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trade unions

US labour and the new movement against capitalist globalisation

By Barry Sheppard

In the demonstration in Seattle at the close of 1999, a new generation of radicalising youth emerged to take on the World Trade Organisation. Tens of thousands of trade unionists also participated, demonstrating that there is a potential for this movement to begin to mobilise working people.

The targets of this new movement are globalising corporations and the international financial and trade organisations dominated by the rich countries, above all the United States. Clearly, these young people have deep internationalist sentiments, and wish to fight for better conditions for the world's poorest people exploited by these corporations and institutions. This anti-corporate consciousness can rapidly deepen into anti-imperialism, and can begin to question capitalism itself.

The participation of trade unionists in Seattle reflects the fact that the radicalising youth have a natural ally among working people and the trade unions. But the participation of the major US trade union federation, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) was marred by the political line it sought to bring to the action. As the editors of the July-August 2000 issue of the independent socialist magazine Monthly Review put it:

 

Independent unions: the way forward for US labour

Malik Miah is an area representative for Local 9, the largest local of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, which has 4000 members, at the United Airlines maintenance base in San Francisco. He is editor of Local 9's bimonthly newsletter Way Points (www.amfa9.org/waypoints) and a member of the editorial board of Links. Caroline Lund is a trustee and member of the executive board of United Auto Workers Local 2244, a local of 5000 members at the New United Motor Manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. She edits a plant newsletter, The Barking Dog (www.geocities.com/abarkingdog/), and is a contributing editor of Links.

 

 

CONTENTS

Proposal for new course

How the unions changed

Demoralised and defeated

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