Sep 20, 2023 - World

Biden and Brazil's Lula announce new partnership to strengthen workers' rights

Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, wearing a black coat, smiles as he shakes hands with President Biden, who is in a navy blue suit and sunglasses. They are outside the White House.

President Biden welcomes Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the White House on Feb. 10. Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday announced a new initiative with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva focused on workers' rights.

Driving the news: The two leaders met in New York Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Details: The goal of the initiative is to end worker exploitation, including child labor; tackle workplace discrimination, particularly for women and members of LGBTQ+ communities; address the clean energy transition as it relates to jobs; and address other relevant issues, according to senior Biden administration officials who briefed reporters.

  • The two countries will do that by placing workers' rights at the center of discussions in multilateral forums, including the International Labor Organization, the G20, and the COP30 climate summit, which Brazil will host in 2025, Lula said on social media.
  • The initiative also seeks "to engage private-sector partners in innovative approaches to create decent jobs in key production chains, combat discrimination in the workplace and promote diversity," Brazil's government said in a statement, per Reuters.
  • The Biden administration noted they hope to expand the initiative to include more countries down the road.

Context: Both presidents have been vocal supporters of workers' rights.

  • Biden has called himself the most pro-union president in U.S. history, while Lula, a founding member of the Workers' Party, launched his political career in the 1970s as a union president who later led a massive campaign for better pay.

What they're saying: "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 on Wednesday.

  • "When the middle does well, everybody does well," Biden added. "Working-class folks have a chance to move up. And the wealthy still do fine, as long as they pay their taxes."

Lula called their partnership "a golden moment" for the two countries.

  • "This gesture we are doing here is an awakening of hope for millions and millions of Brazilians and Americans who need to have the opportunity to live life, to triumph, to work and build their family decently," Lula said, referring to the workers' right initiative.

The big picture: The announcement comes amid a U.S. summer of strikes, which includes protesting Hollywood writers and actors and the United Auto Workers Union, which went on strike last week.

  • The historic UAW strikes, in particular, have put Biden in a tough spot.
  • Although Biden expressed support for the auto workers, he's also heavily pushing for widespread electric vehicle adoption, which the workers fear will mean fewer union jobs making engines and transmissions, Axios' Joann Muller writes.
  • That's one reason the UAW has withheld an endorsement for the 2024 presidential election, Muller adds.

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