Day 2 Photo Gallery

President Gettelfinger State of the Union Address

Remarks of Senator
Barack Obama


Nancy Peliso Speech

International Metalworker’s Federation (IMF) Marcello Malentacchi Speech

NAACP Chair Julian Bond Speech

Representative Marcy Kaptur Speech

- Vice-President General Holiefield Bio

- Vice-President James Settles Bio

- Vice-President Terry Thurman Bio

Address by Marcello Malentacchi, General Secretary,
International Metalworkers’ Federation
To the 34th Constitutional Convention of the UAW Convention
Las Vegas, USA
June 13, 2006

On behalf of the International Metalworkers’ Federation and its affiliates and all the international guests, I’d like to thank President Gettelfinger and UAW officers for their fraternal invitation to address the brothers and sisters gathered at the 34th UAW Convention.

I would also like to take the opportunity now to extend our gratitude to the lifetime commitments of the UAW officers and directors who are retiring after this convention. I especially would like to say how I have admired and appreciated Vice President Richard Shoemaker’s ceaseless commitment on behalf of workers in the U.S. and around the world. You all leave a solid foundation for the fundamental fight for justice to continue.
Honoring our past and forging our future the theme of this convention is vital not only for the UAW, it is vital for the entire international labor community. The International Metalworkers’ Federation, which is more than 100 years old, shares with you the vital need to honor our common past and forge our common future.

The essential importance of thinking – and acting – globally is highlighted in President Gettelfinger’s Report to the Convention. We see also this strongly reflected in the proposed resolutions that will be debated and considered for adoption by you the delegates in the days ahead.

Your union has a long and proud tradition of involvement in the international labor community. It is a tradition based on the universal ideal that the fight for economic and social justice cannot be limited to one nation or one people, and it cannot be achieved without international solidarity. That UAW tradition has inspired metalworkers around the world seeking to build a better and more just world.

Our fight for economic and social justice has no doubt greatly intensified in recent decades, both here in the United States and indeed for workers and communities everywhere around the world. What confronts us are two basic and undeniable facts about today’s global economy, facts to which we must strategically respond at the national and international levels.

The first one is the growing concentration of income and wealth into fewer and fewer hands. The gap between rich and poor has widened tremendously, so much so that it threatens to tear apart the fabric of societies.

Let me give just one illustration of the inequality that exists. The combined wealth of the world’s three richest people – just three people – is greater than the total economic output of the world’s 48 poorest countries. That is only one stark indication of the gross and unacceptable inequities in our world today.
The second fact we face is the increased power of capital at the expense of labor. Unregulated transnational companies have transformed globalization into corporate-driven wealth generating machine for the rich and a race to the bottom for so many workers.

Increased inequality and the power of transnational companies are of course linked to one another. A well-respected American economist, James K. Galbraith, summed up this relationship and warned of its consequences.

He said, “The haves are on the march. With growing inequality, so grows their power. And so also diminish the voices of solidarity and mutual reinforcement, the voices of civil society, the voices of a democratic and egalitarian middle class.”
Brothers and sisters, our voices of solidarity must never be diminished. Our actions to mutually reinforce one another in our fight for social and economic justice must never falter.

Our response must be collective in nature. It must be international in scope. We must harness the power that comes from worker unity and global trade union solidarity!
The tremendous inequalities that exist are not only fundamentally unjust, they weaken the economic system itself. It leaves masses of people in poverty and despair, it drains the purchasing power from the pockets of workers, it undermines global consumption, and it stunts economic and social development. Without more equitable purchasing power, sustainable, stronger and truly enriching economic growth is simply not possible.

We see how global companies attempt to exploit the world’s inequalities in order to divide workers. Nowhere is this more visible than in the process of industrial restructuring. Workers’ capacity to respond to the challenges of industrial restructuring depends on the collective strength of trade unions – nationally and internationally.
Employers in the metal sector continually test that strength by attempting to pit workers and communities one against the other. The challenges of restructuring are as great in North America as anywhere in the world. Threats to close plants and reduce employment by the tens of thousands are hitting families and communities across the continent. The UAW is at the forefront of many most difficult fights to protect workers, their families and communities in the face of enormous pressures.

The IMF and metalworkers around the world have responded with dismay and outrage by the behavior and actions of Delphi Corporation and its attempt to abuse the bankruptcy process to destroy the living standards of U.S. industrial workers. The attempt by Steve Miller to undermine the jobs, wages and working conditions of autoworkers signifies a basic disdain and disrespect for all workers. The IMF and its affiliates stand along side the unions and workers at Delphi throughout this difficult struggle.

What is happening in the U.S. once again exposes the weakness of private rather than public system of social insurance protections. President Gettelfinger recently wrote in a Detroit newspaper that: quote – the harsh reality is that a large and growing number of lower-and middle-income working Americans are forgoing preventive care and putting off medical treatment because they can’t pay for both health care and basic necessities like food, housing, gas and electricity.

In one of my IMF opinions in Metal World magazine – which I hope you can take some time to look at on the IMF’s web site – I wrote that American workers and their families made it possible for the United States to become the greatest economic power in the world. They deserve and need a much better social welfare system than the existing one.
The pressures of growing inequalities, combined with corporate-driven globalization, are increasingly confronting metal workers everywhere with the challenges of industrial restructuring. Threats of plant closures, relocation of work and mass dismissals are being exploited by employers around the world.

And more often than not, the employers making such threats – whether to workers in the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, China or the United States – are made by the same transnational employer.

Meanwhile we see new productive capacity being added in many parts of the world. All too often, these new investments are made by employers intent on avoiding and resisting unionization.

That presents a basic challenge to us all, a challenge to build union strength and organize the unorganized – often in the face of fierce opposition and outright violations of worker and trade union rights. No one has taken up that challenge with more commitment and spirit than Vice President Bob King and UAW’s organizers.

We must never forget that we have the capacity and tools to respond to the challenges of union building – and that response must have a global reach and fully harness the power of international solidarity. The UAW hosted an IMF World Auto Council in 2004, where delegates from around the world gathered in Detroit to discuss our collective challenges and the strategies to respond.

Together with the action program adopted by our Congress in Vienna in 2005, which Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn participated in, the call is made for workers and trade unions to engage transnational corporations. We must build, strengthen and make effective use of world-level industry and company councils and action groups to exchange information, develop joint strategies and coordinate collection actions.
When we honor our past, we see it was the UAW at the forefront of the International Metalworkers’ Federation calling for and acting on the establishment and effective use of world-level councils. To move our common fight forward, the UAW’s participation in such councils and action groups is absolutely vital in forging our common future.

Another more recent tool to engage transnational corporations are International Framework Agreements. International Framework Agreements are negotiated between a transnational company and the trade unions of its workforce at the global level. It is a global instrument with the purpose of ensuring fundamental workers’ rights, including the right of all workers to form and join unions of their choice, to collectively bargain and to strike in defense of their rights.

The signatory company of an International Framework Agreement commits to respecting workers’ rights in all of the target company’s locations, as well its suppliers worldwide. These agreements are negotiated on a global level but implemented locally. They are about thinking – and acting – globally.

The IMF has signed 15 such agreements. All are with European-based transnational companies. Negotiating, signing and implementing such an agreement with a U.S.-based company would mark a strategic breakthrough for all metalworkers. And so I urge the UAW today to globally help forge our common future by redoubling efforts to achieve a first International Framework Agreement with an American-based transnational corporation. The IMF and affiliates worldwide stand by the UAW’s side in achieving this goal.

Metalworkers worldwide continue to face violations of fundamental worker and trade union rights. In recent months we have mourned the death of our steelworker brothers who were murdered by the Mexican authorities while on strike at the Sicartsa steel plant in Michoacan, Mexico.

We have condemned the Belarus government’s attempt to silence May Day actions by arresting Aliksandr Bukhvostau, leader of the IMF-affiliate REPAM. We condemned, too, the arrest by Korean authorities of Brother Jeon Jae Hwan, president of the Korean Metal Workers Federation on trumped up charges of breaking the law of public assembly after participating in a workers’ rally in December.

In China, Xiao Yunliang, a fellow metalworker falsely accused of rioting and leading a violent workers’ demonstration, was sentenced in May 2003 together with Yao Fuxin, another labor activist, who received a seven-year term.

I am very pleased to report to this convention that our collective protest and solidarity have made a difference. Jeon Jae Hwan, KMWF president, and Aliaksandr Bukhvostau, REPAM’s leader, were released last month to the applause of the international labor community.

The labor activist Xiao Yunliang, held in prison since March 2002, has been released by the Chinese authorities three weeks ahead of completing a four-year sentence.
However, the persecution of Xiao Yunliang, a prominent independent labor activist from China’s Liaoning Province, continues. The global unions, including the IMF and its affiliates, reiterates the call for the immediate release of Yao Fuxin and calls on the authorities to stop harassing and intimidating Xiao Yunliang and his family.

We also take heart from another victory achieved in Nepal after years of struggle, where the first steps towards a return to democracy and worker rights have been taken. And we salute workers and trade unions in France, Korea, Indonesia, the U.S. and South Africa, among others, that are mobilizing to protect, defend and extend social and labor protections for all workers – whether they be permanent or temporary, immigrant or local, woman or man, young or older.

These victories and hardships underscore the vital importance of international solidarity and the power of collective action. Indeed it is the determination of workers fighting for basic rights, and the international solidarity that supports these efforts, in spite of harsh obstacles.

Employers do not act alone in a global race to the bottom that has created ever-widening gaps between rich and poor. Governments must be held accountable for ensuring the economies function to benefit all people, not just the richest few.

This cannot happen when governments fail to fully protect and enforce worker and trade union rights, or actively undermine such rights, whether in the U.S., Burma, Australia, Mexico or China.

It also cannot happen under global trade and investment rules that place the interests of transnational companies above all others.

Workers everywhere have a stake when workers anywhere are under attack. This is true whether it is management abuse of U.S. bankruptcy courts to radically restructure companies by tearing up collective agreements, or government attempts to undermine basic worker and trade union rights, or the push by employers and government for trade and investment rules favored by transnational companies.

Corporations are crossing national borders, so too must our solidarity efforts. Only by coming together in a united global front can we challenge the power structures that exploit our differences for profit. In achieving necessary change, we must mobilize with our civil society allies and non-government organizations that share our views and goals.
Our mobilizing nationally and internationally to respond to these challenges is not an option but an absolute necessity.

Brothers and sisters of the UAW, international and distinguished guests, I thank you all for your most kind attention this morning and for inviting us to join you here. And I greatly look forward to us together forging our common future of a better world. Solidarity forever! Solidarity forever!

 

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