Author: nazly

“The difference between staying in Honduras and leaving for the United States is not whether you have a job or not. It’s whether you have decent work,” states Tomás Membreño, President of STAS, the Honduran industrial agricultural workers’ union. He would know. In 2017, after palm oil conglomerate Grupo Jaremar used violence and unlawful firings to break STAS’s organizing efforts in the palm oil plantations, over a hundred would-be union members joined caravans headed north.

Central American migration to the United States today is sometimes framed as a humanitarian tragedy, sometimes a national security threat. Rarely, however, do we discuss the lack of decent work as a central reason for migration. Yet jobs that pay a living wage, offer fair conditions and benefits, respect fundamental rights, and give workers stability so that they can plan for their families’ future are fundamental to allow people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to choose not to migrate. Decent work is also a fundamental feature of fair migration. It is the missing pillar of US policy in the region.

The relationship between work and immigration is complicated. Many who leave have jobs at home, just not good ones. Furthermore, economists have shown that more depart as opportunities begin to rise in their home countries, continuing until GDP reaches a certain level. Then migration drops and those outside begin to return. This is sometimes called the “migration hump.” Even while migration is rising, stable work at home with opportunities for advancement may encourage people to stay put. And in the longer term, a focus on good jobs is essential to reach the downward slope more quickly.

Meanwhile, for migrants, decent work is embodied in the idea of labor citizenship. All human beings, wherever they are from and whatever their immigration status, should have the right to be treated with dignity on the job and paid fairly for their labor. Labor citizenship is fundamental to ensuring that migration is compatible with decent work for migrants themselves and for local workers in the same labor market.

The Biden administration has committed to making its foreign policy coherent with domestic prosperity. Centering decent work in the US government’s efforts to address migration from Central America would align foreign policy and national security with immigration and internal economic goals.

How would this look in practice?

· The US government would support independent, democratic unions and grassroots workers’ movements in Central America and Mexico. Such institutions anchor civil society and protect the rights of marginalized people as they work to build decent jobs, advancing genuine democracy. In so doing, its foreign policy would be consistent with good immigration policy.

· The US would enforce labor provisions in its trade agreements in the region. Although the Central American Free Trade Agreement includes labor rights clauses, the US government has done little with them. STAS and other unions still suffer glaring violations of international labor standards. U.S. unions just filed the first complaint under the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, testing its potential strength. Using these tools to reverse downward pressure on wages and working conditions would put trade policy on a path consistent with good immigration policy.

· Where the US finances development projects in the region, it would strengthen and enforce conditions on loans regarding the quality of jobs created and respect for freedom of association among other labor rights — furthering sustainable development and sustainable immigration policy.

· The US would support efforts to build labor citizenship along the migration corridors on which Central Americans travel. One example is the Corridors of Justice initiative linking the workers’ center CIMITRA in El Salvador, ProDESC in Mexico, and the National Day Laborers Organizing Network in the United States, creating a network of workers centers across three countries in order to support migrants in defending their rights as they move.

· When the US admits Central Americans, it would do so with full labor rights. The administration would change course from plans announced in last week to bring more Central Americans in through guest worker programs that tie them to a single employer and make them deportable if they stand up for their rights. Instead, consistent with domestic prosperity goals and protections for US workers, migrants must come in with the ability to change jobs, and have help from the government, unions, and worker centers to make their rights real.

The long history of United States political intervention and economic extraction in Central America are key factors in the violence and corruption that are propelling people to leave today. A focus on decent work as a part of migration policy in the region is one way to address some of the damage from that legacy, to strengthen democracy and reduce inequality — and to lay the groundwork that will ultimately offer Central Americans a genuine choice to stay home.

Jennifer Gordon, Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director Global Labor Justice- International Labor Rights Forum and Lecturer in Law, Harvard Law School

As social justice and cultural organizations in New Jersey, we express our solidarity with the stonemasons who faced exploitation and abuse at the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) Temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

According to a federal lawsuit filed in May 2021, the workers shared that they were forced to work for 12.5 hours a day for seven days a week and that their hourly wages amounted to merely $1.20 per hour (or $450/month). For more than two years, they were kept in a fenced, guarded compound and were not allowed to speak to anyone outside the premises. The workers said that they were recruited falsely under religious worker visas and that their passports were confiscated when they came to the United States. The complaint also states that one worker died at the premises. While the cause of this worker’s death is still under investigation, many Indian stone workers face untimely deaths due to pervasive silicosis, which is often the tragic result of failure to provide adequate safety protections to workers in the temple construction industry.

It is vital to understand that the majority of these exploited workers are of Dalit-Bahujan background. According to the federal complaint, temple leadership furthered caste oppression by abusing the workers, including calling them “worms.” They also claimed that these workers were conducting “seva” a Hindu term for volunteering, and thus should not seek restitution. Some workers who last year found the courage to raise concerns about their treatment were sent back to India, where they are reportedly facing harassment from BAPS representatives, who are now pressuring them to identify as religious volunteers rather than workers.

All workers deserve safe worksites, fair wages, and humane work conditions. We express our solidarity with the stonemasons in New Jersey and in India. We stand ready to provide support in the form of culturally relevant and appropriate services, linguistic access, mental health resources, and a community of care.

In addition, we call upon federal and state authorities to fully investigate the allegations of the workers against the BAPS temple and provide the workers meaningful protections during the course of those investigations. At a minimum, the workers should be compensated for their stolen wages and provided immediate medical care.

We ask Hindu organizations and temples to raise their voices publicly in support of these and all temple workers. And, we call upon all communities and allies to join us in expressing solidarity for the workers.


American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU NJ)

American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program

Anakbayan North Jersey

Bangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative (BAWDI)

CATA – The Farmworkers Support Committee

Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War

Council on American-Islamic Relations, New Jersey Chapter (CAIR-NJ)

Filipino Community Center (FCC)



Indian American Muslim Council New Jersey (IAMC NJ)

Industrial Union Council

International Migrants Alliance USA (IMA-USA)

Jersey Promise

Make the Road New Jersey


Migrante New Jersey

New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice

New Labor

Newark Water Coalition

NJ Citizen Action

NJ Time to Care Coalition

North New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America

Northern New Jersey Jewish Voice for Peace

Northern New Jersey Sanctuary Coalition

Occupy Bergen County

Panther Solidarity Organization, Newark NJ

Ridgewood for Black Liberation

Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus

Sakhi for South Asian Women

Students Against Hindutva Ideology (SAHI)

Robbinsville, New Jersey —  Yesterday caste oppressed workers in New Jersey came forward to demand changes in the BAPS global supply chain of temple construction which was revealed to rely on forced labor.  

The New York Times broke the story and the workers filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the District of New Jersey. 

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and its Administrative District Council of New Jersey (BAC), the union representing stone masons and carvers in the U.S., and the Pathar Gadhai Mazdoor Suraksha Sangh (PGMSS), a labor union representing more than 3,000 stone carvers in the state of Rajasthan, India, issued a joint statement demanding safe worksites, fair wages, and rights and dignity on the job for these workers and all stonemasons and stone carvers. 

Global Labor JusticeInternational Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) Executive Director Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum said: 

“Seventy percent of global trade now involves supply chains.  GLJ-ILRF’s work with partners has helped educate a growing number of people about how the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the cars we drive are produced through cross border supply chains that depend on an extractive business model.  

Specifically,  artisanal, religious temple stone carving has been commodified in a way that is exposing workers to sub-minimum wage working conditions and dangerous risk of silicosis as the carving is warehoused in India. 

And as the artisan carved stones now move from India around the world for construction, the BAPS temple employers are also using labor migration programs to send Indian stonemasons – mostly from caste oppressed communities – for construction and installation work.  

Yesterday the New Jersey workers exposed the sharp reality that some religious employers exploit workers similar to the worst multinational companies.  In this case, the elite BAPS denomination used guestworker visas to create a captive workforce for installation of the carvings when they are shipped to the U.S. and around the world.  The BAPS employer misclassified these temple construction workers as volunteers, who in reality worked twelve-hour days, seven days a week for about one dollar an hour.  The BAPS temple employer held their passports, restricted their movement, used caste based slurs, and forcibly deported dozens of workers who helped raise questions about the untimely death of a well-respected co-worker at the worksite.  

But it does not have to be like this.  Temple building is growing as an important part of the construction industry across the world with strong Indian diaspora communities.  This presents an opportunity for an expansion of labor with rights and dignity as an embodiment of religious values.  

Whether in fast fashion, seafood processing, temple construction, or any sector of work, the way to combat forced labor is to increase access to labor rights and empower workers to organize and successfully bargain with their employers.  When workers have robust freedom of association, there will be no forced labor. 

Movements in both the U.S. and India – the world’s two largest democracies – must continue to demand that their governments act to empower workers to be able to join unions, successfully collectively bargain, and improve working conditions for themselves and their families and communities.  

With the support of unions in the United States and India, these workers are demanding change to a global economy.  GLJ-ILRF stands with them and calls on the Biden Administration to continue to expand the federal government’s policies, programs, and practices to empower workers to organize and successfully bargain with their employers both as part of U.S. domestic economic policy as well as in migration, development, and foreign policy.” 

More information on how to support these workers is available here. 

Beginning on April 28th, workers and young people throughout Colombia have taken to the streets in strikes and mobilizations. Their demand is simple and just: the poor and working classes cannot afford to pay even more of the costs of this economic crisis. A popular sign in the protest reads, “If people protest during a pandemic, it’s because they have more to fear from their government than from the virus.” As has been too often the story in Colombia, these protests were met with brutal repression, murder, disappearances, and sexual violence.

GLJ-ILRF stands with the global labor movement in repudiating the Colombian government’s response to protests and the country’s ongoing violence against union leaders and social activists. We add our voice to the call led by our partners at UNI Americas: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must intervene immediately to protect the lives and rights of the Colombian people.

On April 21st, over a 1000 people from 33 countries gathered in solidarity with the family of Jeyasre Kathiravel and her union, the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU). Earlier in the day, Indonesian unions and womens’ rights organizations held an in-person vigil in solidarity as well. Jeyasre, a 21-year-old Dalit woman, student and union member was murdered in January 2021 by her supervisor at the garment factory Natchi Apparels, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Before her death, Jeyasre had faced months of sexual harassment and intimidation on the factory floor at Natchi from her supervisor. Natchi Apparels is owned and operated by Eastman Exports, one of India’s largest garment manufacturers. 

Since Jeyasre’s death, over 25 of her co-workers have come forward publicly to the Guardian (UK) to attest to a culture of gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) at Natchi. At the vigil, several TTCU members sang two mourning songs in Jeyasre’s honor. “We miss you, our friend and our comrade,” they sang in Tamil. “We can’t accept your loss. Everywhere we look, we see your face … What happened to you must not happen to any woman. They say women are goddesses, but the evil that fell on you, you could not fight it off. How much we continue to live, missing your beautiful smile.” 

Jeyasre’s mother remembered her daughter, who was the first in her family to go to college and who worked nights at Natchi Apparels to pay for her education. “As a mother, I don’t want this to happen to any daughter, any worker,” she said. “I lost a beautiful daughter I can no longer get back. I consider all the workers present in the textile sector [to be] my daughter, so the incident that happened to my daughter should never ever happen to any young workers.” 

Thivya Rakini, the state president of TTCU, presented a transformative vision to end GBVH at Natchi Apparels in Jeyasre’s honor. “We strongly believe that ending GBVH requires structural changes in garment supply chains that bring unions, suppliers and brands together,” she said. “This is why we are demanding an enforceable binding agreement to end GBVH, so that all parties including brands and suppliers are bound to work sincerely, with concrete goals, for better working conditions for women in the factory.” 

Natchi Apparels supplies to H&M, though Eastman Exports is a major supplier to several major fashion multinationals. Global labor, women, and Dalit rights leaders extended solidarity to TTCU, Natchi Apparel workers, and Jeyasre’s family, pledging support in their fight for justice and affirming the credibility and importance of women workers who speak out against gender-based violence and harassment. 

Mariam Dhawale, General Secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), highlighted the need for freedom of association at Natchi Apparels. Noting that almost all workers at Natchi Apparels and other factories owned by Eastman Exports are women, she asked, “Why is it that 90% of the supervisors are men? Does Eastman Exports have an answer to that?” 

Christian Nunes, President of the National Organization of Women in the United States, said, “We must reinvent workplace cultures that treat women as subservient and powerless … Jeyasre Kathiravel was part of this struggle to end gender-based violence and harassment in her workplace … we must continue to say her name.” 

Beena Pallical, of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights in India, said, “We have lost Jeyasre — we can’t get Jeyasre back … at the end of the day we’ve lost a precious life. But we are with you, and we stand with you very strongly and we hope that all our demands are fulfilled, not just for Jeyasre’s case but other cases in these industries. … international brands, when they come here, they do not look at the local context … many jobs [in these industries] are offered to Dalits, especially Dalit women. Dalit women’s bodies are used [in these industries] as if they have no rights.” 

From Indonesia, Elly Rosita Silaban, the President of the Confederation of All-Indonesian Trade Unions (KSBSI) and a member of Asia Floor Wage Alliance’s Womens’ Leadership Committee of women trade-union leaders in the garment industry, affirmed the need for enforceable agreements to end GBVH in garment production. She explained, “this violence is part of production processes in the factory and closely linked to the practices of brands, where male supervisors and managers have impunity to abuse women workers in order to exploit womens’ labor for greater margins and profits.”

Alvina Yeh, the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA), said, “I want Jeyasre’s family and fellow union members to know that we are grieving with you. … Jeyasre represented all that was bold and brave in the face of sexual harassment and economic inequity. What we learn from Jeyasre and her coworkers is that supplier-led training programs and grievance mechanisms are not enough. We need deep shifts in how much power we allow bosses and managers to have over employees and their bodies.” 

In conjunction with the vigil, the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and Asia Floor Wage Alliance have released a statement echoing the existing call from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights for an enforceable binding brand agreement to end systemic GBVH as a step to address the ways in which GBVH leverages caste discrimination.  

During the vigil, Thivya, TTCU’s president, made it clear that TTCU, which is Dalit- and women-led, stood strong to demand an end to GBVH in the Tamil Nadu garment industry. She highlighted that since Jeyasre’s death,  even more women garment workers have joined the union, prepared to act against GBVH and demand violence-free workplaces. “In this struggle [against] GBVH, women workers should not be considered secondary actors or passive subjects, but as the primary actors who drive change in the industry.” 

Libakiso Matlho, of the Women and Law in Southern African Research and Education Trust-Lesotho, spoke on behalf of union and women’s rights organizations in Lesotho who signed the first enforceable binding agreement to combat gender-based violence in garment manufacturing. She pledged solidarity to TTCU and to women workers at Natchi Apparels in their fight for an enforceable binding agreement on GBVH. 

“All we are saying is that everyone has a right to live — has a right to live in a world where she is dignified. To live and work with freedom. … we shall not rest until garment workers’ rights are promoted and protected. … Because Jeyasre’s life matters.”

Jeyasre’s family expressed profound gratitude for the solidarity from individuals, unions and womens’ and Dalit rights organizations from around the world, both now and moving forward. Looking ahead, Thivya made TTCU’s demand clear: “The struggle for accountability from brands and suppliers to ensure decent working conditions for women workers in the factory is the way in which we should continuously honor Jeyasre’s life as well as other survivors of GBVH.” 

International Finance Corporation’s pre-approval process must address failures in health and safety, freedom of association in assessing proposed USD $50 million loan to Brandix, where Sri Lanka’s largest COVID-19 superspreader event originated

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (March 25, 2021) — Six Sri Lankan unions and workers’ organizations are challenging the International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s existing due diligence and labor rights components of their economic and social action plan for a USD $50 million loan to Brandix Lanka LTD, which is proposed for approval this month. 

The IFC’s mandatory public disclosures published last month fail to address that Brandix Lanka LTD owns and operates a factory where a sweeping industrial COVID-19 outbreak occurred in October 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak at Brandix’s factory in Minuwangoda was detected on October 2. Within a week, 1000 out of 1400 factory workers tested positive for the virus. The Brandix COVID outbreak was a superspreader event that sparked the country’s first major COVID wave since the initial onset of the pandemic in March 2020. From October to February, daily case counts in Sri Lanka exploded from 6 to 806 people infected per day at the peak.

The outbreak is still under investigation by Sri Lankan government authorities. Unions and workers’ organizations submitted worker accounts to the IFC reporting that in the weeks before the outbreak, Brandix failed to follow Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health’s COVID guidelines and that management denied leave to workers who reported COVID symptoms.

The IFC announced the proposed loan to Brandix Lanka LTD on February 18, 2021 to support working capital and capital expenditure for Brandix’s existing Sri lanka operations, including production for major global brands such as Uniqlo, Calvin Klein, Marks & Spencer, Victoria’s Secret and PVH. Brandix Lanka LTD operates 21 factories in Sri Lanka, together employing over 33,000 workers. 

In the past ten years, the IFC has made approximately USD $202 million in direct investments to garment manufacturers worldwide, including a $28 million investment in Sri Lankan garment manufacturer MAS Holdings in 2013. In addition to considering a USD $50 million investment in Brandix Lanka LTD, the IFC is concurrently considering another USD $50 million dollar loan to MAS Holdings, bringing the total proposed loans to the sector in Q12021 to USD $100 million.

Ashila Dandeniya, former garment worker and head of Stand Up Union Lanka, whose membership includes women Brandix workers, said: “As a top-level organization in Sri Lanka, Brandix must set an example on labour rights — especially for women workers at its factory. Dialogue and collaboration are critical to overcome supply chain pressures which contributed to the outbreak.”

Chamila Thushari, Programme Coordinator at Dabindu Collective — a workers’ organization founded in 1984, stated: “The outbreak exposes major freedom of association gaps for women workers who are the majority in Sri Lanka’s apparel sector. Women report being threatened with termination if they speak up and demand their rights. We look forward to dialogue with the IFC and Brandix on how to ensure freedom of association under this loan which is also fundamental to healthy and safe workplaces.”

“It is well documented that some employers are using COVID- 19 as an excuse to bust unions across manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, and other sectors globally, and in Sri Lanka,” said Sahiba Gill, Fast Fashion Coordinator for Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum. “In light of this, the World Bank Group must be extremely vigilant to conduct serious due diligence and include specific actions to ensure International Labor Standards, including Freedom of Association, are respected where it is a financier.” 

The Commerce and Industrial Workers Union (CIWU), a large industrial union that represents workers in Sri Lanka’s garment sector, made the following statement: “It was because workers do not have union rights that factories are asking workers to produce on maximum targets with a minimum work force, ignoring workers’ health during a pandemic. Yet the Sri Lankan government has failed to take any action against Brandix management, while many wrongly blame garment workers for spreading COVID instead.”

The six Sri Lankan unions and workers’ organizations that filed the complaint are Stand Up Workers’ Union, Dabindu Collective, Revolutionary Existence for Human Development (RED), Ceylon Mercantile Industrial & General Workers’ Union (CMU), Commercial and Industrial Workers’ Union (CIWU), and National Union of Seafarers – Sri Lanka (NUSS). Together, they represent over 26,000 workers in Sri Lanka’s industrial sector, including garment manufacturing. Along with Stand Up Workers’ Union, Dabindu Collective and RED — which focus on representing women workers including garment workers — represent women workers at Brandix, where 9 in 10 workers are women. 

Sri Lankan unions and workers’ organizations, whose memberships include Brandix workers, urge the IFC to delay its vote on the Brandix loan pending substantive consultation with key labor stakeholders and revision of the Environmental & Social Action Plan for the loan to include ensure workplace health and safety and freedom of association in compliance with the IFC’s Performance Standard 2


For more information about GLJ-ILRF’s work to hold the International Finance Corporation accountable for international labor standards, see here. The World Bank Group’s mandate of poverty alleviation makes it a critical stakeholder in the response to COVID-19 worldwide, together with the ILO and trade unions at the local, national, and global level and the IFC’s investments in private sector financing. 

For a brief regarding this case in more detail, please see here.


Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a newly merged organization bringing strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labor migration corridors. GLJ-ILRF holds global corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains, advances policies and laws that protect decent work and just migration, and strengthens freedom of association, new forms of bargaining, and worker organizations.

Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) stands in solidarity with union activists in Uzbekistan organizing the country’s first independent, democratically elected union and joins the Cotton Campaign’s calls on the Uzbek government to end the intimidation of union activists from local officials. Workers from the Indorama cotton plantations founded “Odalat Sari Olg’a” (Onward to Justice) in response to low wages and deteriorating working conditions in the transnational company, Indorama.

“The ability of this women-led union to survive and grow is a test for the Biden Administration’s willingness to make good on its commitment to prioritize labor rights and specifically freedom of association in its foreign policy,” said GLJ- ILRF’s Forced Labor Director Allison Gill. “The U.S. government, as well as the European Union, UK and other regional allies, must be proactive and swift to ensure noninterference as workers in Uzbekistan freely exercise their right to organize and to make this a priority for EU, UK, and other U.S. allies.”

Leaders of Odalat Sari Olg’a (Onward to Justice), the first independent labor union in Uzbekistan, reported receiving calls from officials at the local administration who did not identify themselves warning them that their involvement in union activities would cause them problems. Two leaders said that the Akaltyn district hokim [mayor] called them to warn them. Others said they received calls from local police officers demanding that they stop their organizing activities and leave the union.

“Workers have an internationally recognized right to form a union without intimidation or coercion from the government or from employers,” said Rudy Porter, Europe and Central Asia Director at the Solidarity Center. “The government of Uzbekistan and Indorama Agro should recognize Odalat Sari Olg’a and refrain from any interference.”

On March 19, 280 employees of Indorama Agro, a cotton textile cluster operating in Syrdarya region, held a founding meeting to establish the union and elect its leadership. Members elected Roza Agaydarova leader of the union and elected 11 deputies, each representing a subdistrict. Workers had long attempted to raise concerns about low wages, poor working conditions, and lack of social benefits, bringing complaints to the company, local authorities, and the media. Instead of meeting with them to discuss and resolve the complaints, some employees faced threats of dismissal and other consequences for making their complaints public. At the meeting, workers, many of them former farmers who had operated independent farms before the land was leased to Indorama Agro, spoke out about the challenges they face at Indorama. One farmworker said he had worked for two years without vacation or holiday leave. Others said they could not support their families on the low wages.

Odalat Sari Olg’a also encountered obstacles to holding their meeting. Workers had rented a meeting room to hold their election but when they arrived, the building administrator refused them entry, telling them the room was unavailable due to “urgent repairs.” Workers eventually found a meeting space at a local tea house, but the electricity was cut off soon after they began. They continued their meeting outside with workers holding up their cellphone flashlights to provide light.

“Uzbekistan has shown the political will to combat forced labor and open its economy but has fallen short on allowing independent civil society organizations to operate,” said Umida Niyazova, Executive Director of Uzbek Forum for Human Rights. “The way it treats the first independent trade union is a test of the seriousness of its reforms and the world is watching. The government should allow Odalat Sari Olg’a to register without delay.”

On March 23, Agaydarova said that she received a call from a regional representative of the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan, the national union federation, which is not considered independent from the government, and was told that according to the laws of Uzbekistan, they had to join the Federation, otherwise their union is invalid. Agaydarova affirmed Odalat Sari Olg’a’s decision to remain independent. Uzbekistan’s newly adopted law on trade unions guarantees workers the right to join an organization of their own choosing and not to be compelled to join any organization. Under International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87, Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, the decision about whether a union affiliates with a federation is the union’s own. Under Uzbekistan’s laws, a union must register as a public membership organization under the country’s burdensome rules for nongovernmental organizations. However, under Convention 87, which Uzbekistan has ratified, registration as a legal entity is not required and may not be used as a barrier for a union to organize or for an employer to recognize it.

Odalat Sari Olg’a is the first democratically elected union in Uzbekistan, marking a significant turning point in the fight to protect labor rights and eradicate forced labor in the country. “Protecting freedom of association and the right of workers to represent themselves will not only help eradicate forced labor in Uzbekistan but also prevent it from happening in the future,” said Allison Gill, Forced Labor Program Director at Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum, which hosts the Cotton Campaign. “Indorama Agro has an obligation to respect freedom of association and should recognize Odalat Sari Olg’a.”As Uzbekistan has worked to overcome a legacy of mass state-imposed forced labor with an ambitious reform agenda, it has also looked to open its cotton market to brands and investors. Together with brands and other local and international stakeholders, the

Cotton Campaign is developing a robust framework to monitor and remediate forced labor, empower workers and farmers, and encourage sourcing from Uzbekistan. At the core of this approach will be enforceable commitments to strong labor rights protections, including unhindered monitoring and grievance remediation, consistent with international standards and best practices.

“The establishment of an independent union is an important milestone in Uzbekistan and one that will help build the confidence of brands and retailers by showing tangible evidence of the necessary enabling environment for responsible sourcing,” said Nate Herman, Vice President for Policy at the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “Independent unions are a vital part of eliminating forced labor and establishing ethical supply chains,” said Julia Hughes, President of the US Fashion Industry Association.


Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a newly merged organization bringing strategic capacity to cross-sectoral work on global value chains and labor migration corridors. GLJ-ILRF holds global corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains, advances policies and laws that protect decent work and just migration, and strengthens freedom of association, new forms of bargaining, and worker organizations.

Rule of law must protect workers at the Marriott Sheraton Grand Conakry on the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Dutch Development (FMO) Bank Investment Project. 

Today, Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) participated in a press conference hosted by the The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and its affiliate the Fédération de l’Hôtellerie du Tourisme Restauration Catering et Branches Connexes de l’Organisation Nationale des Syndicats Libres de Guinée (FHTRC-ONSLG), and joined by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW) where they announced the filing of complaints against the government of Guinea for failing to protect the freedom of association and occupational health and safety of workers at the Sheraton Grand Conakry. 

Hotel union General Secretary Amadou Diallo and Deputy General Secretary Alhassane Diallo, were both terminated on October 7th, 2020 as leaders of the newly elected union, raising awareness around fundamental workplace issues, including health and safety. 

The submission to the Committee on the Freedom of Association calls on the government of Guinea to “ensure the breach is remedied including reinstatement for the Union Office Bearers after their discriminatory terminations” and  to “highlight the importance of freedom of association and collective bargaining for all workers including on development-financed projects.” The Article 24 representation also asks the ILO to establish an ad-hoc tripartite committee to advise on how to bring the Government of Guinea into compliance with International Labor Standards on labor inspections and health and safety. 

“We call on the ILO to make sure the government of Guinea protects the fundamental right to freedom of association for these Marriott-Sheraton workers in Conakry,“ said GLJ-ILRF Executive Director Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum. “Their struggle to negotiate with Marriott-Sheraton and the Topaz Group continues since March 2019.  International Law is clear— the General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary must be reinstated. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

IUF General Secretary Sue Longley told the journalists gathered in Conakry: “The global labor movement is coming together to back this struggle. The IUF, IUF Africa, our affiliate FHRTC-ONSLG, our affiliates in the HRCT sector, the ITUC, Global Labor Justice-ILRF, Solidarity Center and ILAW are here today to say with one voice that we will win. Our struggle here is just, and we will fight one day longer until our trade union brothers are reinstated and justice is served.

“Laws are only as good as their implementation,” said Jeff Vogt, ILAW Network Chair. “We urge an ILO tripartite Commission to improve rule of law on labor inspection and workplace health and safety by the Government of Guinea so workers and unions are protected.” 

Since 2018, the IUF, the ITUC, and GLJ-ILRF have urged the International Finance Corporation to enforce its own standards and actions consistent with responsible business practices as a development financier.  The International Finance Corporation, the Dutch Development Bank FMO, and other development investors must begin to take the role organized workers and trade unions play seriously, including making them an integral part of a dialogue with the IFC and its loan recipients and responding swiftly to address retaliation.


Labor rights advocates in the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW), International Commission for Labor Rights (ICLR), Global Labor JusticeInternational Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), and the Cornell Labor Law Clinic submitted an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on February 12 in the case of Cedar Point Nursery v. Hasid. The case involves a key principle of farmworkers’ freedom of association.

In Cedar Point Nursery, California growers challenge as unconstitutional a 1975 regulation of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board that permits union representatives to meet with workers on the farms to discuss organizing and collective bargaining. The regulation balances the interests of workers and employers by limiting the time, place and duration of such access to ensure no undue effect on operations.

The ultra-conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, representing the growers, argues that the regulation is an unconstitutional per se “taking” of the growers’ property rights under the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If affirmed, the decision would be a radical expansion of “takings” jurisprudence with significance beyond union access. It is clear that the growers aim to deny all access to workers at the agricultural workplace, including by government inspectors to address safety and health risks, wage theft, child labor and other potential labor violations.

Amici argue to the contrary that reasonable union access to farms has become customary international law which should guide the Supreme Court in the Cedar Point Nursery case. Indeed, the regulation itself is consistent with international labor law and the domestic labor laws of nations around the world.

The International Labor Organization’s Committee on Freedom of Association and the Committee of Experts have affirmed that farmworkers have a right to meet with union representatives at their worksite “with due respect for the rights of property and management, so that trade unions can communicate with workers, in order to apprise them of the potential advantages of unionization.” The Committee of Experts said, “Access by trade union officials for the purpose of carrying out lawful trade union activities should be readily permitted, provided that there is no interference with work being performed during working hours and subject to any appropriate precautions being taken for the protection of the property.”

Both bodies emphasize the importance of union access to help workers with problems of occupational safety and health, a particular concern in the Coronavirus pandemic. The brief also provides multiple comparative labor law examples of national legislation mandating union representatives’ access to the agricultural workplace, always with due regard for management’s property and operational interests.

The oral argument in the case is scheduled for March 22. On February 12, the Biden administration took a dramatic step announcing it was withdrawing the Trump administration’s brief supporting employers and would instead file a brief supporting the California regulation.

The text of the coalition’s brief is available here.

Legendary former Chicago Teachers Union’s president, Karen Lewis, passed away Sunday night after a long and fierce battle with brain cancer. Lewis was one of the most influential labor leaders, dedicated to democratic militant unionism and racial justice who fought for the entire working class, inspiring unions and teachers all over the country. As one of our labor defender awardees last year, the Chicago Teachers Union has served as an exemplary model of 21st-century labor organizing and a powerful voice advocating for educational and community justice in Chicago. GLJ-ILRF offers its deepest condolences to the Chicago Teacher’s Union, Karen’s family and all those mourning her loss and continues to stand with labor rights leaders and activists from across the globe who have committed their lives to defend workers rights and build power across a range of sectors and communities.