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Sunday, February 1, 2015

‘New Magna Carta’ needed, advocate said to Davos

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Jan. 29, 30 or 31

As leaders of business and labor, government and non-government groups met last week in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, the main topics were concerns about Greece’s election and its effect on the Eurozone, transnational crime, China’s apparent slowdown, extremism, Africa’s growth, scientific progress, Ebola, climate change, and the consequences of globalization and income inequality.

Elsewhere last week, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset its Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight, a symbolic point when global disaster could occur.

“In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity,” according to a statement of the group, which has gauged threats to the planet since 1947. “World leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.”

Whether nukes, climate change or income inequality, today’s crises aren’t just around the world. They’re around the corner, too.

At the annual meeting of the World Economic forum, Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said it’s imperative that world leaders accept realities documented in various reports that point to “fault lines” opening up, from jobs to inequality to falling trust in political institutions, and a new Magna Carta is needed to address today’s urgent needs.

“Oxfam, the International Labor Organization, and the World Economic Forum have brought out a mountain of new evidence that the jobs crisis will continue to deepen as inequality rises,” Jennings said. “We are living in a world transformed by the insatiable greed of the 1% and the failure of governments to act on the concerns of people.”

Income inequality concerns of Illinoisans mirror the rest of the world, according to journalist Marcia Frellick.

“Illinois is among the states with the most pronounced divide,” she reported. “The average income of Illinoisans in the top 1 percent is 24.5 times greater than the average income of the remaining 99 percent.”

Indeed, according to, Illinois’ average weekly wage has fallen 1.1 percent since 2007.

In Davos, some 1,500 business leaders from more than 20 industries and 100+ countries, more than 40 heads of state, 300 members of government and dozens of academics, including 14 Nobel Laureates, participated.

‘Keeping Calm and Carrying On’ is no answer to the urgency and anxiety of the times,” said Jennings, whose labor group has achieved 53 global pacts with multinational companies; a breakthrough program called Freedom from Fear with Colombian unions, employers and government; a contract, the Bangladesh Accord, protecting garment workers there, and even a coordinated campaign at Walmart, Earth’s biggest retailer.

“The labor movement has constructive solutions to offer,” he continued, “ – a future built on a living wage, decent jobs and collective bargaining where workers have a seat at the table.”

“At UNI we call it ‘Including You,’ at Oxfam they say ‘Even It Up’,” Jennings said. “It amounts to the same thing: growth geared to social inclusion, a fair share of profits, young people given training and job guarantees, quality jobs and a living wage.

“This year we will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, a cornerstone of modern democracy,” he continued. “We should not forget that democracy has been hard won and we should not let it leak away by continuing down the path of inequality for the benefit of a handful of multi-billionaires.”

We need a new ‘Including You’ Magna Carta to address the urgency of our times,” Jenning said, “– a Magna Carta for equality, jobs and sustainable growth. ‘We the people’ have spoken and Davos must act.

[PICTURED: Moment from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."]

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