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If a multinational U.S.-based corporation can violate basic labor and human rights in Turkey, it stands to reason that it will eventually try to do the same thing to its workers in the United States.
That’s why the UAW is so passionate about standing with workers around the globe.
“We shouldn’t think, ‘It can’t happen here,’” said Mark Haasis, a UAW Local 2488 member who traveled to Turkey in September to support United Parcel Service (UPS) workers there who face physical violence and intimidation as they try to organize.
At least 157 workers have been fired for pro-union activity at UPS facilities and at its subcontractors. Other U.S.-based unions supporting this effort include the Teamsters, Transportation Workers Union, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the International Longshoremen’s Association.
“It could happen here, so we should support our brothers and sisters around the world who are fighting the good fight now to demand decent wages and working conditions from these multinational corporations,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams.
Haasis, now assistant director of the UAW’s Agricultural Implement Department, went to Turkey at the request of President Bob King and Williams not only to lend our union’s moral support, but also to present a check to the Turkish union TUMTIS on behalf of the membership.
“We stand by the workers in Turkey who are fighting for the right to join a union without being fired or being intimidated by management or its subcontractors,” Williams said before a Sept. 1 global protest that included UAW-organized events in Detroit and Louisville, Ky. “We want UPS to take responsibility for this situation and to stop being complicit with the police in Turkey who are physically assaulting workers.”
Williams added that UAW members are proud to help other workers, no matter where they may be, win justice in the workplace. “UPS needs to wake up and make sure its workers are treated with dignity and fairness,” he said.
Haasis said it was inspiring to be there to show support for the courageous union members. “The TUMTIS union is very grassroots, democratic and militant,” Haasis said.
“I was able to spend several hours at each of the two UPS terminals that are being picketed, and also visited three of the workers’ homes to experience their living conditions, which are very poor. But the workers and their families have great dignity and warmth, and are very generous and hospitable to a visitor,” he added.
TUMTIS has submitted 136 lawsuits for workers’ reinstatement so far, and the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s inspectors have already found that eight workers were wrongfully dismissed. The remaining cases are under investigation.