OTTAWA — The United Steelworkers union is taking steps to form and be part of the world´s biggest union with two United Kingdom-based labor organizations.
The USW, along with the Amicus and Transportation & General Workers unions, signed an accord April 18 in Ottawa, setting up a merger exploration committee tasked with laying down a foundation for a legal merger within one year. The exploration process could result in a "super-union" representing more than 3.4 million members in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Ireland, and the first trans-Atlantic trade organization, the Pittsburgh-based Steelworkers union said.
The new union would be expected to attract other union organizations throughout the world into membership, the USW said.
Workers in the new century need a trans-Atlantic union to "tame the exploitation of global corporations, international banks and world trade organizations," said USW International Pres- ident Leo W. Gerard.
"The time for global unionism has arrived," he said. "We need cross-border organizing strategies to protect workers against the mobility of capital that knows no borders. Workers want their unions to develop labor contracts that encompass global employers. We must meet the challenge and defend human rights standards for all."
Amicus and the T&GWU will join together as one London-based union-to be called Unite-after May 1. Amicus and the USW entered a strategic alliance two years ago.
During the exploration process, according to the "Ottawa Accord," the unions will engage in coordinated campaigning and common approaches to collective bargaining with multinational companies, the USW said.
There also will be a regular exchange among senior officers every quarter to monitor and develop areas of joint work and find ways to integrate programs to enhance the understanding and culture of the unions. The unions will engage in regular participation in each other´s educational and political conferences and activities as well, the accord said.
The organizations said they "are committed to investigating ways in which cooperation and collaboration between our two organizations can be deepened and strengthened. Combining the political and industrial strength of our two unions will achieve greater success for our members than standing apart."
The USW´s most recent merger was in 2005 with the Nashville, Tenn.-based Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union. The Steelworkers union has been a participant in nine additional mergers in its 71-year history, including joining with the United Rubber Workers in 1995.
In the 1990s, the Steelworkers union engaged in merger discussions with the United Auto Workers and International Association of Machinists to form a labor organization with more than 2 million North American members, but an agreement never materialized.
The USW currently represents about 850,000 members in the U.S. and Canada, of which about 70,000-mostly former URW members-are rubber and plastics industry workers.