The head of an 82-million member international union federation called on 1199ers to take part in an International Action Day on October 3 on behalf of working people around the world.
George Mavrikos, general secretary of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and a member of the Greek Parliament, spoke at a July 23 evening reception in solidarity with Greek workers at 1199SEIU’s Manhattan headquarters.
The WFTU, based in Athens, has affiliates in 120 countries that represent 82 million workers. Its Public Sector Workers Division, which includes healthcare workers, has 1.5 million members and is headed by a South African unionist.
“We must work together,” said Mavrikos, “because the problems of the Third World are increasingly the problems of the First World.” Mavrikos said that globalization and the world financial system has increased “the need for unions across the globe to cooperate and coordinate activities.”
Mavrikos spoke about the economic crisis in his own country. “We are also fighting against the dominance of organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and international banks,” he said. He stressed that the official unemployment rate in Greece is 22 percent and that the real rate is at least 28 percent.
“Our youth and women are the most affected,” Mavrikos said. “The unemployment rate for our young people is 50 percent.” Not only is joblessness very high, In the last two years, the minimum wage in Greece has been lowered by about 30 percent, Mavrikos noted.
Mavrikos mentioned that last week WFTU expressed solidarity with Utility Workers Local 1-2, whose members have been locked out by Con Edison management in New York City. “WFTU affiliates around the world, especially in Greece, have personally witnessed the barbaric actions of employers seeking to impose their own view of the world,” the statement read.
“Our international day of action on Oct. 3 will focus on the right of workers and all people to food, water, medicine, books and housing.” Mavrikos said. “All members and friends of WFTU are encouraged to organize actions in their countries.”
Mavrikos also fielded questions and comments from the roomful of participants. The reception was organized by 1199SEIU and Workers United SEIU. 1199SEIU Executive VP Estela Vazquez chaired the proceedings and Secretary Treasurer Maria Castaneda welcomed Mavrikos on behalf of 1199SEIU.