OECD, WTO).
You can read the full document online here. The introduction to the declaration states,
While all of ITUC's policy recommendations are very important, the third recommendation definitely requires attention. As the full declaration explains, wage deflation and increasing inequality can be reversed in part "by extending the coverage of collective bargaining and strengthening wage setting institutions so as to establish a decent floor in labour markets."
Here in the US, a report released this week by Government Accountability Office showed that the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division is failing in its role of protecting workers from wage theft, child labor and other abuses. With a new Secretary of Labor, it is vital that the government strictly enforce the labor laws we already have on the books. We also need to take additional steps to ensure that workers can use collective bargaining agreements to improve wages and working conditions. That means passing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as a first step. EFCA is an important part of ensuring that US workers are able to exercise the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
At the G20 summit in London, it is also essential that world leaders support alternative systems and policies that can improve the lives of the workers facing poverty. Divine Chocolate, a pioneering Fair Trade chocolate company co-owned by cocoa farmers in Ghana, has shown that paying a fair price to farmers does more than create a sustainable future for a few farmers -- it is a model that can be replicated on a mass scale. Divine set up a new website where you can "Egg a Politician" -- meaning that you can toss a chocolate egg at one of the G20 leaders and then send them a message telling them to keep fair trade on the agenda.
Unfortunately, I fear that the representatives at the G-20 will not be promoting policies focused on reducing inequality, protecting workers' rights and promoting fair trade. Labor rights advocates globally will have to keep the pressure on governments to support better policies and work together to raise standards for workers everywhere. As one example, workers all across the Americas are participating in an upcoming Continental Day of Action against the Crisis. How do you think unions and worker organizations around the world can work together to address the impact of the global economic crisis on workers?