Our living and working conditions are directly linked to those of other workers around the world. Globalization and the so-called “free trade agreements” that have proliferated since the 1990s have made that clear. General Electric CEO Jack Welch famously said in 1998 that “ideally you’d have every plant you own on a barge,” so it could be moved to wherever wages are the lowest. As long as there are places where workers toil for starvation wages without health and safety protections, it’s hard to achieve or maintain good wages or conditions anywhere.
Poor wages and working conditions in other countries are not natural or inevitable — they are often the result of military intervention by the U.S. government. Our government has supported and instigated coups against pro-worker governments in Central and South America, the Middle East, and elsewhere, and waged wars in Korea, Vietnam, and twice in Iraq to defend the profits of U.S. corporations. UE has consistently opposed all forms of military adventurism that put the children of working people in harm’s way while benefiting only the wealthy and corporations.
Aggressive struggle to improve our conditions in a global economy demands that we unite with workers in other countries. To put this into practice, UE rank-and-file members have visited and built relationships with unions in Mexico, Canada, Japan, Italy, Brazil, India, the Philippines, and other countries. These exchanges are often with other workers who share the same employers or work in the same sector of the economy.
UE believes that the future of the labor movement depends on a real commitment to international labor solidarity, not only to prevent downward pressure on wages and working conditions from employers threatening to move, but also to address the global challenge of climate change in ways that benefit, rather than harm, workers.