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.