Globalization and the Left

Globalization and the Left

The labor movement has staked out a progressive, internationalist position on the reform of the global economy. We believe that the rules and institutions of the global economy need to be dramatically transformed in order to change the dynamics of competition. We must ensure that governments and corporations respect workers’ and human rights and the environment, and that they face economic consequences—through loss of investment, market access, or loans—when they do not. We should also help promote sustainable, equitable, and democratic engines of growth in both developed and developing countries. We must shake up the balance of bargaining power in the global economy, by strengthening the voices of workers, community activists, and environmentalists.

Here are three practical ideas for moving this broad agenda forward.

First, the American labor movement needs to deepen its solidarity and ties to workers, unions, religious, human rights, antipoverty, and pro-democracy organizations in developed and developing countries. The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) already has extensive relationships and communications with trade unions in other countries through its overseas offices in developing countries (called the Solidarity Center) and international labor groups such as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions based in Brussels.

But we need to do more to broaden ties to non-labor groups and to deepen connections within our unions and rank-and-file membership. This will come about initially through working with trade union partners and the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with which they already work. It will also occur as we in the labor movement broaden our agenda to encompass issues of direct concern to developing countries, such as debt relief, in coalitions such as Jubilee 2000.

Second, the labor movement worldwide needs to pressure our governments in a coordinated fashion to increase aid to developing countries, both bilaterally and through United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations Development Program and the International Labor Organization (ILO). The same resources that the rich countries of the world spent to wage the cold war can and should be diverted now to strengthening and enforcing core workers’ rights and meeting basic human needs. It is a disgrace that the United States does not come close to meeting the UN standard of devoting seven-tenths of one percent of its gross domestic product to development aid; we should aim even higher.

Third, we need to develop a broad array of tools and mechanisms to strengthen workers’ rights worldwide—through trade agreements, popular campaigns, the international financial institutions, export credit agencies, and cooperative programs of technical assistance. All of the international institutions, as well as national governments, need to take drastic steps to ensur...