Shuler: Labor movement must unite vs. worldwide corporate greed, anti-worker pols

ARNHEM, Holland–The labor movement must unite in a concerted worldwide drive to combat corporate greed and anti-worker politicians –- including Donald Trump -– who serve it, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler says.

Shuler told the Dutch labor federation, FNV, meeting on May 10 in Arnhem, Holland, that corporate moguls and their firms “organized their production in ways that make it hard for workers to effectively bargain and build power.

“They are supporting politicians that promote anti-worker agendas. They want to keep us isolated, quiet and poor. They are using race, gender and ethnicity to pit workers against each other,” Shuler declared.

“The rise of right-wing populism here in the Netherlands, in France, in the United States and around the world presents a clear threat to our mission and our values. Despite pro-worker rhetoric, we know these politicians put forward policies that will continue to favor corporations and leave workers with less power and less money,” she added.

While Trump charged that globalism and multilateralism always hurts U.S. workers,  Shuler said “workers need a rules-based global system that creates decent work, jobs and social protections that allow them to live a life of dignity with their families,” not the current global system, which lacks those safeguards and priorities.

She called Trump’s challenges to multilateralism “dangerous” because it produces a world without such rules, where corporations reign.

The union answer is “to develop even stronger transatlantic and global partnerships where we can lock arms in unmatched solidarity to beat back these attacks and build momentum for an inclusive economic, social and political agenda that is pro-worker, pro-family and pro-democracy. To state it more plainly, we need to be a movement for justice.

“We can do it. But it will take everything we have everywhere we are.”

Many U.S. workers, including union workers, may not agree with Shuler, though.

Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan featured appeals to putting U.S. jobs first and against globalization. He drew votes from millions of white former factory workers, who lost jobs to anti-worker global “free trade” pacts and subsequent closure of U.S. firms and factories.

Their votes, including votes from unionists and their families, put Trump over the top in the key electoral vote states he narrowly won around the Great Lakes: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Those states in turn gave him the election win.

Despite those defections, Shuler told the Dutch labor federation there are hopeful signs of workers rising. They include the mass marches in the U.S. against Trump and his policies – Including his anti-woman and anti-science policies — that have occurred virtually every week since his inauguration, plus French rejection of right wing extremist presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.  “My message to the corporate elite and the right-wing populists is this: We will not be divided. Despite enormous challenges, collective action is on the rise,” Shuler stated.

“So where do we go from here?” she asked. The first key move is “to market and grow and strengthen our movement so it can deliver for those who need it most. That means we need to build transformational partnerships with allied organizations to expand our movements” to “rewrite the rules of the global economy.”

Specifically, that means a mass worldwide movement for:

• “Fair trade deals that raise standards” for workers “and hold corporations accountable.

“We will actively and relentlessly oppose any global deal that leaves corporations stronger and workers weaker. That’s not trade. It’s trickle down. Working together, we can develop proactive proposals that lead to new, pro-worker models of trade,” Shuler said.

• Advocacy of “a just global migration system” that includes strong and enforceable workers’ rights” for migrants and native workers. That must accompany “a strict zero-tolerance policy when it comes to racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and trans(gender)phobia. We simply cannot build broadly shared prosperity on a foundation of hate.”

• “Cross-border pressure” from unions in the U.S. and abroad to organize against “multinational corporations” that “routinely engage in social dialogue and exercise neutrality in Europe while operating regressive management practices in the United States.”  Shuler pledged U.S. unions would also exert such pressure to aid European and Asian counterparts, citing U.S. campaigning for freedom of a jailed South Korean union leader as an example.

• Using money as power. “By ensuring our retirement assets are invested in ways that help and don’t harm our members, we can fill a unique role in the global economy.” One example: An international union “Taskforce on Sustainability Ratings is working to incorporate workers’ rights into investment decisions.

“Finally, I could not travel nearly 5,000 miles without saying a word or two about Donald Trump…Our philosophies are worlds apart,” Shuler told the Dutch unionists.

“Here is what you have to understand about Trump: His business is theatre. He was able to win over many working people by tapping into their frustrations and fears. He railed against unfair trade deals. He strongly criticized corporate power. He talked over and over again about rebuilding American manufacturing and creating American jobs.

“Union members responded. But rhetoric gets working people nothing. We need tangible results, not more broken promises. So we are holding Trump accountable for every single pledge. We are demanding action on the issues that matter most. And we are making it clear that our agenda comes before our politics. That is how we will build credibility with our members and position ourselves to elect leaders who are truly our champions.”

Source: PAI