Former president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva addressed the opening ceremony of IndustriALL’s 2nd Congress in Rio de Janeiro.
IndustriALL Global Union 2nd Congress opened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 4 October 2016. In keeping with the Brazilian location, the opening ceremony was vibrant and colourful, with samba dancers, contemporary Latin and African-flavoured street dance, and drummers. It was a celebration of Brazilian culture, the strength and resilience of the labour movement, and the achievements of Lula’s government.
Born into poverty, Lula is a former metalworker who became president of Brazil. As a trade unionist, he lead a wave of strikes that shook the foundations of the military dictatorship. Lula has been subject to right wing attacks and trial by media in an attempt by his political opponents to use the legal system, and media outlets controlled by a rich elite, to turn back the clock on Brazil’s progress.
“My dear friends, delegates to the 2nd Congress of IndustriALL, welcome to our beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro.
“Welcome to Sharan Burrow and Guy Ryder, to the presidents of the unions, to the delegates from all over the world, and to the workers of planet Earth!
“I joined the labour movement in 1969 when I was 24. By 1972 I was a rank and file delegate. I became the president in of my chapter of the Brazilian metalworkers' union in 1975.
“In 1980, I was banned by the military regime, because of the strikes we organised.
“Why am I telling you this?
“Because the struggle goes on. And the struggle will go on for a long time, if we are not careful. But I say with pleasure and pride: another world is possible.
“When I attended the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, I delivered a speech saying that it was possible to end hunger, and to include the poor in the decision making process. I made the same speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“If they bailed out the poor the way they bailed out the bankers, we would be able to end world hunger! We spent US $14 trillion to bail out the financial system, and here we are. If this money was spent on productive investment to create jobs we'd be much better off. And imagine if we gave some of the military budget to the poor.
“If we invited workers to be part of the solution, I believe they would make much wiser decisions than many of the economists and PhDs who run the world.
“I have spoken to the leaders of many poor countries, especially in Africa, I have told them that this is possible. The poor need to be made a priority in national budgets.
“But you have to prepare yourselves because there is a lot of struggle ahead.
"We were making real progress in Brazil, creating good jobs, building a powerful, sustainable economy. But the coup by the right wing threatens to undo all of this.
“We need to take advantages of democratic spaces that are still open to us. We need to fight for the rights we have won, and demonstrate to the world that we can do things differently.”
Lula was met with a standing ovation from Congress delegates.
During his presidency, Lula’s government brought 30 million people out of poverty, reduced child labour, empowered women, raised the minimum wage, reduced unemployment, and provided social security – the Bolsa Familia. He achieved this while growing Brazil’s economy, and ensuring that the proceeds of this new wealth were fairly distributed.
Lula’s leadership has inspired unions across the world, particularly in other developing countries, where his model of state investment to improve the lives of ordinary people has underlined union demands to government.