WASHINGTON -- November 22 -- Less than a month after a U.S. presidential election where candidates traded accusations about the increase in the number of jobs shifting from the U.S. to other countries, a delegation of labor leaders from India is embarking on a tour of nine major U.S. cities to open a dialogue about ensuring that the interests of working people everywhere are respected and promoted.
"The jobs that multinational companies destroy in the U.S. outnumber the jobs they create in India, as workers are working harder and longer," said Ashim Roy, the President of several unions representing General Electric workers in Gujarat state. "The companies create insecure jobs at near-poverty level wages with inhuman working conditions. We want to work with our sisters and brothers in the U.S. and elsewhere to prevent exploitation and guarantee jobs with fair wages and human dignity for all."
"We will resist the corporations' efforts to pit us against each other," said V. Chandra, a woman who has worked in the coal industry for 25 years and is the Organizing Secretary of a union representing 50,000 miners. "We know that the companies see no borders in their efforts to make money, so we too must look past them," she added. "Workers are talking across the continents about their mutual interests; together we can defend jobs with fair labor standards."
The NTUI leaders' tour kicks off in New York City on Tuesday, November 30, with a public event, A New Path For Indian Labor? International Solidarity in the Age of Outsourcing, at the Cornell University Conference Center, 16 E. 34th St, from 6:00 8:30 PM.
Their full schedule appears below. Please contact Anannya Bhattacharjee at 202 679-0180 to arrange interviews in person in the cities the tour will be visiting, or by telephone for reporters in other locations.
Nov. 28-30: New York, NY
Dec. 1-2: Boston, MA
Dec. 3-6: Chicago, IL
Dec. 7: Cleveland, OH
Dec. 8: Erie, PA
Dec. 9 -10: Seattle, WA
Dec. 10-11: Portland, OR
Dec. 12-15: Washington, DC
Dec. 16-17: Atlanta, GA
The Indian union leaders are all affiliated with the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), an effort to bring together the many independent unions, unaffiliated with political parties, in a new confederation. The NTUI sees itself as a democratizing force within Indian labor, one which can unite the millions of unorganized workers in the informal sector and the millions in existing unions who want to transcend party identification and play a leading role in the larger social movements now burgeoning in India.
The NTUI has begun a collaboration with Jobs with Justice, a network of over 40 local workers' rights coalitions in the U.S. that connects labor, faith-based, community, and student organizations to work together for social and economic justice.
Jobs with Justice member organizations have witnessed first hand how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and global financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF create a worldwide "race to the bottom." Their policies have promoted labor market "flexibility," deregulation, privatization and mass layoffs in the public sector. It's allowed giant corporations to exploit workers, the environment and communities, while driving down living standards around the world.
The threat to workers' standard of living will increase on January 1, 2005, when the Multifiber Agreement of the World Trade Organization expires. As a result, hundreds of thousands of jobs in the worldwide garment industry are expected to move to lower wage facilities in China. This has serious implications for workers in India, the United States, and around the world.
"Jobs with Justice and the NTUI know that when corporations drive a wedge between us, we all lose," said Fred Azcarate, Jobs with Justice Executive Director. "Corporations are global, so we need a global movement of workers and their communities to fight for better jobs and secure futures. That's why Jobs with Justice is working with the NTUI."
Jobs with Justice has a history fostering dialogue between workers across international boundaries and of promoting trade policies that protect workers and communities, not corporate interests. In 2001 and 2003, JwJ organized an exchange between workers from Kentucky many of whom lost jobs directly as a result of NAFTA with workers from Nogales, Mexico, where many corporations relocated.
Last year, Jobs with Justice was one of the lead groups organizing protests in Miami during negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas where tens of thousands of people stood up to say "No to Free Trade, Yes to Fair Trade." The work of activists throughout the hemisphere helped to effectively derail negotiations on the FTAA.
For more details about the NTUI tour, visit the Jobs with Justice website at www.jwj.org.