WASHINGTON DC (E24) The challenges are in line for US trade union leader Liz Shuler. – There are large gaps in American legislation that do not give workers security, says Jonas Gahr Støre.
- Camilla Svennæs Bergland
– Absolutely. The trade union model in Norway is actually something we all work towards in the USA, says Liz Shuler in cash.
A picture of the King and Queen is one of the first things that meets Shuler when she enters the large corridor where Norway’s first female ambassador to the United States, Anniken Krutnes, is based in the United States capital.
Shuler heads the AFL-CIO, the largest union of unions in the United States, which consists of 56 unions and has a total of more than 12 million members.
In comparison, Norway’s largest main association of workers, LO, has around 960,000 members.
– There is a strong collaboration between the authorities, companies and unions that work together to solve major economic challenges that workers face, Shuler says when she explains why she looks to Norway in particular.
In connection with Støre’s visit to the USA this week, Shuler has been invited to the embassy residence for a closed meeting with the Prime Minister.
– Everyone must learn from each other all the time, says Støre and refers to how he thinks Haakon Lie in his time learned a lot from watching American car workers organize.
The meeting agenda included a green transition and the social policy consequences of the pandemic.
During the pandemic, millions of Americans have quit their jobs, and companies have struggled to find employees. In November 2021 alone, 4.5 million quit their jobs.
One of the explanations that has been put forward is that The trade union movement in the United States has been weak for so many years, and that workers have grown tired of lack of rights and low wages – and that they are now taking action themselves.
– There was a political change with Ronald Reagan who wanted to crush the trade union movement, and they have succeeded to a large extent. We now see the result. There are very many with vulnerable jobs, a lot of part-time work, individual contracts and few rights, says Støre.
The arguments against trade unionism in the United States are often that the individual company gets less freedom by workers organizing, and that this inhibits potential growth.
The same arguments are often used when it comes to raising the minimum wage – as President Joe Biden has long wanted to do.
On Sunday, however, Biden’s promise to raise salaries for government employees came into effect.
The minimum wage for government employees thus increases $ 15 an hour. (134 kroner at today’s exchange rate), but applies to only 370,000 employees.
“Included and heard”
Støre believes that the United States now has a president who sees the benefit of a strong trade union movement.
– Biden mentions the trade union movement with recognition and respect, and sends signals that they should be included and heard.
In 2020, just over ten percent of American workers were members of a trade union – much lower than Norway and other European countries. But despite this, the popularity of trade union movements has increased.
In March, E24 was able to tell the story of Darryl Richardson (52) from Alabama who started a historic battle against the billionaire company Amazon.
“People do not dare go to the toilet because they are afraid of being fired,” he said at the time.
On his own initiative, he and a small group of employees went in to organize.
The initiative was described as the most important in American working life for decades.
The union champions lost the first round, but the fight is still going on.
This week could Washington Post, which is otherwise owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, report allegations against Amazon where employees are alleged to have been monitored and threatened in an attempt to organize. Amazon, for its part, claims the allegations are false.
– There are large gaps in American legislation that do not provide workers with security, says Støre.
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Shuler is in no doubt about what her main priorities are in the future:
– We want to ensure that there are good quality jobs in the US and that companies put the interests of workers first.
Although she believes they have something to learn from Norway, Støre admits that it is still a job to do at home – and draws parallels to the USA where some people are reimbursed for health expenses via their employer.
– You and I do not negotiate with the employer about this, but they do in the US.
– In Norway, we have seen a development that growth in private health insurance, and in some places it becomes part of the employment relationship, and I think that is a very worrying development feature – because then there are some in the labor market who get to be at the forefront.
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