By David Dyssegaard Kallick
What would be your advice to local organizers about how to take into consideration globalization?
Blocking or reversing the race to the bottom. That's one of the things that ties local struggles into broader issues.
So: you have to resist things that reduce standards. And you have to support efforts to promote high-road forms of economic development. which are inherently linked to the global economy because they are an attempt to reverse the race to the bottom.
High road econonomic development, living wage laws, union struggles against wage cuts, against speed-up, against low-wage subcontracting.
What's your approach to pursuing the "high road?"
[We have to be careful about this.] Things that pose or frame the issue of "high road" as essentialy one of competing - a better strategy for competing and getting the jobs to come to us instead of someone else. It inherently goes against the idea that we have to raise standards for everyone. But also, I don't think it works in the long run. That's the message of Bennett Harrison's book. You can provide a highly trained workforce, a good infrastructure, and so on, and as part of that package you demand decent wages and reasonable tax levels. [Pursuing a high road] is not a means to escape the race to the bottom [by saying] we're going to out-compete others, but we're going to do it in a high-road fashion.
Are there examples of this?
The most dramatic positive example I know about is in Quebec.
Cooperative Home Care Associates [in the South Bronx] is another example.
[CHCA is a positive example because not only did it raise wages and improve working conditions for its workers, and "compete" effectively. It also raised wages throughout the industry.] [A high-road approch] needs to be industry-wide - it needs to orient toward the labor market as a whole. [Otherwise, what happens is even if you win a "high road" struggle, you just take the jobs away from someone else.]
Being able to change the context of a whole idustry seems ideal. But even if you improve the jobs by out-competing a sweatshop and putting it out of business - doesn't this reverse the race to the bottom? It seems like the same process we see today in reverse.
In a long-term full employment economy that conceivable.
It is true, [too,] if you pursue it in a solidaristic fashion. It's Trade Unionism ABC. If trade unions in one plant of a company raise their wages, it's incumbent on them - and smart - if they also work to raise wages for other workers in the company. Otherwise the company will just shift the work.
I think it's futile to try to keep the work from going elsewhere. [The question is how to raise the standards everywhere.]
What about "No More Candy Store" and "clawback" efforts to get corporations to be accountable to the community?
To the extent there's public subsidy, the public benefit needs to be guaranteed.
[But] hand in hand [with that,] there needs to be anti-smokestack-chasing laws, anti-raiding laws.
Generally speaking, policies that reduce the tendency of companies to race around the world and to look at the place they have their facilities as a place to develop and invest in and make a long-term commitment to are by and large a good thing.
So it's important to "anchor" corporations in communities?
If all your program is is that we're going to get more of those jobs here, I don't think that's adequate. I think it has to be that we're going to improve jobs here and we're going to complain like hell about the IMF and US Treasury approach that's dismantling the education system in Mexico, and we're going to see that as part of our strategy here. I think there is a drive that is largely coordinated by the IMF that is driving down conditions and promoting the race to the bottom.
So you need to work on all fronts at once?
If you think about the civil rights movement, I obviously couldn't go to Alabama and Mississippi and write letters to the editor and organize a protest in my high school all at the same time. You can't relate to everything at the same time. But those activities were seen by their participants as part of the same movement. At critical moments they were able to support each other. They saw their work with common objectives. That's what we need to be able to do with people in Mexico, Taiwan, [and] anyplace else in the world.