|ONLINE VERSION||MAY 2000|
|For a Fair World Economy|
Last fall in Seattle, union workers, environmentalists and other concerned citizens challenged the power of the World Trade Organization to make the rules for the world's economy. In April, the people spoke again as working families and their unions came together with thousands of others for a series of actions to spread the message that the global economy should support people, not profits.
On April 2 through 7, a U.S. delegation led by AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney met in South Africa to discuss global reform with union leaders from around the world at the 17th World Congress of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. The ICFTU represents 125 million working people from 145 countries around the globe.
On April 9, trade unionists from across the country joined students, people of faith and human rights activists for the Jubilee 2000/USA rally and formed a human chain to call on Congress to cancel the crushing debt of the world's poorest countries, which locks their citizens in poverty and erodes living standards and workers' and human rights everywhere.
Trade unionists increased support for Jubilee 2000 stemmed from a meeting in mid-February of AFL-CIO Executive Council leaders, including BMWE President Mac A. Fleming. "We can no longer allow multinational companies to scavenge the world for cheaper and cheaper sources of labor, pitting workers against workers in a cruel contest to increase profits," said the leaders in a policy statement. The AFL-CIO leaders also asserted their support for "deep debt relief" for those countries committed to democratic reforms and core economic rights and pledged to work with the religious and development coalition, Jubilee 2000.
On April 12, more than 10,000 working men and women lobbied their members of Congress to demand "No Blank Check for China!" and urge Congress to refuse to grant China permanent Normal Trade Relations status, discarding annual reviews of that country's trade and human rights practices. Participants rallied outside the Capitol prior to hitting the halls of Congress.
Lobbying efforts continued during the April congressional recess, as unions and their allies sponsored numerous rallies and other events in the districts of members of Congress to speak out against permanent NTR for China.
Negotiations to bring China into the World Trade Organization (or GATT as it was then known) began in 1983. Last year the Clinton administration reached a deal to bring China into the WTO without requiring China to abide by internationally recognized worker rights.
The proposed entry of China to the WTO could increase our trade deficit with China to over $100 billion by 2002 and lead to the loss of an additional 600,000 U.S. jobs said United Auto Workers President Stephen P. Yokich, citing a study by the Economic Policy Institute. "Every time our government negotiates an agreement that is suppose to open global markets, we wind up with increased imports, decreased exports, and lost jobs for American workers," he said.
On April 16 and 17, the people spoke out again, this time to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. These are the powerful institutions that write the rules that keep the world safe for the multinational corporations, supported by our tax dollars.
The World Bank and IMF make it easier for corporations to ship our jobs overseas and around the world. These are the international financial organizations that force developing nations to yield to multinational corporations to trample on people's rights and allow their natural resources to be ravaged.
Every country - including the United States - has had to borrow money to finance economic development. Poor governments have had to borrow close to $250 billion from rich nations and international financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, as well as big banking corporations, in an often vain attempt to fund the building blocks of sustainable economic development like hospitals, schools and roads.
Tragically, the conditions the World Bank and the IMF attach to the loans they give to developing countries have halted their growth and locked them into a cycle of poverty. These conditions - called Structural Adjustment Programs or SAPs - actually require some of the world's poorest nations to reduce spending for social programs, liberalize trade and investment laws, cut real wages, eliminate job security provisions and privatize public enterprises, leading to massive job loss. As a result of these misguided policies, the developing countries cannot afford to pay back their debts.
The crippling burden of debt prevents many developing countries from meeting their citizens' basic needs and investing in building their economies. For example, in 1996, the government of Mozambique spent twice as much money paying off its international debt as it spent on health and education. Yet one out of four children in Mozambique dies before reaching the age of five due to infectious disease. In Uganda, the government spent only $3 per person on health care while spending $17 per person repaying its debt. Yet one in five Ugandan children dies of a preventable disease before reaching the age of five.
In the massive rally held in Washington, DC on April 16, the people demanded a say in the future of our jobs, our nation, our world. They called for an end to all U.S. support for the World Bank and IMF unless they act to establish strong international labor rights standards, recognize a nation's right to control its own development and stop imposing austerity plans and privatization on developing nations.
You can help right now in the effort to gain a fair world economy by contacting your Congressmen and telling them not to support permanent NTR for China and to end their support for the World Bank and IMF unless they act in accordance with the principles called for on April 16.