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"Free Speech and Freedom of Association: Finding the Balance" - paper by Intl. Trade Union Confederation critiques defence of US-style anti-union campaigns by employer groups

In June 2013, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) issued a position paper: Free Speech and Freedom of Association: Finding the Balance.  It states, "The fundamental right to freedom of association guarantees that workers are able to form and join trade unions free from any interference from employers and governments...[The] International Organisation of Employers (IOE) is now attempting to undermine that principle by arguing, in the name of freedom of expression, that anti-union campaigns meant to discourage workers from forming or joining a union are consistent with international standards...[and] that anti-union campaigns may be an obligation of employers....[The] IOE relies heavily on...a 2010 decision by the ILO...concerning Delta Airlines’ campaign to encourage workers to 'shred' their union election ballots."  The paper also includes a case study regarding Deutsche Telekom's subsidiary T-Mobile USA.

The document by the International Organisation of Employers to which the ITUC position paper is responding is: "A Response by the International Organisation of Employers to the Human Rights Watch Report - 'A Strange Case: Violations of Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States by European Multinational Corporations'", 1 May 2011.

We have invited the IOE to respond to the ITUC paper.  It has indicated that it will send a response, which we will post here.

We invited Delta Air Lines and Deutsche Telekom to respond to the ITUC paper:

Delta Air Lines sent the following documents in response:
"Observations...to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association...in response to the complaint...by the Association of Flight Attendants [and other unions]" [PDF], US Council for Intl. Business and Delta Air Lines, 25 Jan 2010
"Response of Delta Air Lines, Inc. to AFA's Supplemental Motion for Board Determination of Carrier Interference" [PDF], before US National Mediation Board, Delta Air Lines, 20 Jun 2008

Deutsche Telekom response [DOC]

US Council for Intl. Business also sent the following documents:
Letter to Intl. Organisation of Employers re compatibility of freedom of expression & freedom of association [PDF], Karen Curtis, Deputy Director of Intl. Labour Standards Department, Intl. Labour Office 12 Jul 2010
Letter to UN Global Compact re ILO statements on freedom of association & freedom of expression [PDF], Antonio Peñalosa, Secretary-General, Intl. Organisation of Employers 27 Sep 2010

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Company response
15 July 2013

Deutsche Telekom response

Author: Deutsche Telekom

Deutsche Telekom is a global leader in corporate social responsibility and takes its responsibilities very seriously…The Communication Workers of America (CWA), as well as its international affiliates, have engaged in a long-standing global campaign to discredit Deutsche Telekom and its U.S. affiliate, T-Mobile US…In the United States, whether or not to affiliate with a trade union is a decision that belongs exclusively to the employee…The national law in the United States allows both employers and unions to communicate with workers their standpoints and arguments so they can make an informed decision. The trade unions behind the ITUC report disagree with these principles of national law, preferring that workers hear only the union’s position…Ultimately, Deutsche Telekom understands and respectfully disagrees with the ITUC’s position that US law does not comply with international labor standards...

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Article
1 July 2013

ITUC paper "Free Speech and Freedom of Associatio: Finding the Balance" - responses [by companies & business organizations]

Author: compiled by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

We have invited the IOE [Intl. Organisation of Employers] to respond to the ITUC paper. It has indicated that it will send a response, which we will post here. We invited Delta Air Lines and Deutsche Telekom to respond to the ITUC paper: Delta Air Lines sent the following documents in response...Deutsche Telekom response [provided]...US Council for Intl. Business also sent the following documents: Letter...[to IOE from ILO Standards Department] re compatibility of freedom of expression & freedom of association...; Letter [from IOE] to UN Global Compact re ILO statements on freedom of association & freedom of expression...

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Article
1 June 2013

[PDF] Free Speech and Freedom of Association: Finding the Balance - A Position Paper

Author: Intl. Trade Union Confederation

[Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Delta Air Lines and Deutsche Telekom to respond to this paper; see responses below.] The fundamental right to freedom of association guarantees that workers are able to form and join trade unions free from any interference from employers and governments...[The] International Organisation of Employers (IOE) is now attempting to undermine that principle by arguing, in the name of freedom of expression, that anti-union campaigns meant to discourage workers from forming or joining a union are consistent with international standards...[and] that anti-union campaigns may be an obligation of employers...[The] IOE relies heavily on a contorted interpretation of a 2010 decision by the ILO...concerning Delta Airlines’ campaign to encourage workers to “shred” their union election ballots...[The] IOE had previously conceded that U.S.-style anti-union campaigns violate the right to freedom of association as established by the ILO. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) recognizes that employers and workers have a right to express themselves; however,...[the] limit must be drawn...[at] interference with the right to association...[V]itriolic anti-union campaigns...by U.S.-based employers cross that line...[Labour] laws like those found in the U.S. are outliers...permitting anti-union speech that is illegal (and unthinkable) elsewhere... [Includes case study on Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile (part of Deutsche Telekom). Also refers to Littler Mendelson, Pelephone (part of Bezeq)]

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Article
2 September 2010

A Strange Case: Violations of Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States by European Multinational Corporations

Author: Human Rights Watch

Europe-based companies that proclaim their adherence to international labor law and standards that are embodied in their home countries' domestic laws, and largely complied with, too often fail to live up to such commitments when they begin or take over operations in the United States, where the law is less protective of workers' freedom of association...Human Rights Watch invited all companies mentioned in the report to present their position on events recounted in the case studies. [refers to Deutsche Telekom, DHL (part of Deutsche Post), G4S, Gamma Holding, Kongsberg, Saint-Gobain, Sodexo, T-Mobile (part of Deutsche Telekom), Tesco, Robert Bosch, Siemens, Wackenhut (part of G4S)]

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