ITF Points Out Importance of U.S. Labor

Seafarers Log, February 2011

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), an association of nearly 800 transportation labor organizations from all over the globe including the SIU, conducted a meeting at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19.


The meeting, attended by SIU President Michael Sacco and Secretary- Treasurer David Heindel (who is also chairman of the Seafarers’ Section of the ITF), was called in order to encourage dialogue and action between the ITF and its American affiliated organizations.


ITF General Secretary David Cockroft and President Paddy Crumlin were both on hand to extend their thanks to North American affiliated unions, with the SIU being recognized specifically for their contributions to the international labor movement.


Cockroft emphasized the ITF Flag-of- Convenience campaign, which he called “an extraordinarily important campaign in protecting the rights of workers.” That campaign, casting a light on the dangerous, illegal, and anti-worker practices of some flag-of-convenience or runaway flag ship operators, has been spearheaded by the federation for decades. (During the ITF’s quadrennial Congress last year in Mexico City, the federation updated its FOC campaign strategies. At that time, the ITF pointed out that in addition to its 62-year struggle against runaway flags through the use of port inspectors, dockers and other international union officials, the federation also collectively bargains with many FOC shipowners directly through the International Bargaining Forum. Already, the ITF has approximately 9,000 FOC ships under contract – up from 2,000 a mere decade ago.)


Cockroft introduced the agenda as being centered on finding ways of strengthening the bonds between the ITF and its affiliates around the world.


Crumlin, who also heads the Maritime Union of Australia, agreed, stating, “We cannot have a strong international movement without a strong labor movement in North America.”


Members of various labor organizations in the U.S. and abroad presented their views on some of the challenges facing the international labor movement. One of the recurring themes was the attack on public services and employees, both here and abroad.


With these problems acknowledged, the members discussed strategies to improve communication between international affiliates and ways to increase solidarity between different regions, as well as creating more collective support within different industries and trades.


Some of these strategies include upgrading the ITF website and expanding the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as conducting more meetings using web based conferencing tools like Skype.


Ultimately, the meeting served as a reminder that the ITF is committed to providing support to workers all over the world. The international labor movement is continuing to move forward, but relies heavily on the SIU and other American affiliates for support.

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