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27 June 2019

TSD 2019: what agenda for the European and US trade unions after the European elections and in the current US political context

The political situation in Europe after the recent elections for European Parliament and the trade union agendas on both sides of the Atlantic were the main topics of this year’s Transatlantic Social Dialogue meeting, organised by the European Trade Union Institute, the Institute of Economic and Social Research of the Hans Böckler Foundation and the Worker Institute of Cornell University.

The Transatlantic Social Dialogue (TSD) is a series of annual meetings that bring together academic researchers and trade union leaders from the United States and Europe as well as the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). These meetings promote a better understanding of the partners' current research projects and needs and have resulted in important research partnerships between participants and other organisations.

The TSD 2019 took place in Brussels from 20 to 22 June. At the opening plenary high-level speakers from ETUC, AFL-CIO, DGB and the Socialists & Democrats Group in the European Parliament discussed the political situation in Europe after the elections. Luca Visentini, ETUC General Secretary welcomed the fact that the far-right and nationalist parties did not make the big break-through they were hoping for and that there is a large democratic majority in the European Parliament. In his view the European Parliament will have more influence on the decisions, and hence it would be crucial that it manages to restore faith in the European institutions, give working people their fair share of growth and take decisive action to combat climate change.

On the second day of the conference, the agenda of the trade unions in this changing political context was discussed. Per Hilmersson, ETUC Deputy General Secretary admitted being disappointed when reading the strategic agenda of the European Council presented the day before in Brussels, in which the social aspects have only been mentioned in the chapter about climate change. Philippe Pochet, the ETUI General Director, said in this respect that the trade unions have two options according to him – either they should have a renewed reflection on their position in a new social democracy with some shades of green, or, they could put the environmental concerns at the centre and embrace a new paradigm of sustainability. After the lunchbreak, the other Deputy General Secretary of the ETUC Esther Lynch, gave a presentation on social dialogue in the EU. Another issue discussed on the second day was European transnational companies in CEE countries and the U.S. with ETUI researchers Jan Drahokoupil and Jeremy Waddington among the speakers.

During the last day the participants exchanged their experiences on what lessons have been learned from union campaigns to secure good jobs, strong climate action and effective just transition. The session explored how unions on both sides of the Atlantic are addressing climate change and the need to transition to a low-carbon economy and society. According to ETUI senior researcher Béla Galgóczi just transition is all about `just burden sharing` and is the only way to achieve a zero-carbon society.

Related links: Worker Institute of Cornell University, Institute of Economic and Social Research of the Hans Böckler Foundation

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