After over a year of anticipation, the government of Qatar last week unveiled its highly touted labor law reforms. While labor rights activists had hoped the reforms might begin to address the widespread abuse of migrant workers and the prevalence of forced labor in Qatar’s massive infrastructure projects, not surprisingly, they fell far short of bringing the labor code in line with international norms. As Qatar is set to host the 2022 World Cup, and 700,000 more migrant workers have been recruited to develop the country at breakneck speed, the lives of thousands of workers could be on the line.
This week, the AFL-CIO will award the annual George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to the Trade Union Confederation of Swaziland (TUCOSWA). Created in 1980 and named for the first two presidents of the AFL-CIO, the award recognizes outstanding examples of the international struggle for human rights through trade unions. We don’t blame you for not knowing much about current events in Swaziland—it is one of the smallest countries in Africa, landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique—but you really should take a moment to learn about how Swazi unions are leading a heroic struggle for democracy in their country against incredible odds.
Today, the Obama administration made the disastrous decision to upgrade Malaysia—a major player in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement—on its annual Trafficking in Persons report. This clearly political decision undermines the credibility of important anti-trafficking efforts and underscores the fact that the Obama administration is willing to pursue its anti-worker trade agenda at all costs. It is also yet another sign that the TPP will only continue a global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.
After nearly nine years of waiting, two immigrant workers who suffered serious workplace injuries were able to bring their cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)—an international body that promotes and protects human rights in the Americas. However, because of dysfunctional U.S. immigration policies the workers could not be in the room. In fact, both of them faced deportation threats after seeking workers’ compensation after their accidents. Now they are challenging the U.S. government's failure to protect their rights from their homes in Mexico, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Employment Law Project and the University of Pennsylvania's Transnational Legal Clinic.
This week, as thousands of women gathered at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to assess the progress of women’s rights 20 years after the historic Beijing Women’s Conference, participants were shocked to learn of a major plan to expand the low-wage Uber model around the world and create even more precarious work for women workers.
A new AFL-CIO report released today finds that four nations that would be major players under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are out of compliance with international labor standards and, therefore, with the commitments they would undertake under the TPP. The report—The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Four Countries That Don’t Comply with U.S. Trade Laws—finds that workers in Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei face ongoing and systematic abuse and violations of workers’ rights with the complicity or direct involvement of the governments.
Forced labor and human trafficking exist in worksites and industries where workers’ rights are routinely violated and where a culture of exploitation reigns. In the tomato fields of Florida, more than 1,200 farm workers once toiled in conditions of forced labor. However, thanks to the organizing efforts of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), these workers now have respect on the job, higher wages and a say on the job.
On Tuesday, Washington, D.C., area labor and human rights activists gathered outside the Embassy of Qatar to protest the country’s abhorrent record of human rights abuses and forced labor in an action marking U.N. International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.