LONDON (AP) — May 25, 2008 -- Britain's largest union said Sunday it is merging with United Steelworkers, creating the first trans-Atlantic labor organization.
UNITE, which represents more than 2 million workers in Britain's transportation, energy and public sectors, among others, is set to join United Steelworkers, which has some 850,000 members in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
UNITE spokesman Andrew Murray said "the finishing touches" were worked out at a meeting between UNITE and Steelworkers representatives last week.
The unions have joined forces because both have been left behind by globalization, Murray said.
"We're dealing with global companies that can move capital — and employment — around the world, at will in many cases," he said. "While big business is global, and labor is national, we're going to be at a disadvantage."
Murray said the new super-union's structure was still being worked on. He said its two component parts would maintain their separate identities, at least at first. He added that the new grouping hoped to enlist other foreign unions.
"There's a number of legal complexities," he said. "This is only very much a first step."
Murray said an official announcement would be made at the Steelworkers' Constitutional Convention in Las Vegas, beginning in June.
A phone call to United Steelworkers headquarters in Pittsburgh rang unanswered Sunday afternoon, and an e-mail message to a union spokesman was not immediately returned.