[Marxism] Firms Unionized Overseas Resist U.S. Organizing

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 20 02:32:49 MDT 2006

(Washington's gratitude to U.S. unions which support its policies
of opposition to social progress in Latin America, such as its 
hostility toward Cuba and Venezuela's revolutionary movements and
governments isn't reciprocated with the confines of the USA since
gratitude is not a deeply-held value in U.S. government circles.)

July 19, 2006 

Firms Unionized Overseas Resist U.S. Organizing

By KRIS MAHER July 19, 2006; Page A4

Several large U.S. unions are increasingly targeting subsidiaries of
foreign-based companies that have high unionization rates overseas,
but they are finding stiff resistance instead of the more-receptive
attitude they were hoping for.

The targeted multinationals say they support unions in general, but
in some cases say they have problems with tactics employed by some
U.S. unions. Many multinational companies also have economic
incentives to resist U.S. unions. While health-care benefits are
typically subsidized by governments elsewhere, such benefits in the
U.S. are partly employer-paid, and unions generally push for even

Moreover, the low unionization rate in the U.S. -- at 7.8% for
private-sector workers -- offers another reason to oppose unions. 
If "you're competing in a nonunion environment, you want to be
nonunion," says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education
research at Cornell University.

Employer costs for pay and benefits are significantly higher for U.S.
union workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employer
costs for union-worker health benefits averaged $3.52 an hour in
March, compared with $1.51 an hour for nonunion workers. Such
disparities often aren't as pronounced in countries where more
workers are unionized and labor groups often negotiate industrywide
agreements, labor experts say. About 29% of workers in the United
Kingdom are unionized, 23% in Germany, 20% in Japan and 78% in
Sweden, according to the latest figures from the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development.

London's Group 4 Securicor PLC, which employs about 400,000 security
workers in more than 100 countries, and is the most organized
security company in Europe with 55% of its workers represented by a
union, opposes tactics used by the Service Employees International
Union, which has been trying to organize workers at Group 4's
American Wackenhut unit. "There are certain things about the SEIU
that are not acceptable to the company," said Deborah Saw, a Group 4
spokeswoman. Customers such as building owners, she says, have been
harassed in the U.S. by union organizers picketing outside their

Bill Ragen, head of SEIU's security organizing campaign, said the
union doesn't "harass customers, but we have made every effort to
inform Wackenhut's customers" about issues such as low pay and
benefits. He says the company itself has been hostile. Last year, the
National Labor Relations Board determined that Wackenhut managers had
threatened employees considering joining SEIU, a decision the company
is appealing.

In some cases, the more aggressive tactics are employed by U.S.
managers and don't reflect the parent company's approach. In April, a
U.S. manager of transportation company FirstGroup PLC of Aberdeen,
Scotland, urged Baltimore bus drivers to vote against the Teamsters
in a coming representation election. "We don't need a union here.
They can't offer you anything except empty promises they can't
guarantee," the letter read. The company said it would re-examine
labor practices at its U.S. subsidiary.

If too aggressive in fighting U.S. organizing attempts,
multinationals risk alienating workers at home. "If FirstGroup finds
that a hostile attitude works for them in the United States, would
that lead to a change in the attitude toward the trade union here?"
says Martin Mayer, a FirstGroup bus driver and union official in
Sheffield, England.

Germany's highly unionized Deutsche Telekom AG passed a charter in
2003 stating it recognizes the "right to collective bargaining within
the scope of national regulations and existing agreements." None of
the company's 29,500 workers at its T-Mobile USA subsidiary belong to
a union.

Ed Sabol, organizing director for the Communications Workers of
America, said T-Mobile has responded to the union's recent recruiting
efforts by holding meetings with workers to dissuade them from
joining, and that job postings have sought managers with
"union-avoidance experience." A spokesman for T-Mobile USA, who
declined to comment on union claims, said, "We understand that
employees have the right to seek union representation, and we
certainly respect that."

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