Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and a top Brazilian labor leader inked an agreement today in Washington that will allow unions in the U.S. and Brazil to better work together and advocate for one another. The deal builds on informal efforts to join across national borders to build union strength in an increasingly global marketplace.
Hoffa signed the “solidarity agreement” on behalf of the Change to Win (CtW) coalition. He said the deal between CtW and the 8 million member UGT (União Geral dos Trabalhadores) union confederation in Brazil would pay dividends when it comes to creating global campaigns and union networks to increase worker rights at multinational corporations. UGT has already staged walkouts at Walmart and Nissan to support U.S. workers in their fight against the companies for fairer wages. Workers at both companies are unionized in Brazil.
“We are under attack here in the United States,” Hoffa said. “We say there is a war on workers because of the people here who want to take away everything we have fought for. This is a constant war. This is a battle that goes on everywhere. So that is why we have to form these alliances.”
Ricardo Patah, UGT’s president, said through an interpreter it is important for the labor movement to join across borders to present more of a united front against corporate greed and worker mistreatment:
“In the last 50 years, the world especially economically speaking has been following a very important path,” Patah said. “Workers’ activities are much more guided toward the market. It is a much more commercial relationship. And now it is up to world unions and federations to care for the people and their well-being.”
Patah said he expects the agreement to be especially helpful as more Brazilian companies, like meat distributors, move into the U.S. market. He also said UGT is hopeful it will be able to better advocate on behalf of the 1 million Brazilians living in this country. Hoffa, meanwhile, said unions here will be able to use their relationships with U.S. companies to help Brazilian workers who might work for those same companies in Brazil.
The agreement between CtW and UGT is the first of its kind for both labor federations. It includes language that says both sides will work together to improve techniques when it comes to organizing campaigns, membership recruitment, strategic communications and pension funds and workers’ capital.