Press Release

AFT and United Nations Staff Union Urge New UN Secretary-General To Support Workers and Their Labor Rights

For Release: 

Friday, October 7, 2016


Janet Bass

WASHINGTON—In a letter sent to Antonio Guterres of Portugal, who was elected today as secretary-general of the United Nations, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten noted his humanitarian work as the U.N. high commissioner for refugees and his support for Portuguese workers and their labor rights as prime minister of Portugal.

“During your tenure as the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, you have made significant contributions as a humanitarian, dealing with one of the great crises of our time, negotiating with countries and donors alike with exceptional skill and acumen. During your political career in Portugal, you were recognized for your support for Portuguese workers and their labor rights. Now, as secretary-general, we ask that you continue your leadership in support the U.N.’s own workers, treating them as true assets to the U.N.’s mission, not liabilities to be cut by shortsighted austerity measures or so-called political and economic reforms,” Weingarten said in the letter.

Separately, Barbara Tavora-Jainchill, president of the United Nations Staff Union, which represents 7,000 U.N. staff in New York, said, “We sincerely hope that Dr. Guterres will bring back to our organization the culture of treating staff members as valued workers who contribute to the success of the mission of the United Nations.” The United Nations has refused to guarantee collective bargaining rights for workers, who do not have a voice in their careers and retirement.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.