UNI Global Union General Secretary Christy Hoffman makes the case in Fortune that the International Labour Organization should clarify that U.S.-style union busting is a violation of its core labor conventions which protect the freedom of association and the right to bargain.
And as international standards are increasingly becoming part of the fabric of global governance, U.S. employers have moved away from lobbying their government against the ratification of ILO conventions, which would prohibit them from campaigning against unions. Instead, they seek to warp these standards to make the U.S. model a global one. Hoffman writes:
Today, employers have shifted their argument. They want not only to protect employer interference in the U.S. but also to normalize this as a global practice. Now, U.S. employers don’t hesitate to sign on to global principles such as those of the UN Global Compact, which obligate them to respect international rules. However, the employers argue that their union-busting practices are consistent with the ILO standards because “free speech” overrides “non-interference,” employees’ right to choose or not to have a union without pressure one way or the other from an employer. By doing so, corporations claim to have an internationally sanctioned right to harangue their employees almost without limit–and even to lie to them about the “dangers” of unions.
Hoffman’s call for action comes after a group of U.S. unions – the AFL-CIO, SEIU and Workers United – filed a complaint arguing that U.S. labour law does not protect workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Citing several unlawful, anti-union actions at Starbucks, the complaint requests an “on-the-spot mission” to interview that company’s management, workers, union staffers and government officials.
She says that the ILO’s recognition of these violations would not change U.S. law, but it would “send a message to companies that they can’t hide behind the United Nations and the ILO to justify their union-busting tactics.”