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April 8 2010

Transatlantic Social Dialogue

Eighth Annual Meeting, March 11-13, 2010

The Eighth Annual Meeting of the Transatlantic Social Dialogue took place on March 11-13, 2010, in Brussels, Belgium. This annual event was co-sponsored by Cornell's ILR School, the Hans Böckler Foundation (an ILR global partner), and the European Trade Union Institute.  Conference participants included ILR resident and extension faculty and graduate students, along with union leaders and labor researchers from both sides of the Atlantic. Download the agenda (pdf).

The opening session debated changes in the political landscape on both sides of the Atlantic since the Obama administration took office. Presenters included representatives from the Free University of Berlin, the National Employment Law Project, the Otto Brenner Foundation (IG Metall), the European Trade Union Confederation and the former Undersecretary of the German Labor Ministry, Gunther Horzetzky. Perhaps the most optimistic report during this session came from long time German Metalworkers Union member and leader, Wolf Jürgen Röder, now head of Otto Brenner Foundation, who explained his union's positive results in the most recent round of collective bargaining.

Session two explored the economic crisis and its impact on the critical Copenhagen meeting on the climate crisis. Lara Skinner from ILR's Global Labor Institute and Philip Pearson of the British Trades Union Congress discussed the various forces arrayed at this historic environmental conference. The third session included lively exchanges on how trade unions in Ireland, Greece, and the US are struggling to maintain influence in the midst of national and regional declines in governmental revenue and solvency. The first day's final session considered the long-standing irritant of anti-union behavior in the US by European multinational corporations that are union-friendly in their home countries.

Young scholars, including ILR PhD students, played key roles in day two sessions. ILR Dean Harry Katz discussed transatlantic and European challenges related to restructuring at GM and Opel. Marco Hauptmeier, recent ILR PhD now at Cardiff University, raised challenging questions as panel discussant. Maite Tapia, current ILR PhD student, presented a British case study from her own research during a session on "Immigrant workers, union strategies and the economic crisis." Denisse Roca-Servat, former union organizer and current PhD student at Arizona State University, gave a rich presentation on the campaign to organize car wash workers in California. Lena Hipp, another ILR PhD student, stimulated discussion with consistently provocative questions.

The meeting was timely and the contemporary policy perspectives promoted lively discussions. According to ILR conference conveners Lee Adler and Lowell Turner, the work of our young scholars stood out as a highlight of the meeting. This was not only a chance to showcase ILR talent, but also gave our graduate students exposure, experience, and the opportunity to network with experts in the field.

The Ninth Annual Meeting of the Transatlantic Social Dialogue is scheduled for May 5-7, 2011, at a German Metal Workers Union training center outside of Munich, Germany.

About The Transatlantic Social Dialogue

The Transatlantic Social Dialogue refers to a series of annual meetings that bring together academic researchers and union leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. The main goal of the meetings is to foster collaboration and mutual understanding among academics, labor researchers and union officials in the U.S. and Europe. In turn, Cornell ILR has developed increasingly close relationships and collaboration with its European partners, creating research and educational opportunities for our students and international scholars.