May 21 2005
ILR Co-Hosts Transatlantic Social Dialogue Meeting in Berlin
3rd Annual Conference Has Several Key Sponsors
The third annual Transatlantic Social Dialogue (TSD) meeting took place this year on May 20-21 in Berlin, hosted by the German Metalworkers Union (IG Metall) at their lakeside training center in Pichelsee. Following on the first meeting in Ithaca in 2003 and the second in Brussels in 2004, these gatherings are co-sponsored by ILR, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the Hans-Boeckler-Stiftung (HBS) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). The purpose is for mutual learning and to develop cooperation among trade unionists and labor scholars from both sides of the pond. (Read the Cornell News article, July 13, 2005)
Background on ILR's Participation
These partnerships were originally suggested to us by Directors Nikolaus Simon of HBS and Reiner Hoffman of ETUI (Reiner has since moved up the ladder and is now assistant general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and continues to play an active role in these meetings). Their concern was that as European integration proceeded, unions in the EU were increasingly inward-looking and forgetting about the importance of transatlantic labor solidarity, a concern magnified in recent years given the European response to the war in Iraq. Dean Ed Lawler, via TSD co-conveners Lee Adler and Lowell Turner, offered strong support for this ongoing exchange, which has grown and deepened each year.
Innovative Strategies to Meet Challenges
At the Berlin meeting this year, in the face of growing challenges to unions everywhere, participants discussed innovative strategies ranging from living wage campaigns to cross-national union efforts at firms such as DaimlerChrysler, ThyssenKrupp, Sodexho and Wal-Mart, as well as successful organizing campaigns at the German retail firms Schlecker and Lidl. Active participants in the lively discussions included highly placed officials from IG Metall and ver.di (Germany's two largest unions), GMB (one of Britain's largest unions), the ETUC, the American SEIU and the German group OrKa (an innovative consulting firm for union organizing and campaigning). Labor scholars came from Cornell, UMass Amherst, the University of Manchester, the Free University and the Wissenschaftszentrum in Berlin, the University of Hamburg, HBS and ETUI.
What We Learned
From our perspective at ILR, it was particularly interesting to see both the growing interest of traditionally strong German unions in U.S.-style organizing innovations and the growing American interest in transatlantic union and research collaboration.
The next TSD meeting will be hosted by ILR in Ithaca on May 4-6, 2006.
Report by: Lowell Turner