Fresh off a strike in Erie, PA, the United Electrical Workers are a model of the working-class internationalism that can build a more just world, writes Michael Galant in Foreign Policy in Focus.
UE International Representative and GE Conference Board Secretary John Thompson joined more than 700 delegates from across Italy at the 27th Congress of the Italian Federation of Metal Workers (FIOM), held from December 12–15. Delegates from FIOM attended UE’s 2015 and 2017 conventions, and UE’s relationship with FIOM was instrumental in setting up the global GE Trade Union Network.
At a mid-December meeting of unions from around North America held in Los Angeles, representatives of independent Mexican unions shared their expectations for working people under the government of the newly elected Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopes Obrador (known as AMLO). This public event drew many Mexican-American members of the LA community.
The text of the proposed new “US-Mexico-Canada Agreement” released late on Sunday night reveals the stranglehold that corporate interests have upon our government, and underscores the absolute necessity of international solidarity among working people from all three countries in order to move forward.
UE’s Director of International Strategies Kari Thompson traveled to Hiroshima, Japan in early August to bring UE’s commitment to peace, denuclearization, and a reduction in military spending to the 2018 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. Longtime UE ally Zenroren, a Japanese trade union confederation representing over 1.2 million workers, hosted Thompson.
“South Koreans don’t want [U.S.] missiles there, they don’t want any of that. They want unification,” reports Eastern Region Vice President Darrion Smith, who represented UE on a US Labor Against the War (USLAW) delegation to Korea at the beginning of May.
UE’s national officers and members of Locals 506, 601 and 618 traveled to Toronto on May 7 and 8, 2018, for the first meeting of the global General Electric Trade Union Network, hosted by UE’s Canadian partner Unifor and organized by the global trade union federation IndustriALL.
In December and January, more than 1000 supporters signed on to a UE petition opposing attacks on workers’ rights in Mexico. The petition, addressed to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, demands that he prevent an agreement on a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) while horrendous labor legislation is pending in Mexico.
On November 29 and 30, UE Director of Organization Gene Elk and Local 506 President Scott Slawson traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to participate in a preparatory meeting to set up a General Electric Trade Union Network, the first international network of unions representing GE workers from around the world.
On September 13 and 14, 2017, UE and Unifor representatives participated in a series of meetings in Mexico City to facilitate continent-wide labor solidarity. UE was represented by General President Peter Knowlton and Director of International Strategies Kari Thompson, and the Unifor delegation consisted of Secretary General Bob Orr and Director of Human Rights and International Department Mohamad Alsadi.