Blinken Visits Lula in Brasilia to Repair Relations – Alabama Mercedes Workers Close to Majority – UAW Commits $40 Million for Organizing in Next 2 Years

President Lula and U.S. Secretary of State Blinken meet in Brasilia today (AFP)


Greetings from Brazil, where US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has traveled to Brasilia in an attempt to mend fences with President Lula, a fierce critic of US foreign policy. 

Blinken Visits Lula in Brasilia in Bid to Repair Relations

Earlier today, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken traveled to Brasilia to meet with President Lula. 

Since taking office in January 2023, Lula has emerged as a fierce critic of US foreign policy. Lula has worked to organize other nations around a policy of “non-alignment” and independence from the pole of power in the Global North. 

Earlier this week, Lula was banned from traveling to Israel after he declared that Israel’s genocide against Palestinians was equivalent to what Hitler had done to the Jews. 

According to Globo’s Raquel Krähenbühl, Lula said he had a “good and honest” conversation about the situation in Gaza. Lula reinforced that he disagreed with the position of the US in Gaza and that the US needed to do more to protect women and children there. 

The two also discussed the upcoming G-20 summit, which will be hosted in Brazil in November. The chancellor of the European Union announced earlier today that Lula would be responsible for mediating many of the conflicts between nations at the G-20. 

Lula Nearly Expelled the Israeli Ambassador 

Earlier this week, multiple Brazilian outlets reported that Lula had expelled the Israeli Ambassador. Following the lead of various outlets, Payday also reported that Lula had expelled the Israeli Ambassador. (We later corrected the error). 

It has become more apparent why so many outlets got the story wrong. Folha de São Paulo reported today that the Lula Administration had heavily criticized the Israeli Ambassador and laid down the threat of expulsion if things did not improve but stopped short of doing so. 

News of Lula’s near expulsion apparently leaked to several reporters, who got the story wrong. We regret the error. 

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UAW to Pump $40 Million into Unionizing Auto and Battery Workers 

Earlier today, the UAW announced they would spend over $40 million over the next two years to unionize auto and electric battery workers, primarily in the anti-union U.S. South. 

“The major announcement comes on the heels of growing organizing momentum across the non-union auto sector, with workers at Volkswagen in Chattanooga announcing majority support for the union, and workers at Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama and at Mercedes in Vance, Alabama following closely on their heels,” the UAW said in a statement. “More than ten thousand autoworkers have already signed their union cards to join the UAW and fight for a better life at 14 non-union automakers from California to South Carolina.”

Mercedes Union Drive in Alabama Nearing Majority 

In Alabama, a decade-long effort to unionize at Mercedes is seeing new momentum following the “Stand Up” strike this fall. Now, the UAW says it’s close to having a majority of workers sign union cards at the plant. From The Montgomery Advertiser

Kimbrell said earlier union efforts sputtered in part because they weren’t “worker-led.” But it was difficult to persuade people that a union was needed. They got good pay, and the plant was a lot more comfortable than what many had experienced before. Kimbrell knew this well. He had been a roofer. Working at Mercedes meant not climbing to the top of a building in all kinds of weather.

“Compared to the jobs in the area, it was a better job, better atmosphere, cleaner, climate-controlled, and they at least made you feel like you were appreciated,” he said.

But with the stalled pay and benefits, he said, the ground seems more fertile for a union. UAW’s successful strike against the Big Three Detroit automakers last fall gave Kimbrell new confidence in the union’s leadership.

“When the new administration came in with the UAW, we wanted to see if they would hold a harder line,” he said. “When we saw the contract we said ‘Man, (the union) got what they wanted to get.’”

For more, check out the Montgomery Advertiser. 

Teamsters Launch Drive to Organize 6,500 UPS Administrative Employees

Earlier this month UPS announced that they would lay off over 12,000 employees, but that the layoffs would affect non-union employees. 

Now over 6,500 non-union administrative UPS employees are organizing with the Teamsters under the terms of the current contract, which will force UPS to remain neutral in the union election and grant card check recognition. 

“The company cut our pensions. Part-time supervisors got raises and bonuses while we didn’t get anything,” Teresa Ater, a 28-year feeder administrator said in a press release. 

For more, check out the website of Teamsters for Democratic Union. 

An Inside Look at Why Indian Port Workers Are Refusing to Load Israeli Weapons 

Finally, the Water Transport Workers Federation of India is refusing to load weapons bound for Israel. The decision comes after several workers grew upset discovering that their work was helping the genocide in Gaza. From The Quint

Major exports from India to Israel include precious stones and metals, chemical products, textiles and textile articles, plants and vegetable products, and mineral products. However, private players in India also conduct business with Tel Aviv. Just a few days before the said union’s press release, several outlets reported that the Israeli army received 20 Indian-made Hermes 900 drones, manufactured in Hyderabad, which were used on the besieged Gaza strip.

However, the sale of medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs to Israel, a model similar to those used in the Israeli Defence Forces’ military campaign in Gaza, has not been publicly acknowledged by either Tel Aviv or New Delhi as of yet.

Requesting anonymity, a worker at Tamil Nadu’s Chennai Port spoke to The Quint and expressed a “growing animosity within port workers after they were informed that weapons transported by them to Israel are the cause behind thousands of deaths in Gaza.”

Speaking to The Quint, Commodore C Uday Bhaskar, Director at the Society for Policy Studies, said, “It is interesting to see how one particular demographic, i.e. organised workers, are speaking up the same way that South Africa decided to act on Israel’s action. If there is someone keeping the flickering flames of the Palestinian cause in this very moment, it is these port workers.”

For more, check out The Quint

Strikes & News Happening Elsewhere

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]