Future Of US Unions Now In Supreme Court’s Hands


By Charles Wowkanech, President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO,

The U.S. Supreme Court soon will be the stage of one of the most consequential fights in the history of the American worker.

Anyone concerned with the future of middle-class jobs in our nation deserves to get the facts. Rather than sifting through the complexities of this legal battle, the goal of this article is to make clear to readers the real-life implications of this impending court decision.

The case is called Janus v. AFSCME, and it is scheduled to be heard by the court on Feb. 26. At its core, this case is a direct attack on collective bargaining rights and undermines the ability of all workers to join together and negotiate with their employer for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of a union was 10.7 percent in 2017, down from a peak of 33.4 percent in 1945. This might lead someone to ask: If union membership is such a small proportion of the workforce, why should anyone worry?

History however, makes it clear that as the percentage of union membership declines, so too does the percentage of income held by the middle class as a whole.

The refrain “United we stand, divided we fall” is a simple way of reminding people that the well-being of all working people is intertwined. When workers stick together, we maximize our voice on the job and gain the opportunity to earn a decent living. However, when workers are divided, none of us alone has the power to withstand attacks that can topple us one by one. The Janus case is only the latest example of the effort to pit workers against one another.

Unions create a level economic playing field that allows all workers to enjoy a better standard of living. But there are economic forces at work, and government policy plays a crucial role in our economy. To say that these policies have missed the mark is an understatement.

It’s not just the nation’s broken trade deals that have thrown workers under the bus. Reducing labor costs has become an art form among businesses and is a key driver of profit in the modern economy. Furthermore, anti-worker policies such as right-to-work, championed by corporate America, have become a tool to enrich businesses at the expense of working people.

In recent years no labor policy has gained as much traction as right-to-work, which has been adopted by 28 states, with the six most recent laws being passed between 2012 and 2017, as a result of groups such as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation funded by the Koch brothers and America’s biggest corporations. Such a policy functions only to weaken unions under the guise of “protecting” individual liberty. Following the money makes it immediately clear where the intent of this policy lies.

So what does any of this have to do with the Janus case? The answer is pretty simple: Janus v. AFSCME is the judicial equivalent of right-to-work. One key difference is that rather than applying to a single state, this case would apply to every public-sector job across the nation. Of course, such a broad-based attack on workers would leave no group unscathed.

As tumultuous as it may seem, the Trump administration has a laser focus in its effort to enrich corporate America at the expense of working families. With President Donald Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, he has once again stacked the deck against working families while claiming — as any good salesman would — that he has come to their rescue.

No matter the outcome of this case, working people have the power to set the course for the future. The formula is simple: When workers unite and come together in common purpose, we can achieve an economy that works for all.

This movement has already begun, and we invite all working families to join on Saturday, Feb. 24, as part of the national Working People’s Day of Action. Rallies will be held across the country to maximize our collective voice.

Visit itsaboutfreedom.org to find the location nearest you.

If ever there was a time for working people to stand up for their rights, that time is now.

 Charles Wowkanech is the President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, representing more than one-million union members and their families.

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Taylor Review: Government Holds Back From Full Reforms

John Hendy QC

By John Hendy QC, Vice President of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

It might be hard to imagine that the tedious, barren worthlessness of Matthew Taylor’s Report on ‘Good Work’ could be surpassed. But it has been. The Government’s Response to it (also called ‘Good Work’) is yet more tedious, barren and worthless. Both proceed on the basis that ‘the UK has one of the most successful labour markets in the world.’ For that reason all that is needed is to note some troubling issues like low productivity, low pay and income insecurity and do nothing about them. All other issues, we are told, will be given further consideration and consultation. No real change is proposed to anything.

The government shares Taylor’s antipathy to unions. The government response is no more than a plea to their friends in business to be nicer to those whose work generates their wealth.

The real issues at work which need addressing and which neither the government or Taylor address are, from the workers’ perspective: precariousness of earnings, of hours and of employment, low pay, unfulfilling work, total democratic exclusion from workplace decision making, and gross imbalance of power.

From the employers’ perspective the real issues are: low productivity, lack of investment in R&D, competition on labour costs displacing competition on efficiency, and lack of consumer demand largely caused by low wages.

Modern research has shown that proper workers’ rights and, above all, trade union representation through collective bargaining ameliorate all these ills.

What is therefore required for the benefit of Britain’s workers, businesses and all its people is a radical new architecture of the law at work in which a simple, broad and universal employment relationship definition will be key, and in which the involvement of workers through their trade unions will be crucial. Only the Labour Party’s manifesto For the Many Not The Few really aims what Britain’s 31 million workers and hundreds of thousands of employers really need.

But a brief word about some of the government’s response follows:

Definition of the employment relationship

There are three categories of working relationship in UK law: ‘employment’, ‘limb (b) worker’ and ‘self-employed’ – though the last two overlap. The Taylor Report wants to preserve these absurd and unjustifiable historic accretions to UK law (though re-branding the last two). The flawed government Response seeks to retain, without any rational justification, the illogicality of these three categories. It is clear to anyone with any familiarity with labour law that a single universal definition of ‘worker’ is required to cover all those who perform work for another (other than those in business on their own account servicing clients and customers); the whole suite of employment rights should flow from this relationship. A proposed new EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions in the European Union (21 December 2017) proposes just this but the government does not mention it.

The proposed Directive also requires far more extensive information to be provided to workers about their employment status than at present in the UK – and far more than is proposed by Taylor or the government in its Response.


The government says all workers (including casual and zero-hours workers) are to be entitled to pay slips. This is a good thing, albeit peripheral. But it also shows that the government are determined to preserve zero-hours contracts where employers wish to minimise labour costs by imposing them on workers. This perpetuates ‘flexibility’ for the employer by imposing uncertainty and precariousness of income on workers.

Zero hours contacts etc

All workers (including agency and zero-hours workers) are to be given the right to request a more stable contract thus ’providing more financial security for those on flexible contracts.’ And a task force is to be launched to promote awareness and take-up of the right to request flexible working. Quite how a right to make a request is likely to improve financial security is not explained. Surely, workers already have the right to make a request for ‘a more stable contract’ (or a pay rise or anything else)? If the employer is not obliged to accede to the request it is worthless. This proposal is no more than window dressing.

The Low Pay Commission is to be asked to consider higher minimum wage rates for workers on zero hours contracts. This completely misses the point. What is needed is a requirement that minimum hours are contractually stipulated and that a penal rate be required to be for hours beyond the minimum stipulated by the contract. This would go a long way to eliminate zero hours contracts.

Working time is to be defined ‘for flexible workers who find jobs through apps or on line so they know when they should be being paid.’ Again the point is missed. What these workers want is a law requiring them to be paid when they are on line or their app is open. Mere knowledge that the employer will not pay them is unlikely to give them much satisfaction.


The government promises to ‘crack down’ on sectors where unpaid interns are doing the job of a worker. This is a good thing but it is not clear what might be the mechanism of the crackdown.

 Enforcement of awards

It is known that about one third of tribunal awards are never paid by employers. The government response is to propose to name employers who fail to pay and allow workers to enforce claims using the claim form they used in the tribunal. This totally fails to address the problem that many workers who win an award which the employer does not pay cannot afford to enforce their rights in the County Court and simply give up. The government do not propose a mechanism by which such employers could be identified, let alone named. What is needed is plainly a Labour Inspectorate to enforce these and other rights on behalf of workers – and failure to pay a tribunal award should be made a criminal offence.

Fines and penalties

The government propose to quadruple ‘fines’ for employers showing ‘malice, spite or gross oversight’. This completely misses the point. What is required is to remove the statutory caps on compensation so that tribunals are free to award the full measure of compensation to reflect the loss caused to the worker by the employer’s unlawful conduct. The present puny level of awards is caused by the statutory caps – that is where the injustice lies. If compensation was awarded in the same way as damages in the courts, then it would be open to tribunals, subject to very well established criteria, to award aggravated and exemplary compensation for particularly bad conduct.

The proposal that increased penalties be imposed on employers who have previously lost similar cases would hardly be necessary if compensation was adequate. It is obvious that many hours and days of tribunal time will be devoted to arguing whether a previous case was or was not similar. Window dressing.

Agency workers

These are to have a ‘clear break down of who pays them and any costs of charges deducted from their wages.’ One might have thought that this would be covered by the proposal for pay slips for all but obviously not. It is welcome no doubt but it wholly misses the point that agency workers want rights against the end-user as well as the agency and, in particular, they want full equality of pay and conditions with those engaged by the end user on comparable work.

Worker voice

The government Response says at many points that workers’ voices should be heard in relation to the decisions which affect them at work. But, unsurprisingly, both Taylor and the government refuse to concede any rîle to trade unions to represent them. Yet without a collective voice through trade unions collectively bargaining on their behalf, workers can never have even the semblance of democracy at work.

Sector deals

The government proposes to agree new ‘sector deals’ with industry, encouraging employers to show how they are investing in their workforces to improve productivity. What a missed opportunity! Why doesn’t the government take a leaf from Labour’s book and require employers to agree new sector deals with representative unions to improve, not only productivity, but pay and conditions too. Such sector deals could prevent the undercutting of good employers by bad employers. The Labour Party calls this Sectoral Collective Bargaining and has promised to roll it out after the next election.


The government Response, like the Taylor Report, simply refuses to address the real problems of workers (or even those of employers). Wedded to neo-liberalism and the idea that trade unions and collective bargaining should be eliminated from a free market in labour limited only by the lowest wage at which humans will work, the government propose only window dressing. Its Report and Taylor are best ignored. What we need is a crushing victory for Labour at the next election and a radical new architecture of labour law based on sectoral collective bargaining.

9th February 2018

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Government response to Taylor Review not the leap needed to end insecure work for millions

Matthew Taylor Report: “Giving people on zero hours contracts the right to ask for guaranteed hours will not stop bad bosses from exploiting workers” – Len McCluskey

Responding to the government’s response to the Taylor Review on modern working practices, Unite general secretary Len McCuskey said: “This is a tiny step, but not the leap that is needed to ensure that millions of people in precarious work have the security of knowing from one week to the next whether they will be able to put food on the table and pay the bills.

“Giving people on zero hours contracts the right to ask for guaranteed hours will not stop bad bosses from exploiting workers. The government could and should take a leaf out New Zealand’s book by banning them altogether.

“It is clear that the government still needs to accept that the best protection against worker abuse is strong enforcement coupled with strong trade unions. Ministers need to stop making it harder for us to do our job and accept too that the super-charging of low-wage, insecure work can be directly traced to the destructive deregulatory approach of the last 40 years.

“A strong economy and stable communities are not possible with a hire and fire workforce too frightened to take time off work to see a doctor as we tragically saw this week, or the Carillion workers left in limbo who after years of service get an email telling them they are sacked.

“The world of work is changing rapidly. But its insecurity is heightened because of bad behaviour by some powerful vested interests. It is right that the government looks at how we can support workers through these changes, but we also need direct action to construct an economy that works for all.”

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EU Commissioner Malmström kills off talk of TTIP resumption

Celia Malmstrom – kills off speculation of restart of TTIP talks.

By Brett Fortnam, Inside U.S. Trade, February 1st, 2018

European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström responded to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ optimism about resuming U.S.-EU trade talks by listing actions the U.S. has taken over the past year that she said would make it difficult to start again.

Ross, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 24th, said it was no accident that the U.S. withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership but not the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the EU – a point he has made before.

The TTIP talks have not progressed since EU member state trade ministers in September 2016 decided a deal could not be reached with the Obama administration. They have remained dormant since the Trump administration took office in January 2017.

In his remarks, Ross took shots at Europe by saying it was no longer appropriate for the U.S. to subsidize European countries and dismissing the notion that the EU’s economy was more open than the United States’.

But Malmström told reporters in Davos that after one year of the Trump administration there were “lots of trade irritants” between the U.S. and EU.

“I don’t think we can start TTIP where we left it a year ago,” she said. “We need to see — many parameters have changed. So we’ll see. The idea of having a free trade agreement between the EU and U.S. is still a great idea, which I support. But the parameters have changed and we need to sit down and see where we are on this.”

As an example, Malmström said the U.S. has tightened Buy America provisions on government procurement. In April 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that directed government agencies to examine waivers and exceptions to Buy American laws, with the intent of closing those “loopholes.” A report required by that order has not been released.
Public procurement market access was a key offensive issue for the EU in the TTIP negotiations and was a major sticking point in the talks. The EU saw the U.S. market access offer in that area as insufficient. The U.S. justified its offer by saying its procurement market was already more open than the EU’s, a contention heavily contested by the EU.
Malmström also said the EU was concerned with actions the Trump administration could announce as a result of its Section 232 investigation into the national security implications of steel imports.

The Commerce Department’s decision to levy duties on Spanish olives is another trade barrier of concern to the EU, Malmström said.

EU Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario told reporters on January 29th that the TTIP talks have “effectively stopped,” noting that the EU would have to complete an internal assessment before resuming the negotiations.

The EU must clarify if there’s a sufficient level of “shared ambition and common ground before deciding whether and how to proceed with new negotiations,” he said. “We are engaged with the United States to work together for a positive, ambitious and mutually beneficial trans-Atlantic trade agenda.”

Further imperiling the resumption of the TTIP talks, Malmström on January 25 said participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change was a necessary prerequisite for negotiating a trade agreement with the EU. President Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal from the accord in June after decrying it throughout the presidential campaign.

When told had Ross suggested resuming TTIP, she replied, “Did he? He hasn’t contacted me.”

She also criticized a comment Ross made to reporters about sending U.S. trade troops to the “rampart.”

“To talk about ‘trade war’ and future — even increasing the troops or whatever you will — is not good for the world, is not good for the U.S., is not good for anybody else,” she said. “We need to sit down and try to address these issues and to talk about ‘trade war’ I think is irresponsible.”

Trump heightened the trade rhetoric over the weekend, telling Good Morning Britain on January 28th that he has “a lot of problems with the European Union” that “may morph into something very big” from “a trade standpoint,” according to media reports.

The EU Commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, on January 29 said that if U.S. actions harmed EU exports, the EU would react.

“The European Union stands ready to react swiftly and appropriately in case our exports are affected by any restrictive trade measures from the United States,” he told reporters.

Thanks to Ben Davis at the United Steelworkers

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NHS Demo : Saturday February 18th

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Australia: Sydney train strike ruled out by Fair Work Commission

By Barry Camfield

In an outrageous move, the so-called ‘Fair Work Commission’ in Australia has effectively banned strike action in complete breach of ILO Convention 87.

C87 guarantees ‘Freedom of Association’, which provides for the right to strike. Indeed, the ILO’s Committee of Experts has previously stated that Freedom of Association without the right to strike is “meaningless”.

This decision must be opposed within Australia and internationally. Otherwise it sends a clear message to the worst regimes in the world that Government’s can ignore international standards and exploit their own peoples with impunity.

The planned train strike in Sydney cannot go ahead because it threatens to endanger the welfare of the population, the Fair Work Commission says.

Read the full news item from ABC News by clicking here.

More in this decision will follow on twitter @unionfreedom

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Russia: ITUC Denounces Court Decision To Dissolve Trade Union

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary

The International Trade Union Confederation has denounced the decision of a local court in St Petersburg, Russia to dissolve a trade union on the grounds that it engaged in political activities.

The decision to dissolve the Inter-regional Trade Union Workers’ Association (ITUWA) was based on the fact that the ITUWA supported truck drivers protesting against tax increases, and criticised the government’s socio-economic policies on its website.

The court also included the inter-sectoral nature of the union’s membership and activities as part of the reasons for its decision, along with the fact the ITUWA had held joint seminars with Global Union Federation IndustriALL in 2015 and 2016.  The prosecution even tried to claim that the union’s support for a public petition calling for indexation of salaries was illegal.

This decision is a clear violation of freedom of association, guaranteed under ILO Convention 87, which Russia has ratified.  It sets a very bad precedent for Russia, and indeed internationally.  We call on the Russian authorities to fulfil their responsibilities to protect this fundamental right, and to ensure that the deplorable decision is reversed so that the union’s members and potential future members can benefit from legitimate trade union activity,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Both main national trade union centres KTR, of which ITUWA is a member, and FNPR, have strongly condemned the ruling.

For more details, see: http://www.industriall-union.org/russia-court-rules-to-dissolve-ituwa

Thanks to Barry Camfield for sending this item

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Aussie Employers ‘Pleading’ To Stop Union Merger

Australian employers are pleading with the Australian Fair Work Commission to stop the merger tbetween the country’s construction and maritime unions over fears about its combined financial clout of almost 150 million Australian dollars a year – which would be able withstand fines for unlawful industrial conduct. (See CTUF report from August 2017 here)

The combined revenue would allow the unions to easily match the significant jump in penalties for unlawful industrial action introduced by the right wing Turnbull government’s building laws at the start of last year.

The financial power of the new union emerged in evidence filed by the Australian Mines and Metals Association and Master Builders Association in the Fair Work Commission over concerns the merger would threaten the viability of the resources and construction industries.

But the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Michael O’Connor made “no apology” for the merger and accused the employer groups of seeking to undermine workers’ bargaining strength and efforts to boost flat wages.

In an affidavit, AMMA workplace consultant and ex-Rio Tinto manager, Peter Cook, calculated that the amalgamated union would have $310 million in combined assets, $146 million in annual revenue and some 144,000 members.

The CFMEU has accrued more than $12 million in ‘penalties’ for unlawful industrial conduct over the past six years. However, it has yet to be hit with the higher penalties under the new building laws.

“AMMA and its affected members are extremely concerned that the proposed amalgamation presents a significant threat to the proper and efficient function of the resources sector, which in turn, may threaten the viability of many businesses in Australia,” Mr Cook said in the affidavit.

He said AMMA members, including resource giants Chevron, Roy Hill and Woodside Energy, feared new union would “attempt to strangle the industry through non-genuine negotiations and with high stakes threats of industry-wide industrial action”.

The Fair Work Commission is set to assess the proposed merger at a hearing on February 2nd following a successful ballot of union members last year.

However, employer groups are facing an uphill battle given the federal government’s laws to prohibit such mergers  will not be up for a Senate vote until after the hearing.

Labour leader Bill Shorten, whose Labor Right faction in Victoria is negotiating with the CFMEU to support it for safe federal seats, has opposed the legislation along with the Greens and Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm.

In its evidence, the AMMA sought to use the union’s words against it by referring to CFMEU NSW secretary Brian Parker’s comments that the merger will “significantly” affect employers.

In the Maritime Union’s Radio Stingray Podcast aired mid-last year, Mr Parker said that “the fact we can take workers from the maritime industry, we can have wharfies and seamen as well as construction and building workers standing side by side, this is gonna be one of the greatest mergers in trade union history”.

On the merger’s effect on employers, he said “you’re absolutely right – it does affect them significantly and they’re gonna be put under scrutiny”.

An MUA representative also told the podcast the unions would “continue to demonstrate that we are proud of our militancy, proud of our willingness to take on governments, to take on employers and to take on anyone who stands before us and seeks to take away or diminish our rights”.

Peter Cook argued that “based on the statements of the unions in the media, it is AMMA’s opinion that the CFMEU and MUA clearly intend to use the proposed amalgamation to significantly strengthen the co-ordinated action, including industrial action, they are able to take against employers, including AMMA members”.

“This is a concern because the unions have exhibited ‘militant and lawless conduct’ over many years.”

The merger will not allow the MUA to take protected industrial action on behalf of the CFMEU given laws against secondary boycotts.

However, the Master Builders Association said the MUA in the new super union could exert “industrial pressure” at a port, though go-slows or other tactics, to disrupt delivery of building products without the CFMEU having to take industrial action.

MBA workplace director Shaun Schmitke said the penalties on employers for such delays could be more than $100,000 a day.

Mr O’Connor said the CFMEU made “no apology for acting to build a stronger union that can strengthen the bargaining power of our members”.

“The biggest threat to the Australian economy isn’t stronger unions fighting for members’ interests, it’s the impact of stagnating wages and growing inequality.

“Every economist in the country – right up to the head of the Reserve Bank – has warned that flat-lining wages are taking a substantial toll on economic growth.

“Rather than offer a solution, the self-interested lobbying of the business community continues to push to undermine the bargaining position of workers.”

He said “anyone who wants to see a stronger and more equal economy and society should be welcoming this amalgamation”.

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EAT : Jet2.com v. Denby

Section 137 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act (TULRCA) 1992 makes it illegal for an employer to refuse someone a job because they are a trade union member. In Jet2.com Ltd v Denby the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the reference to “membership” could include “activities” relating to that membership. 

Basic facts : Mr Denby started working for Jet2.com as a pilot in 2005. In 2008 he was elected to sit on the company’s Flight Deck Crew Council and shortly afterwards became the chairman and pilot representative for the Leeds Bradford and Manchester airports. He became increasingly involved with BALPA but when he informed the company’s executive chairman, Mr Meeson, in 2009 that the pilots wanted to be represented by the union he was told in no uncertain terms that the company would do everything within its power to resist.

After leaving Jet2.com in 2011 to work for another airline, Mr Denby reapplied to the company in 2014 but despite passing all stages of the selection process, his application was rejected. He tried again the next year, but was once again unsuccessful.

Mr Denby brought a claim under section 137 of TULRCA that he had been refused employment because of his trade union membership. Jet2.com argued that the reason his application had failed was because prior to leaving the company in 2011, he had tried to unsettle other colleagues by talking about his increased remuneration package. This was considered to be unhelpful to the company’s attempts to retain its “valued pilots”.

Tribunal decision: The tribunal was not persuaded by the company’s explanation of why employment had been refused to Mr Denby. It also took a broad approach to the term “trade union membership” in section 137(1) of TULRCA that was consistent not only with the decision of the EAT in Harrison v Kent County Council, but also with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The tribunal concluded that Mr Meeson refused to re-employ Mr Denby because he had taken an active role in promoting BALPA to represent the pilots for the purposes of collective bargaining. As such, he carried a “continuing animus” towards him because of his past advocacy, an activity that was related to his trade union membership.

EAT decision : The EAT rejected the company’s appeal against that decision, holding that the tribunal was correct to adopt a broad, purposive approach and that it was open to it to find an employer’s objection to an applicant’s participation in activities incidental to trade union membership is an objection to their status as a trade union member.

It was also irrelevant that Mr Denby was not a BALPA member when he applied to be re-employed in 2015 as the refusal related to his activities at a time when he was a member.

Comment: This is a very welcome judgement. The tribunal makes clear that constructing trade union membership narrowly would leave the protection afforded by the provision lacking any real substance. The EAT also emphasised that a narrow construction would run contrary to a trade union member’s rights pursuant to Article 11 that provides for Freedom of Association.

From Labour & European Law Review Weekly issue 552 10th January 2018 . Submitted by Tommy Campbell.

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Steelworkers Statement On South Korea Trade Deal And Union Busting

The United Steelworkers released the following statement in January 4th as the United States and South Korea prepare to meet to discuss the renegotiation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

“The United Steelworkers condemns the recent anti-worker actions by the South Korean government both at home and abroad.

“In October, workers at the Macon, Ga., factory of Kumho Tire – a multinational company that is effectively owned and controlled by the South Korean government – attempted to exercise their rights as American citizens to join a union, the USW.

“The company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on union-busting consultants and committed multiple U.S. labor law violations, including a coordinated onslaught of threats of plant closure and job loss should the employees select union representation. Union supporter Mario Smith was unlawfully fired on October 17, 2017, because of his union activity.

“The USW is alarmed that a company controlled by the Korean government has chosen to violate the rights of U.S. workers at the same time that government is renegotiating its trade agreement with the U.S.

“We are also alarmed by the Korean government’s detention and arrest of leaders of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which represents the workers of Kumho Tire in Korea.  KCTU President Han Sang-gyun is currently imprisoned for organizing peaceful demonstrations, and last week the union federation’s General Secretary Lee Young-joo was also arrested. These actions have been condemned by respected human rights organizations and by the global trade union movement.

“We urge the U.S. negotiators to deliver a strong message to the South Korean government that its union-busting actions in Korea and the U.S., in violation of international law and the KORUS agreement, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“Suppression and abuse of workers’ rights under the KORUS agreement by Korean companies and their government has injured workers in both countries. The trade deficit continues to mount, which is lining the pockets of multinational companies while workers get shafted.  The Trump administration has proclaimed its intention to reform our nation’s trade policies to advance the interests of working people: Addressing Korea’s actions, and that of its leading companies, has to be at the top of the agenda.

“The implications of this matter are significant not only for the future of the KORUS agreement but also for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that is underway. Workers here in the U.S. expect that their interests will be advanced, not undermined by turning a blind eye to abuses of workers’ rights. Organized labor is watching carefully what the administration does on these matters, the single most important trade issue.”

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