June 6, 2013
By Vince Piscopo
In memoriam Marcello Malentacchi, a devoted and combative trade unionist who rose from the factory floor to lead the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) for two decades, died of natural causes May 23 while cycling in Italy. He was 66.
Malentacchi was IMF general secretary from 1989 to 2009. In that position, he promoted global solidarity and pushed social justice issues during decades of exceptional changes in the world economy and politics.
“Marcello Malentacchi could always be counted on to stand up for workers, whether in sweatshops in Third World nations, in factories in Europe or helping unorganized auto workers in the United States,” UAW President Bob King said. “His support through the IMF for organized and unorganized workers throughout the world was critical to those who faced intimidation and threats from many companies.
Marcello set an exceptional example not only as a trade unionist, but also as a leader who firmly believed in social justice for all. We’ve lost a true fighter and friend of working people everywhere.”
Marcello, the son of an agricultural laborer, was born in 1947 in Grosseto, Italy. At the age of 17, he moved to Sweden and began working at the Volvo Torslanda auto assembly plant in Gothenburg in 1965 and soon began a 40-year career of advancing the interests of workers. He was appointed to the IMF in 1981 to work with health and safety matters. The IMF merged with other unions in 2012 to form IndustriALL Global Union, which represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors.
Malentacchi addressed the UAW’s 34th Constitutional Convention in 2006:
"Your union has a long and proud tradition of involvement in the international labor community,” he told delegates. “It is a tradition based on the universal ideal that the fight for economic and social justice cannot be limited to one nation or one people, and it cannot be achieved without international solidarity."
Malentacchi also pledged support for the UAW’s organizing activities during a meeting of the World Auto Congress in Detroit in 2008:
"International solidarity between workers is even more important in this age of globalization," Malentacchi said. "The IMF wants to assist the UAW in organizing auto workers in all operations of overseas transnational companies that manufacture in the U.S."
Some of today’s exceptional global solidarity for unorganized auto workers in the United States who want a union has been achieved in part a result of Malentacchi’s earlier efforts, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams said.
“Global solidarity isn’t a slogan, and Marcello knew this,” Williams said. “In a global economy, it only makes sense for unions across the globe to have strong ties. Marcello understood that multinational corporations will pit workers from around the globe against each other into a never-ending race to the bottom. He was a wise and visionary leader and his counsel will truly be missed.”