The Carolina Socialist Forum, a UNC group in Chapel Hill, hosted a labor panel on April 2nd to discuss "Local Labor Rights in the Global Economy." The panel was composed of Saladin Muhammed, state organizer for UE 150, the newly emerging North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, Rosa Saavedra of the North Carolina Farm Workers Project, and Trim Bissel of the Campaign for Labor Rights.
The remarkable thing about the forum was the clear commitment of both hosts and panelists to pursue labor struggles with an eye not just to improvement,but to economic and social transformation. Bissel stated at one point, "Corporate responsibility is a term we have to get out of our vocabulary. It's a trick. Not only is there no such thing,there can be no such thing. It is inconsistent with the nature of corporations. And when you look behind the supposedly immutable and divine laws of globalization, you will always find the gun."
Muhammed emphasized the problems with over-reliance on policy makers to "fix" problems for workers. "We are learning that we can't wait for public policy changes to organize unions. In fact, we can't effectively challenge public policies without first building unions."
Saavedra began by saying, with regard to Latino farm workers in North Carolina, "I have a house. I have a car. I speak English. My family lives with me. And I feel isolated. How isolated, then, must the workers in the camps feel?" Describing the work camps, she said, "Our workers don't have supervisors. They have owners. They own people's lives, their homes, their families, their food, and their access to the outside world. But 28 percent of North Carolina's revenues are from agribusiness. Ninety-seven percent of the workers who pick and process are now Latino. We have this huge strength, but we don't know it yet. Because the owners have taken their tenancy rights, they can prevent the workers from seeing anyone, especially organizers."
One particular point of agreement among the panelists was the damage to workers being done by free trade agreements, and particularly the danger posed by the Multilateral Agreement on Investment [a sort of secret, steroid-pumped global NAFTA], which stands to erode workers' rights, environmental protections, and national sovereignty. "Every local initiative we take on behalf of workers could be nullified by MAI," said Bissel.
|from Four Fronts!!!!, newsletter of the Communist Party of North Carolina, Issue 5, April 1998. For more info contact CPNC, PO Box 671, Carrboro, NC 27510-0671, or e-mail to <email@example.com>|
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