17 November, 2008
The ICEM extended its congratulations to US trade union affiliates over the election of Illinois Senator Barack Obama as President of the country. In opening remarks at the ICEM’s 6 November Presidium in Geneva, both President Senzeni Zokwana and General Secretary Manfred Warda paid tribute to the great role the American trade unions had in electing a progressive President.
“The whole world watched with pride and happiness the results that came from the US Presidential race,” said Zokwana. “The American people chose not only an honourable person, but an African-American. We now hope that our American comrades can convince a Democratic majority in both houses of their Congress to pass a law giving workers a level playing field in their lawful right to organise collectively.”
ICEM President Senzeni Zokwana
In a letter to American trade union leaders, Warda said the opening of ICEM’s Presidium was “one of the most cheerful moments ever in a meeting” of the body.
“Indeed, all agreed to congratulate you on your efforts and activities that contributed to this wonderful result,” wrote Warda. “We all feel that Barack Obama’s election is not only the best news for the United States of America, but it also gives so much hope to the rest of the world.”
Another swift reaction to America’s political change came from ICEM Vice President and United Steelworkers (USW) Canadian National Director Ken Neumann. In a letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he urged Harper to establish a meeting with President-elect Obama to discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“We believe it is the right time for Canada to make a case … about a revitalised Canada-US relationship based on mutual respect for our workers and our environment, something that the current North American Free Trade Agreement does not provide for,” stated Neumann.
“Barack Obama’s stunning election as President of the United States is cause for celebration around the world – and is a golden opportunity for Canada to take up Obama’s invitation to rewrite NAFTA in a way that benefits Canadian, Mexican, and American workers.”