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UE-GE 2007 - Worldwide Solidarity

Solidarity with GE Workers
From Unions Around the Globe

A number of unions in other countries sent messages of solidarity, via fax, e-mail and postal delivery, to UE Local 506 President Frank Fusco, in advance of the big June 2 Unity Rally in Erie.

Here are highlights of the messages, which arrived from Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, India, Japan, France, Canada, Australia and the Philippines. Many of these labor organizations represent GE workers in their countries, including the Brazilian Metalworkers (CNM), Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), the Fédération des Travailleurs de la Métallurgie (FTM, Federation of Metalworkers, affiliated with the CGT) of France, the New Trade Union Initiative of India, and the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) of Mexico.

International Federation of Chemical,
Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), Worldwide

The 20-million-member International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Union, a global union federation which proudly counts the UE as one of our 384 trade union affiliates, takes this opportunity to express Solidarity and Support to our brothers and sisters in UE Local 506, as well as to those in UE Local 618, in your current contract negotiations with General Electric… Indeed, we wish to extend our Solidarity and Support to all American trade unions involved with the Coordinated Bargaining Committee of GE Unions in these talks.

The ICEM and its affiliated trade unions in 124 countries know General Electric as an extremely profitable company. We also know it as a company that has been very generous to its investors and shareholders, yet very thankless and begrudging when it comes to rewarding the stakeholders who generate its vast wealth, namely its workers.

In this regard, we are mindful that the UE and the other unions deserve their just rewards in this set of negotiations with one of the world’s most powerful companies. This means that the ICEM and its global unions stand strongly with you in your efforts to resist any contractual terms or provisions which would weaken workers’ rights and protections, and support your efforts to make meaningful gains for the workers and families that you represent.

The ICEM will keep a watchful eye on these negotiations from our headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. If there is any stand or action that we can take to promote Global Solidarity behind the UE and other US unions involved in this bargain with GE, please do not hesitate to ask. Again, our best wishes are with you for a successful round of bargaining that ensures fair and equitable gains for all General Electric workers.

Manfred Warda, General Secretary

 

Frente Autentico del Trabajo
(Authentic Labor Front, FAT), Mexico

We are aware that you are entering into negotiations with the company General Electric, which had earnings of $20 billion last year. Although this money should be equitably distributed between shareholders and workers, since they are a fundamental part of producing such earnings, through our own experience we know that companies do not see things in that manner.

Your negotiations will be difficult and will require much strength, in order to have the company recognize your rights and to win a contract that increases wages and benefits and above all that ensures job security.

Therefore, please know that you are not alone, and that you can count on the support of the sisters and brothers of the FRENTE AUTENTICO DEL TRABAJO. It is important to remember that this struggle is GLOBAL and that the workers of México are with you. Please receive our solidarity in support of all the actions you undertake in order to win your just demands.

National Leadership of FAT

 

Confederacão National dos Metalurgicos
(National Confederation of Metalworkers), Brazil

First of all we would like to congratulate you on the Coordinated Bargaining Committee (CBC) of GE unions. We really believe that’s the best way for workers’ representation and we wish you all the best in your negotiations.

General Electric is following the trend of many other corporations, putting pressure on the workers, blaming their quality jobs for its momentary difficulties or only to keep up its profits. If the company had such good results last year and predicts yet another double-digit yearly profit increase in 2007, it’s because of its workers’ hard work. Trying to make you pay a much higher portion of health care costs and denying important benefits to newly hired employees are not the best ways to thank the workers! If it wants to make more money, it can’t be on your backs.

We, metalworkers in Brazil, would like to offer you our highest commitment of solidarity and tell you all, sisters and brothers from the United States, that we’ll inform the Brazilian GE workers at the 13 plants in Brasil about your struggle.

You can count on Brazilian metalworkers’ support! Your struggle is our struggle!

Carlos Alberto Grana, President
Valter Sanches, General Secretary

(The CNM also featured a full-page report on UE-GE negotiations, including a photo of the UE bargaining committee, in the May 30 edition of its international solidarity newsletter, Brasil Metal Internacional.)

 

Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), Canada

On behalf of the 265,000 members of the Canadian Autoworkers Union (CAW), I would like to convey our union’s message of camaraderie to the entire Coordinated Bargaining Committee (CBC) as you enter negotiations with your employer General Electric. Despite GE’s profits in excess of $20 million in 2006, your mandate to negotiate a decent collective bargaining agreement for your members and their families with this multinational corporation will be a formidable challenge. The CAW extends our voice of solidarity in your ongoing efforts to achieve social and economic justice on behalf of your membership.

Basil ‘Buzz’ Hargrove, National President

 

Communications, Energy and Paperworkers
Union of Canada (CEP)

On behalf of the 150,000 members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) I want to offer our support and solidarity to your and the other unions involved in the Coordinate Bargaining Committee on tyhe eve of your negotiations with General Electric.

We are well aware that General Electric experienced another year of record profits in 2006. CEP represents a number of General Electric plants in Canada and we know that regardless of how much profit they make, negotiations with this company are never easy.

Good luck in your negotiations and rest assured that you can count on our solidarity and support.

Dave Coles, President

 

New Trade Union Initiative, India

We wish you all strength in this present round of your negotiations for employment conditions of GE employees in the USA.

We appreciate that collective bargaining with an employer like GE is a big challenge for any union. While the company continues to make super profits, and salaries and perquisites for the top management in GE have been multiplying, workers are denied a fair share in the corporate earnings. You would all be aware of the struggles that GE employees in India continue to wage for even exercising their collective bargaining rights.

We therefore shall follow with keen interest the joint negotiations that GE unions are waging in the USA as part of the Coordinated Bargaining Committee (CBC). We are confident that this exercise will lead to landmark agreements that will serve as a model for negotiations of Indian unions, and other unions worldwide with GE.

Ashim Roy, General Secretary

 

National Union of Metalworkers, South Africa

On behalf of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and our 260,000 rank and file members we want to pledge our solidarity with you during this bargaining round with GE.

In this hostile environment we are facing as trade unions and working class organizations we urge you to be strong, proud, resolute and to stay united in support of your demands.

Transnational capital with its power to move across borders has put us on the defensive as workers gains are eroded on daily basis and unions are forced into concessionary bargaining. We hope that you will use this round not only to achieve material gains for workers for but also to strengthen your organization.

Your defeat will be our defeat and your victory will be the victory of the workers of the world and their organizations.

Silumko Nondwangu, General Secretary

 

Fédération des Travailleurs de la Métallurgie
(FTM, Federation of Metalworkers, affiliated
with the CGT), France

On behalf of FTM CGT, the first metalworkers union in France representing around 40% of French metalworkers, I want to say you our support and solidarity for this negotiation.

We share the same value; profit must be used for increasing wages, improving working and living conditions, not for the only benefit of the shareholders.

We create the wealth. We claim justice, we want our due. In France according to price increase, to level of profit, to target the right answers to human needs, we claim an 8 % wages increase.

Christian Pilichowski, International sector

 

Centrale des syndicates du Quebec
(CSQ – Union Central of Quebec)

We have learned of the difficult struggle before you against General Electric, a giant that is literally awash in profits. Both corporate leaders and their political associates repeat that wealth must be created before it can be redistributed.

However, experience over the course of our trade union history has taught us that workers must fight for their due in collective wealth; prosperous times are not an exception.

Brothers and sisters of the UE, the CSQ will be at your side during the upcoming struggle. Our solidarity will accompany your determination.

 

Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec
(SFPQ – Quebec public services union)

In the name of our 40,000 union members, I am glad to express our full support in your negotiation for a new collective agreement with your employer General Electric (GE).

Since more than two decades now, multinationals and more broadly all capital owners have appropriated at the expense of workers an ever-larger part of the wealth created. The workers of GE and all the others over the world have the right to live in dignity and get their fair share of the wealth created.

If GE is a big employer in the United States of America, it is also in Quebec and in many other parts of the world. Your struggle for better working conditions has a direct impact for all of us. All together we must stop and reverse the actual planetary trend of wealth concentration and growing inequality.

The Syndicat de la Fonction publique du Québec gives you its strong support in your negotiation, wishes you the best of luck and stays available for any further help we could give you in your actions.

Michel Sawyer, President

 

ZENROREN – National Confederation of Trade Unions, Japan

In the name of its 1.3 million members, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (ZENROREN) in Japan expresses its full support and solidarity to you in the fight for a new good contract with such pressing demands as a substantial wage increase, improved pensions and protection against GE’s tactics of job movement and elimination, and against placing a larger potion of health care costs burden onto employees.

Just a return from GE to its workers of a little portion of its astounding sum of profits makes it possible to meet your demands. Well-filled pockets of workers and common people lead to betterment of national economy.

We are convinced that the attainment of your demands would give a great encouragement to not only American workers in other industries but also those working people throughout the world who are resisting bad effects of neo-liberal globalization.

ZENROREN is determined to further strengthen solidarity and cooperation with workers and their unions the world over. We wish your struggle further advance, making a success of your negotiations on a new national contract as a springboard.

 

Kilusang Mayo Uno Labor Center (KMU), Philippines

We laud your CBC-wide major contract rally… hosted by UE Locals 506 and 618. It is utterly significant that this contract rally is being held in Erie, which is home to GE’s locomotive manufacturing plant and home to UE’s largest local. This clearly shows that the United Electrical Union is ever ready to face the company in the negotiation and win its demands squarely.

It has come to our knowledge that GE experienced yet another year of record profits and revenues, with a net profit of about $20.7 billion and $163 billion revenue for 2006. This financial viability that translates to over $2.3 million per hour of clear profit to the company is another testament to the vital contribution of the GE workers in the company’s growth and advancement.

With this robust financial condition, there is no reason for GE not to give a fair share in the form of increased wages and benefits for the sweat and toil rendered by its most prime resource – the workers.

We must be ready however for all eventualities. Time and again, it has been proven that corporations such as the multinational GE will try to protect their profits by putting it in other investments rather than giving the workers what are due them. It will definitely not be a smooth-sailing negotiation and you must be ready to put your best foot forward and fight resolutely to win the collective bargaining negotiations.

Your success lies solely in how strong, firm and united you will wage your demands for increased wages and benefits.

Here in the Philippines, we are facing a similar battle as more than a hundred unions under KMU are also entering collective bargaining negotiations this year. Alongside with this, we are also fighting for our democratic and civil rights that are continuously being threatened by the US-supported government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The government and capital have joined hands in trying to destroy militant trade unionism in the country. In particular, KMU being the exponent of genuine and militant unionism is being vilified as "factory terrorists". This has already resulted to about 86 of our working brothers and sisters being killed thru extra-judicial means since 2001. Many unionists and labor advocates are imprisoned and slapped with false and trumped-up charges, most prominent of them is KMU Chairman Emeritus and Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran, who at the age of 74, continue to languish in hospital detention for more than a year now. Hundreds are being harassed, intimidated and abducted. But then again, no matter the repression, we continue to struggle for the interest of the Filipino working class and people.

Our struggle is connected with the global trade union struggle under the intensifying crisis of imperialist globalization. Let us continue to organize, educate and mobilize our rank against the onslaught of capital. Let us defend our trade union gains that are being slowly taken away by capital under the imperialist globalization policies. Let us fulfill the historic mission of the working class in creating a society where justice and equality reigns, where all forms of oppression and exploitation cease to exist.

Long live the unity of the working class!

Long live the UE-GE workers!

Long live international solidarity!

Elmer C. Labog, KMU Chairperson

 

Australian Nurses Federation, Australia

On behalf of the 150,000 members of the Australian Nursing Federation, we wish to convey our support and solidarity for your forthcoming negotiations with General Electric.

We understand that despite the massive profits reaped by General Electric, your negotiations will be difficult and protracted. We also understand that all the unions in the General Electric companies are committed and passionate about receiving a fair and reasonable contract on behalf of their members.

Workers and unions in Australia will be watching this campaign closely. Like you, we battle to achieve fair and reasonable outcomes for members in an economic climate where the bosses’ profits continue to grow.

Your struggle is our struggle and we wish you well.

Gerardine (Ged) Kearney, Assistant Federal Secretary

Thanks to Robin Alexander, UE International Affairs Director, for informing UE’s labor friends around the world about our struggle with GE.