US trade union on China visit

By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-19 08:58

A delegation of leaders from a major US trade union federation arrived in Shanghai on Friday at the invitation of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

The delegation from Change to Win, which represents more than 600 million workers, will also visit Beijing and Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province on an eight-day friendly visit.

The delegation will meet with workers in factories and other work sites to learn about their conditions.

It will also meet academics, activists, and leaders from labor networks, NGOs, large multinationals and government organizations.

A symposium to discuss collective negotiations organized by trade unions in the two countries will be held during the delegation's visit to Beijing.

"We warmly welcome our American counterparts and will actively communicate with them to find common ground," said Li Jingfang, an official with the federation.

"The visit will improve and develop relationships between China and US trade union organizations as well as the Sino-US relationship."

Li said it is the first time a US national trade union federation has visited China.

She said the two sides are expected to set up an exchange mechanism after the visit.

Change to Win is one of two major national trade union organizations in the US. The other, AFL-CIO had so far avoided contact with the federation, Li said.

Xu Zhenhuan, vice-chairman of the federation, will head a delegation to pay a return visit to the US later in the year, she said.

James Hoffa, a delegate and Chair of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said dialogue between China and US trade unions are of great importance.

"You can never ignore a nation of 1.3 billion people," he said.

"We expect to have a frank interchange and talk with our Chinese counterparts on issues such as how we can respectively improve the living standards of our member workers."

Hoffa said Change to Win unions share common employers with millions of Chinese workers throughout the service, transportation and industrial sectors, like the United Parcel Service Inc (UPS).

Change to Win, founded in July 2005, is made up of seven partner unions separate from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

They are: International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Laborers' International Union of North America, Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, United Farm Workers of America, and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

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