Dear cj, Many thanks to David for writing up his impressions of the recent OWC conference. OWC was scheduled long before the events in Seattle, but when labor & environmental activists found common cause in the Seattle protests, the upcoming OWC was seen as an opportunity to build on that budding solidarity. Environmentlists and others signed up for OWC and it became a wider conference than originally envisioned. in unity there is strength, rkm ============================================================================ Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 22:27:09 -0500 (EST) X-Sender: •••@••.••• Mime-Version: 1.0 To: •••@••.••• From: David Lewit <•••@••.•••> Subject: Open World Conference, San Francisco Cc: •••@••.••• INDEPENDENT LABOR FIGHTS BACK "Open World Conference" of Workers in Defense of Trade Union Independence and Democratic Rights, San Francisco, Feb 11-13, 2000 The average American who listens to "the news" is aware that there are sweatshops "out there" in Asia making our shoes and shirts, that there is an AIDS epidemic sweeping Africa and now maybe India, that tens of thousands of Indians came down out of the Ecuadoran hills to make a revolution peacefully and were repelled, and that 50,000 abetted the collapse of World Trade Organization negotiations in Seattle. These events are like fires burning somewhere in another neighborhood--worrisome, but not really our problem. The Open World Conference brought hundreds of catastrophes like these into our own front yard. Organized by the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO), the International Liaison Committee (ILC) for a Workers' International, and the Continuations Committee of the November 1997 Western Hemisphere Workers' Conference (WHC) against NAFTA and Privatizations, two days of non-stop seven-minute testimonies from around the world wove a solid fabric of the depredations of the World Trade Organization (WTO), their policies, and their allies. "This worldwide onslaught is meant to be officially codified at the upcoming Summit of heads of state in New York in September 2000. The main item on this Summit's agenda is to officialize the reform of the United Nations (UN) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), henceforth transforming these two organizations into simple sub-divisions of the WTO. "The danger is real. By integrating the ILO into the WTO, trade unions around the world would be forced to become appendices of international trade agreements. Workers' rights, collective bargaining agreements and Labor Codes would no longer be rights guaranteed by states, but would be reduced to hypothetical clauses in "free trade" agreements. Such rights might or might not be granted, depending on the whims of the multinationals within the framework of these trade agreements." Thus says the draft Final Declaration of the San Francisco conference, to be modified and ratified by participants by e-mail. Five hundred people of all colors and languages from 56 nations filled the ballroom of the Cathedral Hill Hotel. Against the wall near the front were several glass booths housing five translators, and all participants were issued tiny radio receivers with earphones, to tune in on a simultaneous translation of the speaker in English, French, Spanish, Portugese, or German. Other languages hummed in huddles behind us in the large hall. The keynote speech came in French from an independent trade union representative from Togo in West Africa, trussed and bled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, the principal international institutions twinned with the WTO. The report from Sweden was shocking. Only twenty years ago Sweden was a model of social democracy. The country is being "given back to capitalism" without large protests from trade unions. Stockholm transportation is now under French control. Many trains have given way to slower and more dangerous buses, and high speed train drivers have lost 5 years' pension and have extended work weeks. Electric and water services have been sold to private owners to pay local debts. Postal and telephone services are also privatized. Private schools, nursing homes, and hospitals get economic favors while public facilities wither. The legal system is jeopardized; the mafia grows. Though the Labor Party is in government, strike bans have been proposed and trade unions seek compromises, thus becoming tools of a Third Way capitalist system. Such government and corporate cooptation was a major theme of reporters from many countries. A siren-song of increased export trade with more jobs and cheap imports is played incessantly, but the results world-wide, as we heard one country at a time, are unemployment, decline in health and education, displacement, loss of labor rights, attacks on independent unionists, and loss of democratic rights. There is much despair--a million African women with infants roam that continent looking for work and community. But there is also anger and courage in demonstrating, striking, and continuing to organize and build labor coalitions with other independent unions and with democratic community groups. In Guinea, West Africa, a bank economist explained how he helped to found a bank workers' union. In that country they fought back against French domination, defeating DeGaulle's referendum for them to remain part of France. The labor federation analyzed "structural adjustment," the IMF's device to force privatization and export conversion in exchange for loans. They negotiated and forced IMF to give good jobs to youth and benefits to pregnant employees. They seem to have a viable strike potential. Like many African and other Third World and even European unions, they plead for acts of solidarity from the US and Europe, and support the fight for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal. China is "no longer Communist," but "very much Capitalist." Foreign trade has increased 20-fold in 20 years, with sharp increases in displacement from the land, poverty, and unemployment--"a plague." "So many state enterprises are bankrupt--30 to 40 million unemployed." Fires in textile factories have killed hundreds. There is no social protection--only ten per cent of the unemployed get benefits. Pay, especially for women, may be six months late. Women turn to prostitution to feed their children. The government-approved unions are instruments of repression. The Chinese government admits to 200,000 strikes and demonstrations. "The government can't arrest everybody," but several people are serving 8-10 years for trying to organize independent unions. "All unions everywhere are endangered by harassment of Chinese organizers." Here is a sampling of other situations: * Southern states have "guest worker" programs involving 3 million Mexican and Central American workers, "undocumented and vulnerable, but encouraged." (USA) * Trade union "unicity" or "jointism" encouraged "to implement plans decided by the Capitalists." (Italy) * War of the taxes--"state pitted against state" to lure factories, "de-linking labor rights." (Brazil) * Dock workers shut down ports for one week. Big march against WTO/IMF March 9th. (India) * Court and other public-sector employees laid off. Prisons controlled by mafias. (Portugal) * International trade union federations easily coopted by transnational corporations. Some are in bed with NGOs which take money from any source. (Chad) * Throughout Africa there is resistance to the US MAI-clone "Africa Growth and Opportunity Act" (Mauritius) * Workers get 6 cents an hour for 70 hours a week assembling McDonald's toys. "Please visit to see human rights violations." (Vietnam) * 20 million unemployed; others make $1 a day. There is an underground movement. (Indonesia) * 100,000 strike against privatization at "autonomous national university;" police repress. "Please visit Mexican consulate and demand freeing student prisoners." (Mexico) * Citizens vote "no" to European Union, but government tries to divide unions to impose similar policies. (Switzerland) * Workers join with students, farmers, environmentalists, and consumers in possible general strike. (Korea) * Government and IMF with trade union complicity trying to "disorganize" society. (Turkey) * [With 4 million blacks in prison, detention, probation, or parole,] US prisons are the new worker "gulag." (Serbia) * The "most corrupt country in the world," a dictatorship which created dozens of political parties to derail real party effectiveness. (Cameroon) * 84,000 base unions in federation, independent of government. (Cuba) * Community action including sexual orientation constituency has cut Coors from 42% to 14% of state beer market. (California) * EU and IMF dictate privatization and layoffs in electric, water, rail, etc., without positive effects. Former state leaders are now businessmen running the country today. (Romania) * "Social security covers only a few percent, and is turned into a mafia-type investment company." "Patients who can't pay their fees are detained in hospital." (Iran) * "All emergency rooms in the county will be closed by 2001." (Los Angeles County) * With NGO help; Filipina sweatshop worker gets US Justice Dept to sue employer to improve conditions. (Saipan--a US territory) The Conference emphasized the need to protect and ratify ILO core labor standards, which are under attack. The US has ratified hardly any ILO conventions. The core standards are Conventions #87, 98, 29, 105, 100, 111, and 138 which codify the right to associate and to organize independent unions, to bargain collectively, prohibiting forced labor, requiring equal wages for equal work, banning discrimination in employment, and abolishing child labor. The Conference also emphasized #103 protecting pregnancy and maternity rights for workers and #143 requiring amnesty for undocumented workers--rural workers deprived of rights in the USA. The conference was attended by Alliance members Ruth Caplan (Washington DC), Roger Dreyfus (Boulder CO), Dave Lewit (Boston MA), Nancy Price (Davis CA), and Arlene and Jim Prigoff (Sacramento CA). Concerned as we are with WTO expansion, we would like to have seen emphasis on upcoming negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which would privatize health, education and water services among others, and introduce investor rights similar to the derailed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). There might also have been discussion of enforcement mechanisms for ILO conventions where national law enforcement is ineffective. Further information about conference concerns may be found at on the web at <www.geocities.com/owc_2000/> or by e-mail <•••@••.•••>. --David Lewit, Alliance for Democracy ============================================================================ Richard K Moore Wexford, Irleand Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance email: •••@••.••• CDR website: http://cyberjournal.org cyberjournal archive: http://members.xoom.com/centrexnews/ book in progress: http://cyberjournal.org/cdr/gri/gri.html A community will evolve only when the people control their means of communication. -- Frantz Fanon Permission for non-commercial republishing hereby granted - BUT include and observe all restrictions, copyrights, credits, and notices - including this one. ============================================================================ .