Aluminum Workers Unite
Growth of global manufacturers creates need for worldwide solidarity
Some 160 delegates from 17 nations unanimously passed a strong resolution during the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) World Aluminum conference held in Montreal on Oct. 5-6, 2003, pledging "our full support to help other unions across the globe that represent workers in the aluminum industry when they are in need of our solidarity."
The conference, co-chaired by IMF General Secretary Marcello Malentacchi and International President Leo W. Gerard, addressed what the IMF's member unions view as the growing dangers being posed by "a small group of global aluminum corporations with little regard for social democratic norms and traditions and a willingness to adopt authoritarian modes of production."
"We've succeeded in creating a network of unions pledged to global solidarity in the aluminum industry," Gerard said. "That means that if violations by any company result in a union losing its right to representation or having that right undermined, then unions across the globe are going to challenge that company's oppressive approach to labor relations.
"In other words," he said, "what happens anywhere will literally have repercussions around the world."
North American delegates to the IMF world conference expressed grave concerns about the impending purchase of Pechiney by Alcan, a company that has increasingly invested in the less developed world to the exclusion of U.S. and Canada, where the USW represents the lion's share of organized aluminum workers.
To increase their global activism in the aluminum industry, the unions resolved to create an Aluminum Industry Working Group and IMF Global Company Councils. The IMF's actions put the global aluminum producing corporations on notice that continuing attempts to undermine unions at their organized facilities will be confronted by coordinated, international actions.
Conference participants expressed satisfaction that with the thorough briefing on the aluminum industry, trends, and economic projections, they are now better prepared to help union members in their home countries. More than a dozen interpreters were on hand to ensure that people of all languages could understand what was being said.
With the projected growth in the aluminum industry, District 11 Director Dave Foster told the delegates, "solidarity across borders has never been more necessary."
Collin Pratt of the United Kingdom said that China is becoming a major player in aluminum with production doubling in the last four years. Several other delegates discussed human rights issues in China’s aluminum industry, including lack of labor organization. Lucas Mthiyane, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, said, "I hope at the next conference we’ll have delegates from China."