United in the Fight

Leaders of AFL-CIO and Germany’s IG Metall discuss transatlantic partnership
Cornell University: Worker Institute: News: United in the Fight
Monday, February 11, 2013

Leaders of AFL-CIO and Germany's IG Metall discuss transatlantic partnership

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, speaking at the Worker Institute's Transatlantic Social Dialogue meeting on June 6 in New York City, discussed the growing partnership between U.S. and German trade unions.

He focused on 2014 collaborations around the United Auto Workers organizing campaign in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the proposed transatlantic trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union.

Eighty trade union leaders, researchers and academics from the U.S. and the European Union attended the talk.

Leaders in the American and European labor movements have dramatically increased the level and frequency of interaction over the past several months, Trumka said. "Our movements are at the cutting edge of building a real transatlantic partnership for workers."

The AFL-CIO and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) have developed a joint policy platform in response to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP.

The unions from both sides of the Atlantic have publically stated that they will oppose this trade agreement if it is similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement. A bad trade agreement, Trumka said, will destroy Europe's social safety net and the relationship between employers and labor unions. "We are done with those job-killing trade deals."

Trumka also discussed the challenge of growing inequality. "The economic agenda that has been promoted by global institutions like the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank is linked to the radical and rising inequality of wealth and income, and it is useless to pretend otherwise."

Proposed policy solutions don't match the needs. "They talk about ending inequality and then give austerity policies that drive inequality further and further. Countries can't grow by cutting, Trumka said.

President Trumka was joined by Horst Mund of the German union IG Metall. IG Metall is the main metalworker union in Germany, representing workers in the German auto industry. IG Metall worked closely with the United Auto Workers during the organizing campaign at the VW Chattanooga plant. In February, workers voted 712 to 626 against joining the union.

Trumka said, "As we saw in Tennessee, powerful politicians and right wing groups think nothing of intimidating workers and trying to pit us against each another." Mund said the union was surprised by the level of outside interference. "We underestimated. We would never have dreamt in our worst dreams what happened in Tennessee."

According to Mund, IG Metall is currently working to develop creative new approaches for organizing VW and other German car companies in the U.S., along with car part suppliers. "This is not the end of the story."

Mund also stated membership as the No.1 issue for the union. He urged the crowd to think internationally about increasing union membership and to work together to achieve this goal.

Mund said the unions in the U.S. and Germany need to move beyond traditional international dialogue and discussion. "We have had enough lip service, we need to take action and that is what IG Metall is willing to do."


This event was part of the 12th annual meeting of the Transatlantic Social Dialogue, a three day meeting that brings trade union researchers and academics together to discuss pressing policy and strategy. This year's TSD meeting was held for the first time in New York City.



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