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Trade unions

A relic of a bygone era – or a billion-strong social movement fighting for workers’ rights everywhere? The reality of trade unionism today falls somewhere in between. In the Western world, union-busting laws, globalization and internal conflicts have left many trade unions reeling. In some countries of the Global South, trade unionists face discrimination, danger and even death. Meanwhile, workers’ rights are being sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed gone mad: zero-contract hours, sub-contracting, privatization, outsourcing and special economic zones are all part of a ‘race to the bottom’ being run by transnationals concerned only about their profits.
Yet all is not lost. From Colombia to China, Bangladesh to Barcelona, workers are still fighting for their rights – and, sometimes, winning. This issue, New Internationalist looks at the state of the unions, how they need to adapt to the new reality for workers in the 21st century, and why they are more important than ever.

September 2016, Issue 495

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From the magazine

Each month we publish some of the best stories from New Internationalist magazine.

  • Still standing or standing still?

    Still standing or standing still?

    Jo Lateu considers the state of the unions, and argues that a revival has already begun.

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  • Trade unions – the facts

    Trade unions – the facts

    From the changing workplace to zero-hours contracts, precarious working and outsourcing: workers are open to extreme exploitation. Here are the facts.

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  • It's heating up: 'Unions can play a vital role in the battle for climate justice'

    It's heating up: 'Unions can play a vital role in the battle for climate justice'

    Danny Chivers talks to Anabella Rosemberg of the International Trade Union Confederation about putting climate change on the labour movement’s agenda.

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  • A migrant’s story

    A migrant’s story

    Trade unions aren’t even on the radar of most of London’s poorly treated hospitality workers. But a union could help them find their voice, as Afrika explains.

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  • Taking matters into their own hands

    Taking matters into their own hands

    Labour rights in post-socialist countries such as Russia, China and Vietnam are being fought for from outside, not within, official trade unions. Tim Pringle reports.

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  • Out of the ashes of Rana Plaza

    Out of the ashes of Rana Plaza

    The factory collapse in 2013 caused an international outcry – but have labour conditions improved? Thulsi Narayanasamy reports from Bangladesh.

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  • The fight goes on: Workers’ struggles and successes from around the globe

    The fight goes on: Workers’ struggles and successes from around the globe

    Around the world, trade unions are facing fierce repression. But workers are still uniting to stand up for their rights and, in some cases, winning, from this month's New Internationalist magazine.

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  • #VetsVsHate – and Trump

    #VetsVsHate – and Trump

    The latest view from the US, by Mark Engler.

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  • A long road to reconciliation

    A long road to reconciliation

    Seven years after the end of the civil war, Jo Eckersley and Ashwin Hemmathagama assess Sri Lanka’s progress.

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  • How not to build peace: what's been missing from the UN process

    How not to build peace: what's been missing from the UN process

    UN peacekeeping is big business, but is it achieving its aims? asks Louisa Waugh.

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  • Welcoming the digital residents

    Welcoming the digital residents

    Estonia has found an innovative way to boost its population and its economy, discovers Haley Joelle Ott.

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  • As Donald Trump and Brexit show, progress is not inevitable

    As Donald Trump and Brexit show, progress is not inevitable

    Comedian Kate Smurthwaite's monthly magazine column.

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  • Big Bad World

    Polyp's monthly cartoon.

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  • Mixed Media: Books

    Mixed Media: Books

    Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy by Ece Temelkuran; The Seamstress and the Wind by César Aira; Remembering Akbar by Behrooz Ghamari; Irregular War by Paul Rogers.

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  • Mixed Media: Films

    Mixed Media: Films

    The Lovers and the Despot, directed and written by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan; The Confession, directed by Ashish Ghadiali.

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  • Mixed Media: Music

    Mixed Media: Music

    NYN by Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis; ‘They Will Kill You, If You Cry’ by Khmer Rouge Survivors.

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  • Country Profile: Uganda

    Country Profile: Uganda

    Oh noes! Someone forgot to add a teaser OR a description to this story. Better fix that.

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  • Worldbeaters: Avigdor Lieberman

    Worldbeaters: Avigdor Lieberman

    Israel’s defence minister is a political chameleon and lightning rod for controversy, among other things.

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  • Beirut, my city

    Beirut, my city

    Green shoots of hope spring up among the rubble of discontent, writes Reem Haddad.

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  • Making Waves: Sakena Yacoobi

    Making Waves: Sakena Yacoobi

    Veronique Mistiaen meets Afghanistan’s ‘mother of education’, who for more than two decades has been transforming lives through community-based learning.

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  • And finally... Jay Griffiths

    And finally... Jay Griffiths

    Author Jay Griffiths talks to Graeme Green about manic depression, hiking the Camino de Santiago and the constellation of language.

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For over 40 years our multi-award winning, independent magazine has been shining a light on the unjust power relations between rich and poor. Learn more »

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