On May 7, 2017, IUPAT General President Ken Rigmaiden, Job Corps National Project Coordinator Andrew Larson and District Council 82 Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer Terry Nelson traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend the meetings of the World Congress of the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI). BWI is a consortium of international labor unions dedicated to the organizing and skills training of workers worldwide in the fight for decent pay, working conditions and job safety, particularly in the construction industry.
General President Rigmaiden and the rest of the IUPAT delegation were guests of BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson at the United Nations Complex in Geneva. During the meetings, a wide range of topics were discussed where labor leaders from around the world shared their successes and the challenges they are facing in the industry. One thing became quickly apparent shortly into the meeting; “Many of the challenges our union counterparts face in that part of the world are the same the IUPAT faces in North America,” Rigmaiden told the Journal. “The construction industry here and abroad is increasingly being controlled by multi-national corporations that are “buying up” contractors in markets worldwide. Union workers and organizations are under attack on every continent, in many cases by these same conglomerates.”
In recognition of these same threats to the interests and livelihoods of our members, and of the importance in sharing real-time information with the international labor community to combat them, the IUPAT is in discussions to join the North American Council of BWI, alongside other North America Building Trades Unions and AFL-CIO affiliates such as LIUNA, SMART, Teamsters, Ironworkers, and the IAM and USW.
After the Geneva meetings concluded, General President Rigmaiden and the rest of the IUPAT guests accompanied President Mikael Johansson of Svenska Malareforbundet (Swedish Painters Union), President Johan Lindholm and Christer Walivaara of BYGGNADS (Nordic Building Trades Union) to Stockholm, Sweden. There, they attended a series of meetings to discuss working cooperatively on issues such as apprenticeship and journey worker skills upgrading and organizing.
While BYGGNADS is a large, multi-craft union, the Malareforbundet, like the IUPAT, is a comparatively smaller union that fights beyond its weight class and is considered highly influential and well-respected because of its political action, quality training and robust organizing strategies.
President Johansson took the IUPAT team on a tour of the Byggtekniska Gymnasium, a hands-on multi-craft pre-apprenticeship training facility funded by the Stockholm school district. Program enrollment is open to all those interested in careers in the building and manufacturing industries, as well as high school students ages 15 and older.
As the corporate world becomes more global, so must the IUPAT and the rest of the labor movement. Look for IUPAT delegations to make more of these trips overseas to meet with your union brothers and sisters in the years to come.