Photo Credit: Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS
By: Damian Barquin, 3L
United States President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced a historic Partnership for Workers’ Rights last month at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The initiative sets to deepen the strong labor ties between the two nations. It promises to address five urgent challenges to safeguarding workers’ rights, including ending worker exploitation, forced labor, and child labor; fostering safe and decent work by increasing accountability in public and private investments; championing a worker-centric clean energy transition; ensuring technology and digital transitions to benefit workers; tackling workplace discrimination, particularly for women, LGTBQI+, and marginalized racial and ethnic groups.
“The two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere are standing up for human rights around the world and the hemisphere, and that includes workers’ rights,” Biden told Lula. Biden said the U.S.-Brazil Partnership for Workers’ Rights will start as a bilateral initiative, but other nations and organizations were welcome to join.
Lula, warning that democracies aourn the world were under threat, said it was critical to shore up workers’ rights and said the new initiative would help “arouse hope” for working families while deepening ties between the two countries. “It’s more than just another bilateral. It’s a faith relationship that we are building here and a new era for U.S.-Brazilian relations amongst equal partners,” he said, adding, “poverty and inequality is not in the interest of anybody.”
“There’s no democracy without strong trade unions,” Lula added at the launch event, expressing his admiration for Biden’s strong support for organized labor.
At the launch event, Biden cited a recent U.S. Treasury report that showed the importance of unionization and how it improved economic outcomes. The full report is available here for review. The announcement of this international partnership comes amid a domestic summer of strikes, which includes protesting Hollywood writers and actors and the United Auto Workers Union, which went on strike last month. “Let me be clear, whether it’s the autoworkers union or any other union worker, record corporation profits should mean record contracts for union workers,” Biden said at a separate event launching the new initiative.
This partnership championing worker’s rights at home and abroad throughout the Americas represents a watershed change from the United States’ historic practice, especially during the Cold War, of employing U.S. agencies and private institutions to develop a variety of mechanisms aimed at controlling and manipulating Latin American labor. Furthermore, even though the two-largest nations in the Western Hemisphere may not always agree on everything–especially as it pertains to foreign policy vis-a-vis U.S. rivals Russia and China– this announced partnership has not been the first time the two presidents have met in person and professed the two nation’s shared values. When Lula visited Biden at the White House in February, both leaders pledged to accelerate measures to protect the Amazon, and discussed ways to fight for and advance democratic values.