Labor on board in G-20 planning
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Three major organized labor groups, including the United Steelworkers, have signed on to the business-dominated committee organized around the forthcoming G-20 summit.
The agreement by the USW, whose president spoke at an April protest against the G-20 meeting in London, was among details announced at a news conference yesterday announcing the formation of the G-20 Partnership. The partnership will be an umbrella organization for the local segment of the forthcoming economic summit scheduled for late September.
Also signing on were the Allegheny County Labor Council of the AFL-CIO and the Pittsburgh Building Trades Council.
The move delighted organizers and surprised and angered some of the groups organizing against the international economic summit scheduled for Pittsburgh in late September.
Organized labor has been a strong critic of current international economic policies, and USW President Leo Gerard was among the speakers who criticized the G-20 and its policies when the group met in London in April.
"They have a message about globalization they're going to deliver I'm sure in a peaceful way, but they also believe this is an important event for Pittsburgh and they wanted to send a message that labor-management relations in the Pittsburgh region are good," said Dennis Yablonski, CEO of the Allegheny Conference for Community Development, one of the organizers of the G-20 Partnership.
Mr. Gerard's own message about globalization -- the expansion of manufacturing and shifting of capital from nation to nation, often eluding labor and environmental laws in more developed nations -- has been unflinching. Last night, he said the union's seat at the G-20 Partnership table would not change the USW's stance on globalization.
"In light of that kind of havoc the financial industry brought to the economy, I think labor ought to have an opportunity to talk to the principals. We're gonna fight and have our voices heard and rally and demonstrate and ask to speak to the principals about the global economy, the financiers that have run roughshod over the global economy and created this mess," Mr. Gerard said.
He said he was approached by organizers and asked to help promote the region in light of the meeting and agreed.
"I want to be available as a labor person to people who want to think about putting jobs in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh," he said.
Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council, said his group hopes to promote the city and the region but said that members of the various unions represented by the council still take a dim view of current international economic policy forwarded by the G-20.
"That would be what we would be against -- no question about it. Again, they were invited by somebody to the city and certainly you know we want it to be a success in the city. Still that doesn't mean they won't hear what we have to say," Mr. Shea said.
David Meieran, a veteran organizer and one of those involved with organizing the mobilization against the G-20 meeting, last night criticized the unions' decision to join the partnership. He noted that organized labor played a large role a decade earlier in protests against the World Trade Organization when it gathered in Seattle.
"I can't second-guess their reasoning but, 10 years ago in the United States we all came together to confront the WTO and eventually the WTO was rendered an ineffective institution," Mr. Meieran said. "Minor adjustments to free trade policies are not going to cut it. Market-based solutions to climate change are not going to lead to sustainable lifestyles. Personally, I'm not going to be welcoming the G-20 with open arms."
Organizers of the G-20 Partnership yesterday said they have no illusions about Mr. Gerard or Mr. Shea signing on with the overall G-20 policies.
The partnership also said yesterday that it was just shy of its $500,000 fundraising goal to build facilities to handle visitors and tell the Pittsburgh story.
Among the largest donors are Alcoa, Bayer Corp., BNY Mellon and PNC Corp.
Along with Alcoa, Bayer, PNC and BNY Mellon, other major underwriters include Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, PPG Industries, K&L Gates, Eaton Corp., United States Steel, Westinghouse Electric and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Foundations giving money included the Alcoa Foundation, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Colcom Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, Grable Foundation, the Hillman Foundation and the Pittsburgh Foundation.
First Published July 1, 2009 12:00 am