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.
Activists’ hard work fighting for workers’ rights often goes unrecognized. This week, however, two leading labor activists received global recognition for their defense of vulnerable workers and innovative organizing and advocacy campaigns. The AFL-CIO applauds our long-standing partners Kailash Satyarthi and Alejandra Ancheita.
Hundreds of millions of fans around the globe cheer on their national teams at major sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup. Beneath the fanfare, host countries require vast amounts of labor to pull off the massive infrastructure updates and stadium construction needed for such events. The sad truth is that those who stage these events often undercut laws protecting wages, organizing rights, and health and safety protections. It is often migrant workers who pay the price for these fast-paced projects with injury, wage theft, forced labor and even death.
A new initiative called Contratados, which refers to being contracted under a temporary work program, aims to give workers more power in the recruitment process and makes sure employers and recruiters are held accountable for their actions. Spearheaded by Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM), a trans-national migrant worker center with offices in Mexico and the United States, Contratados features an interactive website, a hotline, pocket-sized know-your-rights comics, audio novelas and a transnational radio campaign designed to provide workers with resources to more securely navigate the recruitment and employment process.
Cambodian garment workers sewing products for companies such as H&M, Gap, Adidas, Zara and Puma make $100 a month and suffer through long hours in harsh working conditions. Their labor supports a $5 billion industry, but their demands for a living wage have only been answered with violence. When workers and their unions held protests late last year to demand a living wage increase, police killed five workers and imprisoned another 25 union activists on criminal charges that have not been dismissed.
The federal judiciary of Mexico extended protection late last week to the embattled leader of the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers (Los Mineros), Napoleón Gómez Urrutia. In what will go down as a historic victory for the Mexican labor movement, the three judges of the circuit court unanimously declared the arrest warrants against Gómez unconstitutional, siding with Gómez’s legal defense team that the charges were without merit and politically motivated. This ruling will allow Gómez to return to Mexico in absolute freedom, as the Mexican government must now cancel extradition requests pending in Canada and with Interpol.
Last week African trade union leaders from across the continent converged on Washington, D.C., to push U.S. and African leaders to focus on decent work, worker rights and job creation during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. They challenged the growing “Africa Rising" narrative, which mainly focuses on macro-level economic growth, trade opportunities and growing consumer markets for international corporations, and sought to refocus the debate on policy changes that would improve the lives of working families.