5 December, 20182018 has been a year of bleak headlines, as democracy crumbles and rightwing authoritarian populists advance across the world. The human rights and global governance victories that we won are eroding; racists, xenophobes and warmongers feel the wind of opportunity at their backs.But instead of succumbing to despair, we focus on building strong unions to defend workers’ rights, and to stand up for our progressive values.
This issue of Global Worker brings a diverse collection of stories that show how our movement is doing just that. While we have terrible news from Brazil, with the election of the fascist Jair Bolsonaro as President after the coup and the jailing of Lula, we have much better news from Mexico: a new left wing political movement, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) won the election this year.
After 12 years in exile for denouncing the killings in the Pasta de Conchos coal mine, IndustriALL executive committee member Napoleón Gómez Urrutia returned to Mexico and was sworn in as senator. The country ratified ILO Convention 98 on the right to organize, creating space to get rid of harmful protection contracts and establish a genuine independent trade union movement, such as the new federation created in the auto sector. Mexico now has a gender balanced cabinet. Read our interview with new labour minister Luisa María Alcalde on pages 10-11, as she explains her vision for a new social contract for Mexico’s workers.
Corporate power is growing, and can no longer be constrained by national governments, even where the will exists. So how do we achieve justice for workers across increasingly complex supply chains? On pages 12-15, assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft argues that IndustriALL leads the way in establishing global industrial relations that hold corporations accountable – but we need global mechanisms to resolve disputes, such as a binding UN treaty and an ILO Convention on supply chains.
Blockchain technology has been promoted as a possible solution to opaque and complex supply chains. Our exploration on pages 5-8 shows that there is no technological quick fix for a social and economic problem. While blockchain has interesting potential, it is only as reliable as the data entered into it.
Continuing our theme of confronting the power of multinational corporations is our exposé of the exploitation of contract workers in Nigeria by Shell, on pages 18-21. Shell is responsible for decades of environmental degradation and complicity in political repression in Nigeria, and has paid out tens of millions in compensation. But Shell’s exploitative business model extends to its workers, most of whom are contractors on low wages. Long term Shell employees barely subsist on the poverty line, and face being fired if they speak up. Now their unions are fighting back.
On page 4, read about the women leaders smashing myths and stereotypes in male dominated sectors.
Finally, meet some of the affiliates at the coal face of defending workers’ rights: on pages 22-23, Belarusian union REP has just endured a punitive politically-motivated court case designed to crush it. On page 9, read about the tremendous progress being made by NUTEAIW in Malaysia as IndustriALL moves its office to that country. And on pages 16-17, read how our affiliates in Peru have formed a national council to fight back together.
The crisis is only half the story: the other half is the workers confronting it, and learning that together, we are stronger. We need each other, now more than ever.