Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams is in New York for the eighth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).
Last night Mr Adams attended the Heads of State reception. Afterward he spoke at an event organised by the Irish Echo to celebrate and honour the work of Irish Americans within the trade union movement.
The Sinn Féin leader described the CGI as an “exceptional and pioneering initiative by President Clinton which has raised billions of dollars and created hundreds of unique health, education, economic and business partnerships that have helped almost 400 million people in the developing world”.
Today the CGI will be addressed by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and later by US President Barack Obama.
Speaking at the Irish Echo event last night Gerry Adams said:
“The Irish in America, as well as elsewhere around the world - in Canada, in Britain and Australia - have played a significant role in building the trade union movement.
“The importance of and the role of trade unions in defending the rights of working people cannot be overstated. This is especially true at this time when in the midst of a world-wide economic recession there are those arguing for strategies and policies that are about cutting wages and sacking and undermining workers’ rights and protections.
“These conservative and right wing elements see the recession as an opportunity to increase profits irrespective of the social and human cost.
“The trade union movement has to be in the frontline battling that strategy.
“Every day trade unionists confront and combat inequality.
“Every day anti-union laws are advocated.
“Every day trade unionists strategise and plan and campaign to ensure their members have decent health care and insurance; safe working conditions; decent wages and security from exploitation.
“Today in many places there are laws defining and protecting workers rights.
“But there is still a battle to be won in many parts of the world to introduce legislative protections for workers.
“Everywhere workers’ rights have to be constantly defended.
“That is the primary role of the trade union movement.”