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About the GLI
Mission Statement

What it is

The Global Labour Institute (GLI) is a foundation constituted under Swiss law and based in Geneva.

Its purpose is to promote international solidarity among trade union organizations and between these and other organizations and movements of civil society with the objective of achieving a democratic and sustainable world society, based on the principles of social justice, freedom and the rule of law.

The GLI is a service organization to the labour movement. It is guided by the values and principles of democratic socialism.

The GLI Geneva is part of the GLI International Network which includes GLI Manchester, Cornell GLI New York and GLI Moscow (Center Praxis). The following MIssionStatement has been adopted by the GLI International Network.

The challenge

The globalization of the world economy, as it has developed over the past twenty years, is creating a globally integrated borderless economy where finance capital and transnational corporate power increasingly dictate their terms to national governments and parliaments, political parties and national trade union organizations, that is, to all instruments of democratic control that function at national level.

The principal social consequence of the globalizing world economy, the emergence of a global labour market, is heavily influenced by State violence in its different forms, one major function of the State that has not declined. In this way, the lowest common denominator of the global labour market is kept artificially low, at near slave labour levels, which in turn means that the terms of world competition become incompatible in time with the survival of a democratic political order responsive to basic human needs.

Before this new situation in history, the labour movement has to learn to play by new rules - not those which applied within the framework of the nation-state where it traditionally exercised its influence. It has to learn to think and act globally. It has to marshall all its resources, dispersed as they are among a multitude of organizations and institutions, to focus on a single, overriding goal: to tilt the global power balance in its favour.

The GLI will be a facilitator and a catalyst in this process. Its close connections with the international labour movement, as well as its independent position, will enable it to help connect what is disconnected, to help unite what is disunited, to help organize what is disorganized. Its frame of reference is the international democratic culture and the methods of representative democracy that have evolved historically in the labour movement and which make it the only democratically organized force in civil society.

The issues

Globalization in its present form has cast old issues of social and political struggles in a new context and has exacerbated human suffering on an unprecedented scale. World society is again facing barbarism, in defiance of the universal values around which the post-war consensus had been built. The struggles to resolve these issues are interlinked and are all facets of a single struggle and of a single issue: what kind of society we will all live in twenty years’ time.

Power: in two decades, transnational corporations have enormously increased their power at the expense of the nation-state. International trade agreements and economic and social policies, including massive privatizations and structural adjustment programs, imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions on governments who are not in a position to refuse the terms they are given, are transferring authority from democratically accountable governments to TNCs which are accountable only to their shareholders. A virtual world government has come into existence, backed by a consensus of the conservative governments of the leading states who control most of the world’s economic, political and military power and, ultimately, by transnational corporate power. This de facto world government is not subject to any form of democratic control or accountability. The democratic accountability of international capital and the democratization of global governance is the central issue of the 21st century.

Money: neo-liberal policies deliberately and provocatively pursued by conservative governments have polarized society. Wealth created by labour is systematically redistributed to the benefit of the rich and to the detriment of the poor. Not since the early days of the century have social inequalities been so crass. Low-wage employment and insecure employment is spreading through casualization, outsourcing and subcontracting, temporary and part-time jobs. Even employment no longer provides protection against poverty and, as unemployment grows, so does an already vast informal sector where workers are rightless and unprotected.

Exploitation and oppression: on the eve of the second millenium, child labour is widespread as never before, sweatshops are back where they had been banished by successful union struggles of the past, millions of rightless workers are moving through continents in search of economic - and sometimes physical - survival, dictatorships hold entire peoples in bondage. The struggle against exploitation and oppression is closely linked to the struggle for human and democratic rights and requires alliances between trade unions, human rights movements and single issue movements defending indigenous peoples and other religious, national or cultural minorities.

Industrial democracy: even in countries where democracy prevails, it generally stops at the work place. Authoritarian work place relationships and structures are held in place by fear of losing one’s job to the vast and growing mass of the unemployed. Where workers have gained a measure of influence on their work and on its purpose, these gains are under attack as so many “rigidities” to be abolished in the name of competition. Unions must demonstrate that democracy is indivisible, and that industrial democracy is not principally an industrial, but a democratic issue, at enterprise and at global level.

Human Rights: for the labour movement, the fight for human and democratic rights is not only a moral obligation but a fundamental class issue. The issue is to broaden this fight beyond basic trade union rights such as freedom of association and expression and the right to strike, including the right to strike in solidarity, to achieve, in alliance with other progressive forces, the democratization of the world and to defeat politically the present bastions of forced labour and reaction.

Equality: despite gains in consciousness and impressive struggles, women have been the principal victims of deregulation, casualisation and social darwinism. They constitute a majority of the unemployed, the agricultural workers, the migrant domestic workers. They are among the victims of the most brutal and destructive forms of exploitation. Justice for women, and equality on the job and in society, requires not only alliances between unions and the women’s movements, but the feminization of the trade union movement: the massive influx of women workers into unions, all the way to leadership levels. Only by changing this aspect of its inherited culture can the trade union movement become fully representative and gain the power to carry out its mandate.

Ecology: no effective global response to the destruction of the environment has yet been found. Local struggles have been partially successful. Legislation at national level is often regarded by transnational corporations as an obstacle to profits and a reason to relocate production to countries where such protective legislation does not exist. A comprehensive global policy to protect the environment requires the emergence of an alternative global world order which requires the joint efforts of trade unions, political parties and environmental activists.

War: although the Cold War has ended and the power blocs that conducted it have largely disintegrated, many countries in Africa, Asia and Europe are ravaged by war and military conflict threatens in others where an uneasy peace still prevails. The leading powers are indifferent to wars that do not directly threaten their interests. Exclusionary and extremist nationalism, religious fanaticism, new and old forms of fascism, are on the rise. They are the mortal enemies of the labour movement which must become the driving force of a democratic alliance against right-wing extremism and war.

The tasks

The GLI will act at several levels:

History: “those who cut off their roots cannot grow”. The GLI will strengthen the identity of the labour movement and its sense of mission by rescuing labour history from oblivion and making it available to the movement as an organizing tool through all available media. It will undertake historical research and publications in partnership with ITSs and other labour organizations and will give special attention to efforts aimed at restoring the historical memory of the labour movement in countries where it has been severely repressed, such as, for example, the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the successor states of the USSR.

Program: the beginnings for a program for a new democratic world order exist: for example, various proposals for a social clause in international trade and social charters, or for the taxation of international flows of capital. There also exists a critical analysis of the present capitalist “new world order” in the form of a number of books and articles. There does not exist, however, a coherent program with proposals that would present internally consistent alternatives at various levels (economic, social, political, cultural, ecological, etc.) representing, as a whole, a global alternative. This work remains to be done. The GLI will contribute to developing a program for an alternative society in cooperation with institutions and movements where such work is already taking place, by word or by deed. This program will emerge from discussions with a wide range of organizations and institutions not excluding the social counterparts (selected companies and employers) prepared to cooperate with the labour movement and other partners to secure a democratic and sustainable world society.

Organization: although it is clear that the present structures of the labour movement, particularly at international level, are not adequate to meet the challenges of globalization, it is far from clear in what direction they need to be changed. An effective response to globalization requires stronger, rather than weaker, international trade union organizations. The globalization of the world economy requires putting into place a global system of industrial relations, building on existing agreemens between ITSs and TNCs.Within the global labour movement, the relationship of trade unions to political parties and to politics is being reconsidered. The organization of the informal sector represents a formidable challenge. The GLI will provide a forum where these issues can be studied and discussed without necessarily involving organizations in direct commitments.

Alliances: depending on the issues, the GLI will seek to facilitate alliances and networks between trade unions and potential partners in civil society, such as organizations focusing on human rights, education, women’s rights, environmental protection, social movements of the rural dispossessed and of the urban informal sector, progressive student movements, community organizations, consumers’ associations and others.

The means

Education: the GLI will identify educational needs and conduct educational activities in partnership with international trade union organizations. As soon as resources permit, it will organize a summer school for the international trade union movement. Other projects under consideration are: the establishment of an International Labour University; youth camps/seminars; an international trade union lending library; exploring the potential of information technology for trade unions.

Research: the GLI will conduct research into a variety of issues consistent with the tasks described above.

Publications: The GLI will publish brochures or other publications, on its own or under contract and in partnership with other labour organizations, including education materials, short histories for popular audiences, studies and reports on specific issues.

Meetings: the GLI will organize different meetings (small informal meetings, seminars, conferences) consistent with the tasks described above.

Networking: the GLI will connect to institutions with similar or closely related activities to develop opportunities for synergy; it will become part of a network (or contribute to creating one where necessary) of trade unionists, authors, journalists and political activists working on the same issues; it will participate in trade union initiatives consistent with its objectives. The purpose of this activity would be to contribute to a collective effort to develop a program of action to meet the economic, social and poltical objectives of the labour movement and of its allies.


The GLI shall be financed by regular contributions, by donations, by subsidies paid by public authorities or institutions, by the income generated by the services provided by its staff to third parties, by sales of its publications and by income from its assets.

Its governing body, the Foundation Board, will decide which sources of income shall be accepted and how the available funds shall be used.

Foundation Board

The members of the Foundation Board, which may include up to thirteen members and meets at least once a year, are: Alana Dave, Education Officer, ITF; Romain Felli, researcher; Dan Gallin, Chair; Joëlle Kuntz, journalist; Ron Oswald, IUF General Secretary; Karin Pape, WIEGO European Regional Consultant; Vasco Pedrina, Vice President, BWI; David Spooner, Co-Director, GLI Manchester: Sean Sweeney, Director, Cornell GLI; Rebekka Wyler, Municipal Counsellor, Swiss Social-Democratic Party, Zurich (District 3), Member of UNIA and a representative of Center Praxis (to be designated).


Global Labour Institute
Avenue du Cardinal Mermillod 18
CH-1227 Carouge, Geneva
tel/fax: (+4122) 344 63 63
e-mail: gli@bluewin.ch

September 2013