I'm back (slightly jet-lagged) from Washington and preparing for a full day of meetings after just 30 minutes sleep on the overnight flight.
The Washington conference ended on a note of optimism with some concrete strategies emerging from the hours of discussion. The Global Unions Council meeting in Brussels in mid-January will now have to put flesh on those bones - but there was a genuine realisation we need to be working closer together across borders, pursuing companies wherever their activities may take them instead of limiting ourselves to just domestic campaigning.
One of the shocking facts to emerge at the conference is that collective bargaining coverage in the US is now down to just 12% and that the US is the only country in the world with an entire union-busting industry (even providing support to Chinese companies on how to bust unions) and that someone gets unlawfully sacked every 7 minutes in the US for organising a union. In that context it was good for the 150 or so of us from around the world to be able to join the AFL-CIO on Capitol Hill to lobby representatives. We were joined by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Ted Kennedy who both spoke enthusiastically in support of the Employee Free Choice Act - a move to provide union rights for workers in the US along similar lines to the recognition legislation in the UK.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi supporting the Employee Free Choice Act on Capitol Hill
Wednesday I met with reps from The Newspaper Guild (the US journalists' union) at the Washington Post. Management from The Guardian had been over there to get ideas from the Washington Post management so it was only right that I heard the union's view about developments at the titles. The issues are very similar to those faced by journalists at papers here. We agreed some concrete actions including greater sharing of information on terms and conditions.
With Washington Post union reps
I also met with one of the NUJ members working for The Guardian in their Washington bureau and with Debby Zabarenko, the Guild's rep at Reuters. We discussed the Reuters/Thomsons merger and the failure of the company to provide concrete information on the future shape of the operation and planned some joint activity for early in the new year.
Now I'm back and heading for a meeting with Thompsons, the union's solicitors.