Global unions aims Day of Action at WTO

Like many other areas of life, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed the anti-globalization movement. Unions, youth, community and church organizations and coalitions felt the need to reconsider strategy, tactics and basic aims.

In the immediate wake of the tragedy, demonstrations to protest World Bank and IMF meetings at the end of September were cancelled. Eventually the IMF and WB also decided to cancel their Washington meetings.

Pre-September 11, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) had called for international labor led demonstrations around the world for Nov. 9 to mark the opening of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Meeting in Doha, Qatar.

The AFL-CIO is an affiliate of the ICFTU. The ICFTU call was also endorsed by the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).

This call to action and the response from union federations around the world was and is historic. It raised the level of world trade union unity in the fight against capitalist globalization.

When in the aftermath of Sept. 11, the WTO's Michael Moore announced they planed to proceed with their 4th Ministerial Meeting in Qatar, the ICFTU decided also to continue with plans for a Global Day of Action.

'We will continue to fight for the right of workers around the world to have a voice in the institutions which are shaping the global economy, Bill Jordan, general secretary of the ICFTU, said in announcing the decision to go forward.

'The response to international terrorism and criminality must include support for the rule of law and international solidarity, rights and democracy. In this context, as a matter of urgency, intergovernmental processes such as the WTO must be strengthened by making them more open and accountable.'

Many union federations around the world are responding with calls for job actions and other forms of education and protest on or around the Nov. 9 opening day in Qatar.

The ICFTU will be opening a conference in Doha on 'Making Globalization Work for People: Development and Workers' Rights.' A sampling of activities include conferences and rallies in New Zealand, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Mauritius, Czech Republic, Tunisia, Denmark, Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland, Croatia, Britain, Lithuania, and Hong Kong.

Demonstrations are being held in Bulgaria, Canada, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Japan, Spain, India, Nigeria, Russia, Norway, Iran, and Australia.

In Turkey, unemployed workers and trade unionists will march from five different cities to converge on the capital of Ankara on Nov. 9. In Canada the Canadian Labor Council and others are sponsoring a 'Quebec to Qatar Cross Country Caravan,' which will visit 52 communities across Canada. On the Global Unions Day of Action (Nov. 9) the caravan will be in Ottawa, the Canadian capital.

In a related development a broad labor, community, and peace coalition has called a 'Canada day of non-violent action for Global Peace and Justice Saturday, Nov. 17.'

Nov. 17 will be the opening day of World Bank and IMF meeting in Ottowa.

In the U.S. actions are planned in San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. In San Francisco a coalition is hosting a festival of alternatives and a march with the slogan of 'Globalize Justice, Not War.'

In New York there will be a series of educational activities and in Washington, D.C. the AFL-CIO and Jobs with Justice are sponsoring a silent vigil at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Nov. 8.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, plans in the U.S. were greatly scaled back in reaction to the national mood and mourning.

Now it is becoming clearer to many that the Bush administration and the ultraright in Congress are trying to use the tragedy to curtail democracy and promote a narrow and greedy corporate economic agenda.

'I want [President Bush] and all the nation to know how I feel about the way working families, and those who do not have a voice, are being treated in the aftermath of our ongoing national tragedies,' AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a speech last week.

'In a word, I am outraged.'