First international labor union in the works

Coal miners rest in the compound of a mine in Bottrop, western Germany.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: Speaking of labor unions, two of the world's biggest are talking about merging. Stephen Beard joins us from London with more on this. Stephen?

STEPHEN BEARD: This is a proposed merger between Britain's largest union called Unite with the United Steel Workers with members in the U.S. and Canada. This would create a labor union giant with 3.2 million members. Between them they represent a vast swath of industries: manufacturing, transport, farming, construction, finance, health care, the world's first international union.

JAGOW: Why are they doing this?

BEARD: Well they're doing it because, they argue, that in this new globalized world multinational companies are able to shift jobs from one country to another. The unions have to have an international presence and they argue that by coming together, these two huge unions will be able to pool resources, run joint campaigns and generally flex their muscle on the world stage.

JAGOW: What kind of leverage do they hope to have?

BEARD: Well not international strike action. That would be illegal. But just to give you an example of some of the cross-border activity that's been going on here in Europe recently, we had a British union which has hooked up with the famous Polish union Solidarity to recruit and organize Polish immigrant workers in the U.K. who, the British union feel, are being exploited here in the U.K.

JAGOW: OK Stephen, thank you.

BEARD: OK Scott.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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