On November 29 and 30, UE Director of Organization Gene Elk and Local 506 President Scott Slawson traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to participate in a preparatory meeting to set up a General Electric Trade Union Network, the first international network of unions representing GE workers from around the world.
The participants in the meeting came from eighteen unions from eleven countries, including Unifor, UE’s partner union in Canada, and close UE allies CGT (France) and FIOM (Italy). One of the FIOM representatives at the meeting, Daniela Calosi, addressed the 75th UE Convention in Pittsburgh this past August.
The GE union members updated each other on the company’s behavior in the various countries. Slawson reported on GE’s intention to transfer work away from the Erie plant, and Local 506’s determination to fight it. “One thing that really encouraged me to believe this was both a powerful and genuine pact was each country learning from the others how similar the story is with a global giant like GE,” said Slawson. “No matter where you go the story was virtually the same.”
Participants at the meeting adopted a statement, which reads in part:
General Electric management disrespects the long-term commitments made with employees and communities where it operates but instead engages investors who only look for short-term benefits. Management has even intensified its attacks on … the right to engage in collective bargaining.
The goals of the trade union network include:
- Developing cross-border union cooperation and solidarity to achieve fair and just working conditions for all workers.
- Making workers’ voices heard in General Electric at a global and regional level.
- Protecting and promoting sustainable jobs, social and economic justice, limiting precarious work and promoting the principles of Just Transition.
“We’ve taken the first step towards setting up a world-wide network of GE unions to make sure the company behaves itself internationally,” said Elk, “and we look forward to establishing this network at a follow-up meeting next year.”
“I am very excited about the possibilities the future holds with the formation of the GE Trade Union Network,” Slawson concludes. “I really look forward to working with our brothers and sisters from around the world. We are building some powerful relationships and some valuable allies. Together we will succeed in making a better world for all.”
The follow-up meeting is tentatively scheduled to be held next May in Toronto, hosted by UE partner Unifor.