Blog

Today, Global Labor Justice– International Labor Rights Forum joins the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) in standing with a new trade union coalition in Guinea that includes the hotel workers, mining workers, teachers, bankers, and other members of the Confederation of Guinean Unions (CSTG).

On the one-year anniversary of their retaliatory terminations, the new trade union coalition came togetherunder the banner “Work Justice and Solidarity” and publicly demanded that the Marriott Sheraton Palma Guinea in Conakry reinstate General Secretary Amadou Diallo and Deputy General Secretary Alhassane Diallo of the Fédération de l’Hôtellerie, Touristique, Restauration et Branche Connexe (FHTRC-ONSLG) and return to good faith bargaining. And they pledged support and solidarity actions until the union leaders are reinstated.

GLJ-ILRF along with the IUF and ITUC have advocated for the International Finance Corporation to use its leverage to ensure freedom of association and collective bargaining as guaranteed by the IFC’s labor performance standards.

IUF General Secretary Sue Longley stated, “Despite COVID-19, Ebola and the recent coup d’état, the workers at the Sheraton Grand Conakry have shown Topaz Group, Marriott and the IFC that they will not stop fighting until their two union leaders are reinstated and the freedom of association is guaranteed for all workers across Guinea.”

GLJ-ILRF Executive Director Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum said: “Marriott’s general manager fired these worker leaders to chill protected union organizing at the hotel among the workers and to disempower collective action to improve working conditions at the hotel and more broadly.

But in the face of this retaliation, the Guinean trade union movement grows stronger and more unified. At GLJ-ILRF we repeat the demand that the hotel owner Topaz Group and the hotel manager Marriott corporation reinstate these trade union leaders and ensure the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining going forward.

And we urge the IFC to work with the ITUC, the IUF, and us on a systematic approach to labor violations in IFC funded hospitality projects as well as other sectors so the jobs created meet decent work standards. It is time for the World Bank and IFC along with the U.S. and other directors to take more decisive action to ensure protect the role organized workers and trade unions must play in the current COVID-19 economy and recovery at the national and global level. This includes making them an integral part of the dialogue with the IFC and its loan recipients and responding swiftly to remedy reprisals.”

November 17th, 2021

Union organizing isn’t a game. Well actually, now it is!

Today, GLJ-ILRF and UNI Americas launched Union Drive, the first video game developed as a tool to teach the fundamentals of union organizing.

Over 80 union leaders, organizers and activists from Latin America and around the world attended our launch event to learn more about this interactive, educational tool. We will continue hosting events and trainings for unions and organizers to learn more about Union Drive.

This video game is an innovative new tool and part of GLJ-ILRF’s 2022 plans to expand global campaign development through intensive organizing training. 

In this virtual adventure, you work at a local supermarket. Yesterday 20 of your coworkers were fired. Now is the time to take collective action and secure protections for you and your coworkers.

To get there, you’ll need to lead tough conversations with your coworkers, build trust, agitate, and organize!

“UNI and our affiliates are figuring out ways to use new media to reach more workers and bring them into unions,” said Marcio Monzane, General Secretary of UNI Americas. “This game is an exciting new tool to recruit young workers throughout the Americas.”

Over the past decade, “digital natives” have entered the labor force in every sector. This generation of workers learns and communicates through visual and interactive technological experiences. While no technology can replace the power of one-on-one organizing and relationships among coworkers, labor leaders should follow an old adage of organizing – meet workers where they are. These days, young workers are on their smartphones. 

“Union Drive is a tool and tactic to help us get better organized to take on global capital, which is very well organized”, said Valery Alzaga, GLJ-ILRF’s Deputy Director, “we in labor need to be relevant, digitally smart and present”.

This game will help reach young people who are already leading many movements across the world. “We hope to spark interest in union organizing among young activists.”, said Noah Dobin-Bernstein from GLJ-ILRF, “There have been massive protests and youth uprisings in Chile, Colombia and around the world. We want the young people who are leading those fights to join the labor movement”.

For more information and to get access to the game please email Noah Dobin-Bernstein: noah@globallaborjustice.org

January 5th, 2022

The following is a statement from GLJ-ILRF, Asia Floor Wage Alliance and the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU):

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the horrific murder of Jeyasre Kathiravel, a young Indian Dalit woman, a student and an organizer against gender-based violence and harassment at a large Indian garment manufacturer sourcing to major U.S. and European fashion brands. Jeyasre was murdered by her supervisor after facing months of sexual harassment.

On this painful anniversary we stand with Jeyasre’s family, her loved ones, and all of her fellow union members of TTCU, as we honor her life by steadfastly working to transform her former factory into a space free of gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination based on caste or status as migrants. 

The push for change at Jeyasre’s supplier has advanced significantly. This has been possible in part because of the massive outpouring of solidarity including from unions from over 30 countries, women’s rights organizations, Dalit rights organizations, retail workers, models, immigrant rights advocates, and so many more who met with members of the campaign and committed to support the push for structural changes in the fashion supply chain.

We are working closely with several brands and the supplier to reach an agreement to prevent and remediate gender-based violence and harassment and encourage freedom of association at the supplier factories. We acknowledge the steps that these brands and the supplier are taking towards this, including the gesture by the supplier to commemorate the tragic death of Jeyasre by providing educational scholarships to children of garment workers in Jeyasre’s factory. 

We will announce the results of our negotiations at the end of this month. 

We call on our friends and allies to honor the life of Jeyasre by continuing to stand in solidarity with her and her fellow garment workers who are organizing for an end to gender-based violence and harassment not only in Tamil Nadu but across fashion supply chains globally. 

October 14th, 2021

In Los Angeles, garment workers like Maria, Elizabeth, and Carlos are earning around $6 an hour. That’s because they’re paid through the piece rate system, where workers earn pennies per garment sewn instead of earning an hourly wage. “These industries are run by millionaires,” Maria from the Garment Workers Center shared on the Los Angeles Justice for Jeyasre Speaking Tour stop, “and they have us enslaved.”

A new law in California, the Garment Workers Protection Act, will end this practice by making major fashion brands responsible for paying garment workers minimum wage. Previously, when workers filed wage theft claims, the suppliers and factories would be responsible for the wages. But, they didn’t have the money to pay back the workers, so they’d often just close or use other tricks to avoid financial responsibility. This bill will make the people at the top of the supply chain, the brands, responsible for wage theft claims.

The Justice for Jeyasre campaign is also fighting to hold brands accountable for working conditions at their factories. At the Los Angeles Speaking Tour stop, both campaigns used the opportunity to share their strategies with one another and join forces. With nearly 60 people in attendance at the speaking tour’s Los Angeles stop, workers and organizers generously shared their power analysis and stories from their campaigns. Members from the Garment Workers Center, the Western States Regional Joint Board (WSRJB) of Workers United, Remake, Fashion Revolution USA, Workers United 75, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Warehouse Worker Resource Center, and United Students Against Sweatshops spoke about protesting, advocating at the state capitol, and building coalitions to support the bill. 

After years of struggling to get workers their owed wages, these groups focused on brand accountability and won. 

“We fought for the Garment Worker Protection Act for 2 years”, said Daisy Gonzalez, the Lead Member Organizer with the Garment Workers Center, “but winning legislation is just one strategy. We also want to learn about binding agreements. We want our work to be a model to you, and your work to be a model to us as well.”

The Justice for Jeyasre campaign is also fighting to hold brands accountable, but through a set of enforceable and binding agreements between brands, their supplier, and the TTCU. These would include monitoring, remediation, and prevention of gender-based violence and harassment as well as protecting workers’ freedom of association. We know, from Jeyasre’s story, that suppliers create coercive workplaces, rife with sexual harassment and violence to push workers into producing extremely high volumes of clothing at very low wages, and to block them from unionizing. This allows fashion brands to make huge profits. The Justice for Jeyasre campaign puts the responsibility back on brands, who ultimately profit from the low cost and high production of workers in their suppliers’ factories, to end these practices.  

Garment workers in California and India work and organize in different contexts, and therefore build different strategies to win justice. But, when workers and organizers connect those strategies and build global solidarity our campaigns become even stronger.

As Maria Rivera, the Regional Manager from WSRJB said, “Your fight is our fight. We’re always fighting against these gigantic corporations. We have the strength and we have the heart.”

The Justice For Jeyasre speaking tour launched on August 8th at the APALA Convention and is an opportunity for rank and file leaders, staff and members to hear directly from Thivya and the campaign team as they share strategy and demands in their fight with major fast fashion brands producing clothing for a US and European market. 

Click here to visit the Justice for Jeyasre speaking tour website and learn more about how to take action in solidarity with Dalit women garment workers in Tamil Nadu.

Thivya Rakini will share the legacy of Jeyasre Kathiravel, a young Dalit woman and union member who was organizing for better conditions at her workplace and was killed by her supervisor inspiring the Justice for Jeyasre campaign. The campaign is demanding structural changes to the garment supply chain including an end to gender based violence and harassment and freedom of association for garment workers in Tamil Nadu and beyond.

“Young women are the backbone of the fast fashion industry,” said Thivya Rakini. “Through the Justice for Jeyasre campaign and TTCU’s broader organizing strategy, we are advancing a vision for our communities, our economy, and our country. When young women are able to work with dignified conditions and living wages, they will also be able to lead broader change.”  

“We are doing this tour to learn more about organizing efforts coming from the U.S. Like us, we know many are organizing and demanding change in the most difficult environments with centuries of historical oppression. From our experience and theirs, we are hopeful- we see organizing growing more from the South in the U.S. and from the Global South and we want to stand in unity against big corporations who put profit before people” — Thivya Rakini

The tour has already visited major US cities including Tucson, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and more. To request more information please contact GLJ-ILRF Field Director jacobhorwitz@globallaborjustice.org.

Watch the recording of the Awards here.

On November 8, 2021, Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) hosted its 13th annual event to honor Labor Rights Defenders.  Uplifting the theme “Women Leading Change: From Forced Labor to the Freedom of Association”, the  GLJ-ILRF 2021 Labor Rights Defenders Roundtable brought together five powerful women leaders who are creating innovative models to defend labor rights and build worker power around the world. 

The roundtable featured  Julie Su, Deputy Secretary of Labor of the United States Department of Labor; Ma Moe Sandar Myint, Chairwoman of the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar (FGWM); Allison Lee (Lee Li Hua), Secretary-General of Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union (YMFU); Roza Agaydarova, Founder of Adolat Sari Olg’a (Onward Toward Justice); and Iris Munguía, Secretaria de la Mujer (Secretary of Women) of Federación Sindical Agrícola (Federation of Industrial Agriculture Unions). Featuring simultaneous interpretation in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, the online event attracted a diverse audience of nearly 200 viewers. 

GLJ-ILRF Executive Director, Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, launched the event by highlighting how current discourse on global supply chain shortages during the pandemic has obscured the reality of transnational global production networks, namely that the structure of the business model itself creates extreme downward pressure on wages and working conditions. She reminded audience members that the global race-to-the-bottom has led to a spectrum of abuse, ranging from wage theft to forced labor, which disproportionately impacts women and girls. Making up the majority of victims of forced labor worldwide, female workers tend to earn lower wages, enjoy less stable employment, and have extra barriers to access to justice and remedy than their male counterparts. In addition, they are often relegated to perform hidden and uncompensated work. 

Rosenbaum invited the panelists to discuss how they are responding to these immense structural pressures through organizing, union building, and transnational bargaining and to describe their visions of a more just and equitable global economy. 

The resulting discussion provided crucial perspectives on the struggles of workers across different settings—from garment factories in the United States and Myanmar to fishing vessels in Taiwan to cotton mills in Uzbekistan to banana plantations in Honduras—and offered an important gendered lens on the future of organizing even in difficult sectors.  

Julie Su, United States Deputy Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor and former Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development AgencyEarly in her career as a staff attorney and later litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (formerly the Asian Pacific American Legal Center), Julie Su led a team that sued the captors and the manufacturers and retailers at the top of the supply chain who benefited from the forced labor in El Monte. 

She has written how this experience shaped her own direction and efforts to build worker rights, voice, and agency. “When I came into government—first in California at the state level and now working for President Biden and Secretary Walsh at the Department of Labor—I promised myself and the workers I knew that their voices would always be heard in the halls of power,” Su said. “You often hear [people in] government say that we can’t do these things because workers are too afraid, but what I’ve learned from a lifetime of working alongside low-wage workers (who everybody expects just to keep their heads down and know their place) is that it’s not their fears that hold us back; it’s the fears of those in power to really step up, to support and join the campaigns, and to do what’s right. I take that responsibility of being in this position now very seriously and in an administration that has been very clear that we need to re-center our economy, focus on real equity and justice, and build back better—which means building back with worker well-being at the heart of everything we do.” 

Ma Moe Sandar Myint, Chairwoman of the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar (FGWM), Myanmar.  Ma Moe Sandar Myint is a union organizer and former garment worker who has led more than 20 pro-democracy protests since the military takeover of Myanmar on February 1, 2021, including during the February 22 general strike. Myint explained, “Our vision is for Myanmar to be able to restore democracy and for every worker in Myanmar to enjoy a free, fair, and good workplace and to get a living wage. Also, we envision that labor laws that can protect the workers and are written with the participation of the workers can be enacted.”

Allison Lee (Lee Li Hua) Secretary-General, Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union (YMFU), Taiwan. Allison is the co-founder of Taiwan’s first labor union composed of and led by foreign workers and is a leading voice in demanding stronger protections for fishing crew members and accountability for human traffickers. “To me, everyone should be treated equally, regardless of their race, occupation, or class,” Lee said. “I believe workers should have a certain dignity. They should be treated equally—be it their wage or overtime pay, working period or resting period, if they live on-shore or live on boats. All of these conditions need to be set, and they should be very fair and dignified. This is why I want to advocate for [workers] and to fight for them.”

Roza Agaydarova Founder of Adolat Sari Olg’a (Onward Toward Justice), Uzbekistan. Roza Agaydarova, from Syrdarya region, Uzbekistan, is an organizer who was fired from her job at a cotton plantation and spinning mill after reporting concerns about financial irregularities and possible corruption. In January 2021, she successfully sued for reinstatement, and in March 2021, Roza led the formation of the first democratic union election in Uzbekistan’s history, organizing more than 200 workers at Indorama.  “I hope that in the future [our union work] will benefit everyone, not just the workers, but also our communities and our society in general. Maybe people will become more freedom-loving and will want to protect their own rights,” Agaydarova said.

Iris Munguia, Secretaria de la Mujer (Secretary of Women) Federación Sindical Agrícola (Federation of Industrial Agriculture Unions) (FESTAGRO), Honduras. In addition to her work with FESTAGRO, Iris is the former Coordinator of COLSIBA – the Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions, a coalition of unions representing 55,000 workers across eight countries, the largest transnational federation of private-sector unions in the Americas. “As union women and union leaders, the only way to improve the labor conditions of female and male workers is through the unions and through collective bargaining. It’s not the same thing as not having a union; the conditions in the agricultural sector are terrible. That’s why my dream is to see in my country that there is no child labor or forced  migration overseas, and the only way to stop migration is with good working conditions.” 

The event ended with closing remarks by GLJ-ILRF Deputy Director, Valery Alzaga who reiterated GLJ-ILRF’s commitment to continue researching strategies to hold corporations accountable and investing in organizing and women’s leadership to make trade fairer.

Watch the recording of the Awards here.

Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) hosted its 12th annual Labor Rights Defenders Awards Ceremony on October 1, its first event since the merging of the two organizations. With over 700 views globally so far, the online event celebrated labor rights leaders and activists from across the globe who have committed their lives to defender worker rights and build power across a range of sectors and communities.

Awardees included Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Dr. Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, The Chicago Teachers Union, and The General Agricultural Workers Union of Ghana (GAWU). “In the midst of this pandemic, we’re both more isolated and more aware of how we’re linked across borders,”  said GLJ-ILRF Executive Director JJ Rosenbaum, who moderated the evening. “We will honor the importance of expanding the spaces for voice and leadership of those workers who have historically been excluded from labor rights and worker organizations.” 

Beginning with the music of Los Jornaleros del Norte, a band of day laborers that was established after an ICE raid in Los Angeles, the evening brought together international activists, organizers and allies from Bangladesh, to Honduras, to India, to Ghana and more. Many engaged in supportive banter and commentary on the YouTube channel throughout the event, which facilitated a feeling of camaraderie that can be difficult to replicate in the era of online gatherings. 

Each of this year’s Labor Rights Defenders were selected for their long term engagement in the labor rights movement. “In these incredibly momentous times, with so much at stake, we must find new ways to join together, to protest, to march, and in other ways to join arms across borders in solidarity and mutual reciprocity,” Rosenbaum said. 

Sharan Burrow has had a long career of visionary leadership at ITUC, including the passage of groundbreaking ILO Convention on the elimination of gender-based violence and harassment and the advancement of a social contract for all workers. As the first woman to hold the position of General Secretary at ITUC, Burrow has represented workers and civil society groups in global policy discussions at numerous UN bodies, the ILO, the World Bank, and the IMF. “We are the biggest democratic force on earth, and we have all peoples in the world,” Burrow said. “I’ve always come away with the dignity and the strength from those union men and women.”

As a lifelong labor organizer for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, Lorretta Johnson has committed her life to advancing the rights of educators and children in the U.S. and globally. Johnson began her career rallying for better pay for paraprofessionals in Baltimore, and rose through the ranks of the American Federation of teachers – including serving as the president of AFT Maryland for 17 years – before becoming the Secretary Treasurer of AFT. Emphasizing the power of the Black Lives Matter movements and the labor activism of 2020, Johnson expressed, “In this exciting hopeful moment, let us be sure to look inwards at ourselves, into our unions, and our own organizations, because there is a basic fundamental value of labor, and it is the source of our strength.”

The Chicago Teachers Union, a union that represents over 20,000 teachers and clinicians, is a model of 21st-century labor organizing and a powerful voice advocating for educational and community justice in Chicago. Chicago became the birthplace of unionization among teachers in 1898. In 2019, CTU led an monumental 11-day teacher strikes demanding reforms including decreased class sizes, raising salaries, hiring more social workers, nurses and librarians, offering sanctuary to undocumented students on campuses, and expansion of affordable housing for teachers and students. President Jesse Sharkey and Recording Secretary Christel Williams Hayes underscored the collective efforts of all the union members in order to achieve wins for their students. “We have to continue to be prepared to do some type of work stoppage or an action to show them that we’re going to fight, we’re going to fight to the end,” Williams Hayes said. 

The General Agricultural Workers Union of Ghana (GAWU), an affiliate of the Trades-Union Congress Ghana, is recognized for advocating for cocoa farmers rights and working to elimate child labor, impacting hundreds of thousands across West Africa. Founded in 1959, GAWU pushes to protect workers through supply chain management across supply chains in West Africa and community development programming. GAWU began its work on Child Free Labor Zones (CFLZs) in 2007, using a strategy that hinges on strengthening trade union structures and increasing wages of union members. “It is possible to produce cocoa without child labor, it is possible to do agriculture without child labor, and it this is possible when farmers can organize,” said Andrews Tagoe, Deputy General Secretary of GAWU. 

Judy Gearhart, the former Executive Director of ILRF, was honored with an additional award in recognition of her dedicated service and enduring commitment to the labor movement. “We know that no amount of international policy will make a difference unless our allies can use those policies to advance their struggles on the ground,” Gearhart said.  

Amidst the global pandemic, we are thrilled to have offered a forum to bring together so many activists, workers, organizers, and allies to virtually celebrate our 2020 Labor Rights Defenders.  

Labor rights groups say “every brand that values workers’ lives” will sign the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry

Today, apparel brands and labor unions announced an agreement on a new International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, thereby preserving, extending, and expanding the model pioneered by the Bangladesh Accord for protecting worker safety. The non-governmental organization signatories (known as witness signatories) to the Bangladesh Accord – Clean Clothes Campaign, Worker Rights Consortium, Maquila Solidarity Network, and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum – issued the following statement:
We welcome, and look forward to signing, this new international safety agreement, which maintains the vital elements of the ground-breaking model established by the Bangladesh Accord: legal enforceability of brands’ commitments, independent oversight of brand compliance, the obligation to pay prices to suppliers sufficient to support safe workplaces, and the obligation to cease doing business with any factory that refuses to operate safely. The successful outcome of negotiations this summer will ensure that the sweeping safety gains the Accord has delivered in Bangladesh will be maintained and extended.

This model, which has saved countless lives in Bangladesh, will also now be expanded to other countries where workers’ lives remain daily at risk. Eight years since the inception of the original Accord, the new International Accord takes the important and overdue step to expand its coverage beyond Bangladesh. It is vital that this process will be taken on swiftly and unreservedly for the benefit of textile and garment workers who have called for better safety measures for many years.

Under the new agreement, the continuation of the progress on fire and building safety achieved in Bangladesh over the past eight years, and the expansion of the program beyond Bangladesh, will be ensured through the work of the Accord Secretariat, a fully independent oversight body with the authority to verify and enforce brand compliance. Importantly, only brands that are willing to sign the new enforceable agreement will be able to avail themselves of inspections and other services from the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), in Bangladesh, ensuring a level playing field without a double standard for brand accountability.

Every responsible apparel and textile brand – every brand that places any value on the lives of the workers who sew its clothes – will sign this new agreement. It is especially important that brands and retailers that failed to sign the original Accord sign this one. These brands have consciously chosen to risk the lives of the workers in their contract factories; their recklessness must now end.

We congratulate the hundreds of trade unions, civil society organizations, parliamentarians, and governments around the world that have advocated this year for the continuation of the Accord. Their efforts were instrumental in getting this good outcome. We must now turn our attention to ensuring that every brand that sources clothing from high-risk countries, in South Asia and beyond, signs the new International Safety Accord.

JJ Rosenbaum, Executive Director of Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-IRLF) said: “This legally binding agreement is a critical step in holding brands and their suppliers accountable and pushing them to create safe workplaces for garment and textile workers in Bangladesh. Legally binding and enforceable agreements involving trade unions, labor rights organizations and brands and their suppliers are key to preventing tragedies like Rana Plaza from happening ever again.”

Ineke Zeldenrust, International Coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign, said: “This agreement will begin the long-awaited expansion of this model that holds brands legally accountable to other countries where workers’ lives continue to be at risk. In many of these countries, unions and labor rights organizations have been asking for effective action in the field of workplace safety for years. We are happy this agreement will now become truly international and look forward to it being expanded soon to the countries where the need is highest and the demand is greatest.”

Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium said: “Garment workers in Bangladesh used to die in the dozens and hundreds making t-shirts and sweaters for the world’s leading apparel brands. The Accord put an end to that horror. Provided enough brands sign, this new agreement will ensure it never returns.”

#

Notes to editor:
● The announcement of the negotiating brands and trade unions is available on the website of the Bangladesh Accord: https://bangladeshaccord.org/updates/2021/08/25/brands-and-unions-reach-agreement-on-new-expanded-worker-safety-pact

● Last week, Clean Clothes Campaign, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, and Worker Rights Consortium published a legal brief detailing that brands accountable under current French and future German corporate due diligence legislation could be held liable if they decide to not sign a new agreement: cleanclothes.org/Accord-due-diligence/view.

● Garment worker unions and labor rights organizations in Pakistan have been calling for an expansion of the Accord model to Pakistan for a long time. This report from 2019 highlights their demands and the urgency for expanding the Accord program to Pakistan: cleanclothes.org/PakistanSafety/view.

Oxfam AmericaPartnership for Working FamiliesRainforest Action Network (RAN)The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Unidad Latina en Accion -ConnecticutWashington Office on Latin America WeCount! -Florida Witness for Peace Solidarity CollectiveWorkers Center of Central New YorkWorkers Defense Action Fund -TexasWorkers’ Dignity/Dignidad Obrera -Nashville

Cooperationand Development (OECD) must be used to align its practices regarding freedoms of association, expression and assembly with those of the OECD.In addition, the Biden administration should impress upon Colombia the importance of accepting the fact-finding mission recently proposed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).The U.S. human rights and labor movements, stand in solidarity with the National Strike Committee (Comité Nacional del Paro) and the Colombian people from different sectors, communities and regions, especially young people and women,small farmers,indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, as they continueto peacefullymobilize and protest in support of their full demands, including negotiating an agreement with the Colombian social movements on taxreformthat motivated the recent protests, and negotiations over the Unified Emergency Proposal of the National Strike Committee.These demands are not the product of the most recent events but reflect widespread discontent with the Duque government’s refusal to honor the commitments of the 2016 peace process, rising poverty and inequality, and public health distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.Simply de-escalating the violent repression of valid social protest while urgently needed will not resolve the root causes of the 2019 protests and current ones.We urge theBidenadministration to offerstrongguidance and formsof assistance that focus on immediately restoring constitutional order with full protection of human rights and democracy to the country andsupporting good faith negotiations to reach clear and binding commitments on these issues.Thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter. Sincerely,ActionAid USAARISE CHICAGOCASA Casa Latina -SeattleCenter for Constitutional Rights (CCR)Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) -MinnesotaCoalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)Fair World ProjectFarmworker Association of FloridaFood Chain Workers AllianceGeorgia Stand-UpGlobal Health PartnersGlobal Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF)Jobs with Justice Justice Is GlobalLatin America Working Group (LAWG)National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)National Employment Law Project (NELP)New Labor Oxfam AmericaPartnership for Working FamiliesRainforest Action Network (RAN)The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Unidad Latina en Accion -ConnecticutWashington Office on Latin America WeCount! -Florida Witness for Peace Solidarity CollectiveWorkers Center of Central New YorkWorkers Defense Action Fund -TexasWorkers’ Dignity/Dignidad Obrera -Nashville

WASHINGTON DC — Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-IRLF), our staff, and our allied unions and community organizations around the globe mourn the loss of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. 
As a third-generation miner and son of immigrant parents, President Trumka often publicly called on that experience as he defended important positions for working people and unions in the U.S. and around the world.  

During his term as President of the United Mineworkers of America, he met South African miners challenging the South African Apartheid regime.  He helped organize the U.S. Shell Boycott in solidarity with them, later earning the 1990 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies in recognition of these efforts. President Trumka also led the AFL-CIO in supporting the labor movements of Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain during the Arab Spring, recognizing the role that these trade unions played in challenging corporate power and government impunity and in ensuring meaningful worker protections in the 2018 U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA). 

GLJ-ILRF Executive Director Jennifer Rosenbaum remembered, “In 2010, Rich welcomed and hosted the first Excluded Worker Congress meeting bringing together day laborers, domestic workers, guest workers, and global supply chain workers and their organizations.  The convening including workers from Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa along with Black workers from the U.S. South. Together we analyzed how multinational corporations and global capital pit countries and workers against each other and how this exacerbated existing structural oppression around issues of race, gender, and migration status. These conversations planted the seeds that led to the founding of Global Labor Justice. Under Rich’s leadership, the AFL-CIO affiliated the predominantly immigrant National Taxi Workers Alliance; entered into partnerships with workers’ centers; and deepened collaboration with U.S. and global partners on successful efforts to adopt the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention (C189) and then the ILO Convention to End Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (C190).”

Much of President Trumka’s recent efforts focused on passing the Pro Act — legislation that would update labor law provisions so workers in the U.S. can effectively exercise the right to organize and collectively bargain. The Pro Act would strengthen the U.S. labor movement along with transnational labor efforts. We urge those in Congress to honor President Trumka’s memory through concrete action to pass the Pro Act. President Trumka’s recent leadership with the Biden Administration has also been critical in advancing a U.S. agenda that empowers unions and workers as a part of U.S. trade, development, and foreign policy.  This includes locating U.S. efforts in broader cooperation with the ILO and other multilateral efforts. President Trumka was clear that worker-centered policy must include workers around the world.” 

We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends as we honor President Trumka’s powerful legacy—he fought hard battles and left the world a better place for unions and working people. We also send our solidarity to the leaders at the AFL-CIO who carry forward the work at this critical time.

Oxfam AmericaPartnership for Working FamiliesRainforest Action Network (RAN)The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Unidad Latina en Accion -ConnecticutWashington Office on Latin America WeCount! -Florida Witness for Peace Solidarity CollectiveWorkers Center of Central New YorkWorkers Defense Action Fund -TexasWorkers’ Dignity/Dignidad Obrera -Nashville

Cooperationand Development (OECD) must be used to align its practices regarding freedoms of association, expression and assembly with those of the OECD.In addition, the Biden administration should impress upon Colombia the importance of accepting the fact-finding mission recently proposed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).The U.S. human rights and labor movements, stand in solidarity with the National Strike Committee (Comité Nacional del Paro) and the Colombian people from different sectors, communities and regions, especially young people and women,small farmers,indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, as they continueto peacefullymobilize and protest in support of their full demands, including negotiating an agreement with the Colombian social movements on taxreformthat motivated the recent protests, and negotiations over the Unified Emergency Proposal of the National Strike Committee.These demands are not the product of the most recent events but reflect widespread discontent with the Duque government’s refusal to honor the commitments of the 2016 peace process, rising poverty and inequality, and public health distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.Simply de-escalating the violent repression of valid social protest while urgently needed will not resolve the root causes of the 2019 protests and current ones.We urge theBidenadministration to offerstrongguidance and formsof assistance that focus on immediately restoring constitutional order with full protection of human rights and democracy to the country andsupporting good faith negotiations to reach clear and binding commitments on these issues.Thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter. Sincerely,ActionAid USAARISE CHICAGOCASA Casa Latina -SeattleCenter for Constitutional Rights (CCR)Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) -MinnesotaCoalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)Fair World ProjectFarmworker Association of FloridaFood Chain Workers AllianceGeorgia Stand-UpGlobal Health PartnersGlobal Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF)Jobs with Justice Justice Is GlobalLatin America Working Group (LAWG)National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)National Employment Law Project (NELP)New Labor Oxfam AmericaPartnership for Working FamiliesRainforest Action Network (RAN)The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Unidad Latina en Accion -ConnecticutWashington Office on Latin America WeCount! -Florida Witness for Peace Solidarity CollectiveWorkers Center of Central New YorkWorkers Defense Action Fund -TexasWorkers’ Dignity/Dignidad Obrera -Nashville

Over the weekend,  Indian Union Leader Thivya Rakini, President of the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU) addressed the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance’s 16th Biennial Convention with the theme Rooted in Legacy: Reimagining a New World Beyond Borders & Across Oceans.  TTCU is a women-led Tamil Nadu based sectoral textile worker union.  

Thivya shared the legacy of Jeyasre Kathiravel, a young Dalit woman and union member who was organizing for better conditions at her workplace and was killed by her supervisor inspiring the Justice for Jeyasre campaign to honor her legacy and demand serious long term changes including an end to gender-based violence and harassment and freedom of association for garment workers in Tamil Nadu and beyond. Their demands were endorsed by more than ninety unions, women’s organizations, and other allies including The AFL-CIO, The Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), Workers United – SEIU, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), and All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).

Thivya inspired APALA Convention attendees with the energy and spirit of TTCU’s women members as they organize to transform conditions on the global supply chains of major fashion brands.  She also shared their transformative vision of dignified work and life for those who sew the clothes that many of the convention members wear every day.  

“Young women are the backbone of the fast fashion industry,” said Thivya Rakini. “Through the Justice for Jeyasre campaign and TTCU’s broader organizing strategy, we are advancing a vision for our communities, our economy, and our country.  When young women are able to work with dignified conditions and living wages, they will also be able to lead broader change.”  

“We also joined the APALA Convention to learn more about organizing efforts coming from the U.S  including the Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, and the warrior coal mine workers in Alabama. Like us, they are organizing and demanding change from the most difficult environments with centuries of historical oppression.  From our experience and theirs, we are hopeful- we see organizing growing more from the South in the U.S. and from the Global South and we want to stand in unity against big corporations who put profit before people.”

The APALA convention brought workers and allies together for powerful plenaries, APALA business, and collective actions. The convention links generations of organizers working to advance worker justice and continues the groundwork laid by decades of training programs, political, civic engagement programs, and APALA’s series of successful immigration campaigns. 

TTCU’s Remarks at the APALA Convention opened The Justice for Jeyasre Campaign virtual speaking tour to meet with union and community members across the U.S. to build a stronger global labor movement with women’s leadership at all levels and to demand corporate accountability on global fashion supply chains.  After the convention, the tour will visit major US cities including Miami, Washington DC, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and more.  To request more information about a tour stop in your city please contact jacobhorwitz@globallaborjustice.org 

The Justice for Jeyasre Campaign is led by a coalition of international unions, labor groups, and gender-justice organizations in honor of Jeyasre Kethrivel, a young Indian Dalit woman garment worker and union member who was organizing against gender-based violence and harassment at a major Indian garment manufacturer that supplies to American and European fashion brands. Jeyasre faced months of sexual harassment by her supervisor before she was murdered in January. Since her death, twenty-five other women garment workers at the same factory have since come forward publicly describing a culture of gender-based violence & harassment at the particular unit where Jeyasre worked, Natchi Apparels.  The Justice for Jeyasre Campaign pays tribute to Jeyasre’s life and efforts as a labor organizer by continuing to fight and make sure gender-based violence is eliminated in Tamil Nadu and beyond.

Oxfam AmericaPartnership for Working FamiliesRainforest Action Network (RAN)The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Unidad Latina en Accion -ConnecticutWashington Office on Latin America WeCount! -Florida Witness for Peace Solidarity CollectiveWorkers Center of Central New YorkWorkers Defense Action Fund -TexasWorkers’ Dignity/Dignidad Obrera -Nashville

Cooperationand Development (OECD) must be used to align its practices regarding freedoms of association, expression and assembly with those of the OECD.In addition, the Biden administration should impress upon Colombia the importance of accepting the fact-finding mission recently proposed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).The U.S. human rights and labor movements, stand in solidarity with the National Strike Committee (Comité Nacional del Paro) and the Colombian people from different sectors, communities and regions, especially young people and women,small farmers,indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, as they continueto peacefullymobilize and protest in support of their full demands, including negotiating an agreement with the Colombian social movements on taxreformthat motivated the recent protests, and negotiations over the Unified Emergency Proposal of the National Strike Committee.These demands are not the product of the most recent events but reflect widespread discontent with the Duque government’s refusal to honor the commitments of the 2016 peace process, rising poverty and inequality, and public health distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.Simply de-escalating the violent repression of valid social protest while urgently needed will not resolve the root causes of the 2019 protests and current ones.We urge theBidenadministration to offerstrongguidance and formsof assistance that focus on immediately restoring constitutional order with full protection of human rights and democracy to the country andsupporting good faith negotiations to reach clear and binding commitments on these issues.Thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter. Sincerely,ActionAid USAARISE CHICAGOCASA Casa Latina -SeattleCenter for Constitutional Rights (CCR)Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) -MinnesotaCoalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)Fair World ProjectFarmworker Association of FloridaFood Chain Workers AllianceGeorgia Stand-UpGlobal Health PartnersGlobal Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF)Jobs with Justice Justice Is GlobalLatin America Working Group (LAWG)National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)National Employment Law Project (NELP)New Labor Oxfam AmericaPartnership for Working FamiliesRainforest Action Network (RAN)The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Unidad Latina en Accion -ConnecticutWashington Office on Latin America WeCount! -Florida Witness for Peace Solidarity CollectiveWorkers Center of Central New YorkWorkers Defense Action Fund -TexasWorkers’ Dignity/Dignidad Obrera -Nashville