Global Labor Orgs Strategize To Counter Right-Wing Populism

Above Photo: Photo: “We are workers, not criminals” was a theme at the Chicago May 1, 2006, immigrant and labor rights march. (swanksalot/CC/Flickr)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the first convening of its kind, global labor leaders from Europe, the U.S. and Canada met today in Washington, D.C. to discuss the international rise of right-wing populist movements and share best practices for engaging working people against the threat of an anti-worker Right agenda.

Hosted by the AFL-CIO, Working America and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the day-long forum – “Labor, Politics and the Threat from the Right: A Trans-Atlantic Discussion” – brought together union leaders, academics and activists to discuss the role of organized labor in countering the global rise of the radical Right and ensuring that workers’ voices are heard through a progressive counter-narrative. Representatives from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S. convened to discuss innovative strategies for countering the appeal of right-wing rhetoric amongst the global working class.

“Too many politicians in the U.S. and Europe are exploiting our differences and inciting hate and division. Income inequality is a global problem that should unite all leaders; it should not give rise to right wing extremism and building walls. We must come together to focus on common issues like raising wages and creating good jobs.  Political tactics that scapegoat hardworking immigrants and refugees only serve to pit workers against one another, while ignoring the corporate excess that created these problems,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“Working people everywhere are standing up against this hateful discourse to demand policy proposals that will empower and unite working families,” added Trumka.

Even before Donald Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee, his candidacy was legitimizing a hard-right agenda among working-class voters, similar to the reemergence of right-wing political parties throughout Europe like France’s National Front or the UK Independence Party. International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan BurrowEuropean Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Luca Visentini and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler were among the delegation of leaders gathered to better understand the growing threat of hard-right populist movements and how their rhetoric exploits communities struggling with austerity, economic stagnation, lack of jobs and mass migration.

“Trust in government is broken in too many countries around the world where one in two working families have lost their jobs or have reduced working hours,” said Burrow. “The fear and desperation of working people has been created by a global economic model that is based on corporate greed is simply inequality by design.

“Conversations in communities and workplaces on issues of critical concern for workers and their families are central to building workplace democracies which underpin our economy and society and counter the anxiety for a secure future,”Burrow added.

“In the current political climate, global labor leaders recognize the need to share our unique experiences and effective ways to talk with our members and neighbors about working family issues,” said Working America Executive Director Karen Nussbaum. “Authentic engagement — a trusted messenger offering real solutions and a viable path to change — is a critical, scalable tactic to use against the divisive right-wing politics of scapegoating.”

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The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is a democratic, voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions that work every day to improve the lives of 12.5 million working people. For more information, visit www.AFLCIO.org.

Working America is the three-million member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO. We reach out working class people about the economic issues and policies that affect their families and communities, offering a way into civic engagement and ongoing communication. For more information, visit www.WorkingAmerica.org.

Established in 1925, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is an independent political foundation associated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and Germany’s oldest organization to promote democracy and political education. Through its projects in over 100 countries, the FES supports building and strengthening civil society and public institutions. For more information, visit www.FES.de.