The Global Power Trade Union (GPTU) held its 6th Congress in Washington, D.C., United States from 6 to 9 October 2019, hosted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, under the banner of Global Perspectives and Global Objectives. More than 70 representatives from trade unions representing workers in the electrical industry including BWI affiliates such as the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, the Danish Union of Electricians, and UNITE the Union, participated in a series of discussions with the goal of “striving to be more inclusive and complete.”
The Congress was opened by IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson who emphasized the important role the GTPU plays in enabling electrical unions to cooperation and network globally.
This was further echoed by Jorgen Juul Rasmussen, President of the Dansk El-Forbund of Denmark and Chair of the GPTU Organising Committee, who reiterated the goal of the founding leaders of the GPTU in providing a platform for representatives of electrical workers to meet as a network, noting that electrical workers are a small percentage of construction workforce and more importantly, electrical worker face specific demands and risks in comparison other construction trades.
Gail Cartmail, Deputy President of BWI and Assistant Secretary to Unite the Union of the United Kingdom, addressed the Congress in the first session entitled, “Global Political Actions.” Cartmail’s intervention underpinned the need for global solidarity to fight back against attacks on trade unions and to build union power nationally and globally. She stated, “Global solidarity must be genuine and not out of self-interest for our own unions. This is the only way we can build a strong, vibrant, and inclusive global trade union moment that can be utilized for global political actions.”
Other panel discussions addressed a number of topics that are pivotal to electrical trade unions such as pensions and global infrastructure investment opportunities, jobsite innovation, safety and health training, opioids and substance abuse in the workplace, and organizing through social media and non-traditional means.
At the closing of the Congress, young leaders and representatives presented the outcomes and recommendations from a side-meeting they conducted during the Congress. Inspired by their input, Gail Cartmail proposed that at the next GTPU Congress, there should be thematic workshops organized by women and youth in order for the organization to be more inclusive and complete. The proposal was adopted unanimously.
The next GPTU Congress will be held in July 2020 in Ireland in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Irish Republic and the Irish independent trade union movement. The participants also agreed to reach out to other unions so that at the next Congress would be an even more complete.