Author: Caitlin Hoover

Message from the Executive Director: A new Global Labor Justice, building momentum for a more just global economy

Thank you for those who join us for the 2024 Global Labor Rights Defenders Celebration on May 1, International Workers’ Day.  Together with workers, their unions, allies, and labor rights defenders around the world, we are building momentum for a more just global economy.

With that momentum, we announce that going forward, we will be known as Global Labor Justice. 

Under this banner, we will continue to weave together and build on all of our organizational history to deliver bold new strategies that help workers win across the challenges inherent in global value chains and across labor migration corridors.  

The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) was founded almost 40 years ago by Pharis Harvey and a progressive coalition of labor, human rights, faith, and policy leaders confronting the effects of economic globalization on workers and committed to building human rights and labor rights into U.S. trade and development policy. ILRF led several successful campaigns to secure labor rights guarantees under U.S. trade laws and trade agreements and ensure that labor rights are prioritized in the transformation of the global economy, working with allies in the US and around the world.

Under the leadership of Steve Coats in the 1990s, the US/Guatemala Labor Education Project expanded its geographic focus to promoting full respect for labor rights globally and securing economic justice for workers in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1998, the organization changed its name to the US Labor Education in the Americas Project (US LEAP) to reflect this broader mandate. The US LEAP program merged with ILRF after Steve’s untimely death in 2013. Today, US LEAP continues to lead advocacy for Central American workers organizing in the supply chains of US corporations and Steve’s legacy continues to inform our history and practice.

Global Labor Justice was established in 2017 by labor movement partners in the Global South and lawyers, organizers and advocates rooted in the worker center movement in the US. As their fights encountered the global economy, they saw an urgent need to expand the strategies and resources available to movements in the US and around the world. With the support of Jobs with Justice, they built a structure that connected law, policy and research with campaigns to organize workers across value chains of globally traded products and services.

Unifying the three pillars of our shared origins strengthens our foundation to advance worker organizing and hold governments, employers, multinationals, and investors accountable to fundamental labor rights.
 

We know that labor rights defenders in many countries organize in the face of immense risks. IUF and ITUC affiliate LRSU President sister Chhim Sithar remains in detention in Cambodia with other union leaders charged and convicted for organizing over wages and mass retrenchments at NagaWorld in Cambodia. Workers at the Sheraton Grand and Onomo hotels in Conakry are fighting job loss, subcontracting, and other retaliatory actions in response to their organizing which the development banks have yet to remedy. Migrant fishers face deportation threats for participating in organizing even in response to egregious occupational safety and health violations. These are just a few examples.   

Today we are here to honor their commitments and pledge our support.  

And still in the face of these obstacles, workers and their movements are having an impact. With IUF and its affiliates, workers are organizing to win collective bargaining and demanding accountability for labor rights from development finance institutions that invest in the hotel sector. Workers at the Marriott Ciela Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia have won their union after years of campaigning. In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the Cotton Campaign works to ensure labor rights defenders and monitors can expose the truth of cotton harvest conditions without retaliation and advocates for workers’ access to fundamental labor rights.  

Dalit women workers are transforming their workplace after the signing of the landmark Dindigul Agreement to End Gender-Based Violence and Harassment with their union TTCU and the Asia Floor Wage Alliance. Together, they have joined with the ITUC, the International Domestic Workers’ Alliance, Justice for Migrant Women, UNI, and unions around the world to build momentum towards the fifth anniversary of ILO Convention 190 and thirtieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

In countries around the world, workers are coming together. Their agency reminds us how to live into existence the beautiful future that working people and their communities deserve: resistance that is joyful and powerful, actions that are magnificent and fierce, and transformative visions for generations to come.

And so, we again ask for your continued solidarity over the next year–with the Indonesian migrant fishers of FOSPI on the Taiwanese fleet who have launched the global WI-FI Now for Fishers Rights! Campaign with ITF, IUF, and faith, digital, and human rights allies calling on governments and supply chain actors to treat fishers as workers with labor rights; with the more than 1,000 seasonal farmworkers in Honduras and members of IUF affiliate Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria y Similares (STAS) who have petitioned for job security, labor rights, and freedom from retaliation at multinational fruit corporation Fyffes; with garment worker members of AFWA partner unions across Asia in the Fight the Heist campaign, demanding Nike end stock buybacks and take responsibility for unpaid wages during the Covid-19 pandemic with the support of IPS, CWA, SEIU, RWDSU, Take on Wall Street, and the AFL-CIO; with the labor monitors in Uzbekistan trained by Uzbek Forum and the Central Asia Labor Rights Monitoring Mission whose work anchors real change in the lives of cotton farm workers; with the AFL-CIO, PowerSwitch Action, and other unions, community groups, athletes’ unions, LGBTQ+ rights groups across North America who are joining under the Dignity 2026 campaign to demand that the World Cup respect labor and human rights; and with IUF and hotel workers around the world, with solidarity from UNITE-HERE, demanding that multilateral development banks ensure that the labor rights they promise on paper reach into the hotels where they work.

At Global Labor Justice, our vision is clear. All workers–employees, contract workers, platform workers, etc.–deserve a living wage, safe and healthy working conditions, and a social contract. Freedom of association must be a given, and structural obstacles to participation and leadership like gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace must be eliminated. Workplace democracy and trade unions are not only central to a democratic society and a just economy–they are also vital to  pushing back against authoritarian measures that are designed to limit participation. Together we can build the power of working people in opposition to corporate greed and growing anti-democratic, racist, and xenophobic forces.

In the next year we will challenge the supply chain business model that extracts wealth from developing countries and their structurally vulnerable workforces. We will fight migration policies  that exacerbate worker vulnerability and deliver them to the bottom of those supply chains. And we will continue to counter the disempowering effects of financialization on the global workforce that have gone unchallenged for decades by building a transnational movement that understands how capital moves and organizes where workers live and work.

Together with labor rights defenders around the world, Global Labor Justice is building momentum for a more just global economy. We thank you for your support, and we ask for your ongoing solidarity in 2024 and beyond.  

Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum

Executive Director
Global Labor Justice

September 19, 2023

As the Oversight Committee of the Dindigul Agreement, we welcome the first annual report from the labor stakeholders to the Dindigul Agreement, which covers the initial impacts and progress of the Agreement and was delivered to us and made public in June 2023. 

The Oversight Committee is encouraged by the findings documented in the labor  stakeholders’ report, which was achieved with the cooperation of Eastman Exports. We are also very encouraged by the women workers who testify in the report that with the implementation of the Dindigul Agreement, they can safely report grievances, including those related to Gender-based Violence and Harassment (GBVH), without fear of retaliation. The implementation encompasses core principles, definitions, and standards  from ILO C190 on ending violence and harassment in the world of work and ILO C87 and C98 on freedom of association that are embedded in the Dindigul Agreement. The labor stakeholders’ report suggests that under the Dindigul Agreement, parties are effectively able to detect, remediate, and prevent GBVH.  

According to the labor stakeholders’ report, Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU) led the Gender-based Harassment and Violence and peer education training of over 2000 workers and management. TTCU also recruited and trained 58 workers as shop floor monitors who were recognized by Eastman, to monitor and help remediate gender-based violence and harassment throughout the factory units and beyond. TTCU further held over 30 meetings with management to resolve grievances. 

Based on the labor stakeholders’ report, the Oversight Committee believes that with full cooperation from all parties to the agreement, the Dindigul Agreement can continue to advance progress on identifying, remediating, and preventing gender-based violence and harassment for the thousands of women workers at the covered worksites in the coming years. The Oversight Committee will continue to play a role in supporting the fulfillment of the commitments in the Agreement to drive further achievements moving forward.

Oversight Committee Members 

Affirmations:

Krishanti Dharmaraj | Independent Chair
Anannya Bhattacharjee| Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA)
Cibi Karthic | Eastman Exports
Komala Ramachandra | Gap Inc.
Sharmila Nithyanand | Gap Inc.
Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum | Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF)
Hari Kumar | H & M Group
Nikesh Raj | H & M Group
Thivya Rakini | Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU)  

Brand Signatory Affirmation: 

H & M Group
Gap Inc.
PVH Corp.

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63,000 work at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and 50,000 work at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport, making it Canada’s largest worksite.  Principally focused on airports large enough to host the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup, hosted in North America, this GLJ-IRLF report describes U.S. airport governance, airport jobs, airport employers, and policy tools for improving the quality of the work that makes air transportation possible.  Its purpose is to acquaint the reader with the realities and opportunities of airport work, noting the great strides workers, their organizations, and their allies have recently made in improving the quality of jobs at airports.  The report also looks ahead to the 2026 FIFA World Cup, briefly surveying the opportunities and challenges these games present to North American airport workers.

Download the report: https://globallaborjustice.org/making-airports-work-for-airport-workers/

In a month FIFA will be making its final city selection for the North American 2026 World Cup which will take place with games in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. FIFA and the World Cup’s dismal record on human rights, from Qatar to Brazil to South Africa and prioritization of corporate sponsors over communities and workers impacted has tarnished the internationally-beloved game of football. 

As planning for the World Cup to be held in North America in 2026 gets under way, there has never been a more important time to put pressure on FIFA to set and abide by minimum labor and human rights standards. FIFA’s recent unprecedented action to ban Russia from the 2022 World Cup demonstrates that they are not impervious to pressure from a growing movement of fans, athletes, workers and communities of solidarity across national borders. 

FIFA is set to generate around $7 billion from #WorldCup2026, but the thousands of workers who will make the event possible currently earn the U.S. federal minimum wage of just $7.25 an hour. GLJ-ILRF is joining a coalition of labor, human rights, environmental and other organizations concerned with FIFA’s social impact to demand it uphold fair human rights and labor standards for these mostly black, brown, and immigrant workers and for all who will be impacted by the World Cup games in host cities in the US, Mexico, and Canada. Instead of a race to the bottom, FIFA must raise labor standards, just as it purports to uphold the values of fair play in football. 

The coalition is calling on FIFA to uphold its commitments to human and labor rights in the 2026 World Cup and seeks to transform the organization into a globally responsible steward of human rights and dignity both on and off the field. It is time we take the game of football back.

You can join us in taking action right now, by signing the petition: https://act.aflcio.org/letters/fifa/

A report detailing the limited successes and multiple failures of the International Finance Corporation was launched today by the Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) and the IUF. “Hotel Workers’ Rights in Development Finance: Realizing Performance Standard 2” explores cases in which the IFC failed routinely to perform due diligence and enforce the labor rights standards required of its clients. It also outlines a proposed policy, the Compliance Accountability Policy, which would require IFC clients to negotiate with unions before an investment in hotels is approved. 

IUF affiliates from Senegal, Guinea and Zambia spoke about the IFC-funded hotel projects in their countries and the challenges they faced in dealing with the employers:

Cheikh Makébé Sylla, Health and Safety Coordinator for the IUF in Senegal, spoke about their affiliates’ success negotiating with Kasada Hospitality Fund, which received more than 400 million USD from the IFC to acquire numerous Accor hotels in West Africa.

Michelo Chizyuka, President of HCTAWUZ, Hotel, Catering, Tourism and Allied Workers of Zambia, shared how the complaints over four IFC-funded Marriott hotels in Zambia led to an election and union recognition at the Ciela Resort by Marriott in Lusaka while workers at the other three Marriotts continue to experience anti-union harassment.

Asmaou Bah Doukouré, General Secretary of FHTRC, Federation de l’Hotellerie, Tourisme, Restauration et Brances Connexes, discussed the IFC’s investment in the Sheraton Grand Conakry, the worst case scenario which shows why the Compliance Accountability Policy is needed.

D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE, described the importance of early engagement with hotel owners to ensuring respect for workers’ rights once the hotel is built and reiterated UNITE HERE’s commitment to working with the IUF to hold hotel employers and development banks accountable

GLJ-ILRF and IUF will continue to work with affiliates to campaign for workers’ rights across the hotel sector and in hotels funded by development banks.

IUF General Secretary Sue Longley stated, “Our Compliance Accountability Policy, if adopted, would ensure the IFC and its hotel clients have access to the knowledge, expertise, and experience of the global labor movement and our local affiliates.  IFC bank loan recipients would understand from the beginning that labor rights are central to the IFC’s development mission, that preferential loan terms and labor rights are inextricably linked, and that the IFC is far more likely to achieve its desired development impact if trade unions are engaged at the early stages of the loan process.”

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