It’s not the multinationals but quiet, private equity groups.  They’re the most powerful wizards behind the green curtain.  They are more wealthier and powerful than the ‘top ten’ multinationals (read below) and they’ve been quietly buying up all kinds of companies and assets all over the world.  The socialist and union groups have been trying to show us this for a long time but their warnings got buried.


Workers Don’t Count in New Global Sector

Powerful new financial entities — especially private-equity funds — have moved massively into the global marketplace and “are subjecting workers to continuous [corporate] restructuring and constant employment instability.”  So says a report issued by a global union, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Union (IUF).

The report, co-authored by two IUF officials, throws light on what they call “a fundamentally changed [global] environment” that has attracted little notice outside financial circles, and that is not yet reflected in employment statistics.

In the new global environment, private equity funds are adding more and more corporations to their portfolios, and thereby creating this weirdity: hotels, restaurants, candy manufacturers, supermarkets, pay-TV firms, and countless other businesses, including those in manufacturing, are now owned by large financial entities that are not at all interested in those businesses, their customers, or their employees, except as chips they buy and sell in international financial markets.

Size and Power of These Giants Going Unrecognized

Despite their extensive control over manufacturing and service companies globally, these investment funds are not recognized as multinationals by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  If they were, “they would easily displace the top 10 corporations” on UNCTAD’s top 100 non-financial multinationals, the IUF’s Peter Rossman and Gerard Greenfield write, adding:

“General Electric, ranked first in UNCTAD’s list, controls less foreign assets and employs fewer workers overseas than either Blackstone, Carlyle Group, or Texas Pacific Group [three leading investment funds].”

Further, employment figures are also incomplete in national data, since statistical agencies still have no category for the relatively new financial institutions.   “Up to one-fifth of non-public sector workers in the United Kingdom, for example, are now employed in companies controlled by private-equity funds,” Rossman and Greenfield report.

Their study, “Financialization: New Routes To Profit, New Challenges for Trade Unions,” published recently in “Labour Education,” a quarterly of the ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities, is an initial step in analyzing this global phenomenon and its impact on workers and their unions. A section of the IUF Website, Buyout Watch, is devoted to specific cases of how investment funds buy up companies, strip them of much of their assets, fire workers, sometimes close down even profit-making firms, and otherwise carry corporate irresponsibility to new extremes.

In short, this revolutionary change is quietly transforming the leadership role of corporate executives.  They now must act less like managers and more like frantic traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The world’s trade and investment regime promotes this revolutionary change. To help reverse it, Congressional lawmakers must revise U.S. trade and investment policy, but first they will have to hold hearings to inform themselves and the public on what is going on.

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