Allen Hicks, national secretary of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, spoke Thursday afternoon about the common struggles and shared humanity between the ETU and the IBEW, and union brothers and sisters around the globe.

A leader of Australia’s Electrical Trades Union traveled halfway around the world to address IBEW members Thursday, but there was nothing distant in what he shared about the battles workers are waging Down Under.

Allen Hicks, national secretary of the ETU, told his North American audience of fights for jobs and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, for economic and political justice from an anti-worker federal government that Australians could oust next week, and other hot button issues such as the transition to clean energy.

Describing the ETU as one of Australia’s biggest unions, with more than 65,000 members, he said, “Though it may seem small in comparison to your strong brotherhood, we punch well above our weight.”

International President Lonnie R. Stephenson welcomed Hicks, saying, “ETU’s members represent the best of Australia’s electrical trades, and we couldn’t be prouder to call them our sisters and brothers.”

Both he and Hicks hailed a special exchange program between the Seventh District and the ETU that has sent more than 30 IBEW electricians to Australia and “welcomed just as many of our Australian siblings here to share ideas and best practices, and maybe a drink or two at the end of the workday,” Stephenson said.

Hicks painted a familiar picture of life over the past two-plus years for Australian workers. “We saw employers and governments try to do everything they could to erode the rights of working people, using the pandemic as an excuse to cut wages, deny entitlements and cut jobs,” he said.

But unions fought back and defeated many of the anti-worker attacks.

“In the middle of harsh lockdowns, we showed our government and our industries, how we could still go to work safely and mitigate the risks of catching or spreading COVID,” Hicks said. “We kept our industries safe and kept our members in jobs.”

He thanked IBEW members for their generosity as he touched on the blows dealt to Australians by “major weather disaster after disaster.”

“We were hit with unprecedented bushfires that burned 880 million acres of land, floods, storms and drought that have threatened most corners of the country,” he said. “I know that here in America and in Canada you have also faced severe weather events.”

“When times are tough, you learn who has your back,” he said, pointing to IBEW aid that helped working people recover from the devastating 2019-2020 megafires.

“The donations from the IBEW and individual locals was a massive gesture, and it reinforced in my mind, that solidarity knows no borders, and that our community is also your community,” he said.

Hicks also congratulated IBEW members for “the fantastic outcome in your federal election in 2020,” progress he hopes the ETU and fellow unions can emulate in Australia when voters go to the polls May 21.

“It was a privilege to be present yesterday to witness the historic address to your convention from President Joe Biden,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a political leader be so vocally in support of workers and unions. It was music to my ears to hear [him] describe himself as ‘a union man.’

“Your victory gives me hope that we can elect a new government in Australia that supports workers. It gives me hope that we can defeat our current right-wing government just as you have done.”

Like IBEW members in 2020 – and now gearing up for the 2022 U.S. midterm elections — Hicks said ETU members have “been in workplaces, on the streets, at rallies, knocking on peoples’ doors, in the media, on TV, and online speaking to our communities about what can be achieved for working people if the Labor Party is elected.”

Wherever workers are fighting for justice, Hicks said unity is the solution.

“We must be vigilant in stamping out injustice on our own turf and supporting our brothers and sisters to fight against injustice on theirs,” he said. “This is what international solidarity is all about – recognizing our shared humanity and sending waves of support that ripple around the world.”