Following the inauguration of Joe Biden as president, UE’s international allies have been reaching out to us to gain a better understanding of how his election will impact working people in the U.S. and around the world. UE received many thanks for sharing our initial analysis in written form in February. We subsequently received invitations to present our perspective because of our reputation as a union that is independent from the Democratic Party and has a clear understanding of working-class needs.
On March 21, UE Director of International Strategies Kari Thompson attended the virtual General Assembly of FIOM Bologna, along with other international guests — UNITE from the United Kingdom, CGT of France, and IG Metall from Germany. The meeting focused on how workers were impacted by their own governments’ response to the pandemic. FIOM also wanted an assessment of what trade unionists anticipate from the Biden administration.
On the day of the meeting, FIOM members and organizers participated in a strike and picket action at Amazon warehouses across Italy. Shortly after the meeting began, some of those members joined the meeting for a few minutes to share a report about the enthusiastic support on the picket lines.
Thompson shared remarks informed by General Executive Board statements, reflecting the optimism that public pressure has forced Biden to address workers’ priorities but also that UE members cannot afford to be complacent in our broader demands for better jobs and healthcare, the right to organize, and to address the climate and racial justice crises.
Valentina Orazzini, Head of the Europe Office for FIOM-CGIL National, closed the event by noting that in past pandemics, workers have been able to organize for improvements in their living and working conditions. She expressed hope that organized labor would be able to do so this time.
A few days later, Thompson attended a virtual event hosted by the CSN of Quebec, Canada. She was joined by Hannah Allison, a Kansas para-educator who is a member of the Communications Workers of America and in the national elected leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America, and Xaviar Lafrance, a professor of political science and a CSN member. The CSN also wanted to discuss the prospects for workers under the Biden administration and how working people are pushing back against right-wing politics. CSN members asked great questions to the panelists, including one that highlighted the need for trade unions to build coalitions to increase popular support for our goals.
On May 5, Thompson took part in an event organized by Helmut Scholz, a member of the European Union Parliament and its Left Caucus. On this virtual panel, entitled “100 Days of Joe Biden in Office: Assessing the Start,” she was joined by Austin Gonzalez, a member of the national elected leadership of DSA; Joe Dinkin, Campaigns Director at the Working Families Party; and Kendall Gilcrease, a university student who was a recent intern in Scholz’s office. All the panelists emphasized that it was progressive activism in the streets leading up to the election that has pushed Biden away from the corporate-friendly policies he has previously championed. Attendees at this event were curious about what would come from Biden’s foreign policy. Thompson noted that this is an area where Biden must be pushed to improve, or he will fall under the influence of warmongers in his cabinet.