Purpose & History
The primary goal of the annual meetings is to foster collaboration and mutual understanding among academics, labor researchers and union officials in the U.S. and Europe. The main institutional underpinning has been the development of increasingly close relationships among the participating organizations.
Relationships include sponsoring organizations as well as a variety of unions and labor federations who send participants on a regular basis. The ILR School, for example, now has a formal partnership agreement with the Hans Böckler Foundation.
In the early discussions that led to our first meeting in Ithaca in 2003, our colleagues at ETUI and HBS were motivated not only by a desire for research and union collaboration but by broad geopolitical concerns. They worried that as European integration deepened, European trade unionists focused inward at the expense of relationships with unions in other countries, especially with their natural allies in the United States. Closely related to this concern, they viewed with alarm a spreading anti-American sentiment in Europe, in the context of an increasingly unilateral American foreign policy that included at that time momentum toward the invasion of Iraq. They worried that anti-Americanism would target not only the U.S. government but the American people, and that this sentiment would affect trade unionists as well as the broader population.
Sharing these concerns, we at the ILR School were also motivated by a desire to encourage international research and education as well as to facilitate the efforts of American unions to participate in transnational exchanges and campaigns with their counterparts in other countries. With both resident and extension divisions, with a track record of strong labor research and extensive labor movement contacts, ILR was uniquely positioned to share in the building of an enduring forum for transatlantic exchange.
The meetings and ongoing dialogue have benefited the sponsoring organizations and participating unions in a variety of ways. As a result, enthusiasm for the meetings has grown each year. Benefits include substantial contributions in research, education, outreach and public service, along with a corresponding elevation of the profile and reputation of the sponsoring organizations, and especially the ILR School, in labor-related academic and practitioner circles in Europe and the United States.