03.- Old times Trade Unions parallel social economy

posted Mar 5, 2012, 8:13 AM by Desperado PEREZ   [ updated Jul 20, 2014, 4:16 AM ]
Historically, the original trade unions organized much more than conditions of employment collective bargaining. They provided a range of benefits to insure members against unemployment, ill health, old age and funeral expenses, professional training, legal advice and representation. They even provided housing through housing cooperatives [1] [2] [3].

Much of all this has been absorbed by the modern welfare state.

The unions role has been narrowed to collective bargaining, increasingly a bargaining at global level with the employers’ associations, and further at political level within the stable social dialogue bodies, a part of the global state governance institutions (see the European Economic and Social Committee [4] thus becoming not quite parties, with decreasing affiliation at the enterprises, and Unions Staff increasingly seen as belonging to the privileged class of paid politicians.

At the current financial crisis it is all these social benefits absorbed by the modern welfare state the ones under the first and strongest assault to pay the state debt.

The alternative economy islands would need to redo the work that was done two centuries ago. And never give it back to anybody that is not the democratic governance mechanisms invented and used to create them. 

In particular, it should not be the Unions to lead the process. Unions focus is by definition labour "market". We need to put into the economy all the resources employed, included the external environmental costs, but also all the social contributions to the general well being. To start with, housekeeping labour should be paid, although not through market. To continue with, the voluntary works on community goods and community services. The red cross volunteer, the social volunteer, the NGO collaborator, the basket ball trainer, the Halloween organizers, the charity works, should all be paid. 

Therefore, the labour situation in the Fractional Reserve Banking world enterprises is not the right observation angle, and therefore the Unions have not the right point of view to take the lead. Our kingdom does not belong to the Fractional Reserve Banking economy world, and our ultimate goal is not to get a job at this economy. 

Having said that, there are movements, like the GLOBAL LABOR INSTITUTE [5], that have the purpose to support the efforts of the labour movement to deal with the globalization of the world economy and its social and political consequences and, to this end, to strengthen links and networks between trade unions and other civil society organizations with similar or converging interests, particularly in the defense of human and democratic rights and social justice in all its aspects. 

Program: the beginnings for a program for a new democratic world order exist: for example, various proposals for a social clause in international trade and social charters, or for the taxation of international flows of capital. There also exists a critical analysis of the present capitalist “new world order” in the form of a number of books and articles. There does not exist, however, a coherent program with proposals that would present internally consistent alternatives at various levels (economic, social, political, cultural, ecological, etc.) representing, as a whole, a global alternative. This work remains to be done. The GLI will contribute to developing a program for an alternative society in cooperation with institutions and movements where such work is already taking place, by word or by deed. This program will emerge from discussions with a wide range of organizations and institutions not excluding the social counterparts (selected companies and employers) prepared to cooperate with the labour movement and other partners to secure a democratic and sustainable world society.

Alliances: depending on the issues, the GLI will seek to facilitate alliances and networks between trade unions and potential partners in civil society, such as organizations focusing on human rights, education, women’s rights, environmental protection, social movements of the rural dispossessed and of the urban informal sector, progressive student movements, community organizations, consumers’ associations and others.

These links deserve to be reinforced at all levels. 

[1] International Institute of Social History (IISH) http://socialhistory.org/en
[2] International Association of Labour History Institutions (IALHI) http://www.ialhi.org/ 
[3] Revolutionary History (UK) http://www.revolutionaryhistory.co.uk/
[4] EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE http://www.eesc.europa.eu/
[5] The Global Labour Institute http://www.globallabour.info/en/