At today’s Mondelēz International's shareholder meeting, the IUF, the international union body representing food workers worldwide, and unions representing the company’s North American employees raised concerns about human rights abuses in the company’s overseas operations. Many Mondelēz-branded cookies and crackers are produced by union members, including Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Ritz and Triscuit.
A coalition of faith organizations, investors and labor groups—including the AFL-CIO—is urging major U.S. retailers, including Walmart, Gap, Sears and others, to sign on to a binding workplace and fire safety plan to prevent tragedies such as the recent building collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 garment workers and two 2012 fires that claimed the lives of more than 400 Bangladeshi clothing workers.
The Bangladesh Cabinet approved a change to the nation’s labor laws that it says would enable workers to more freely form unions. The proposal, which must be approved by Parliament, would allow workers to join unions without showing the list of union supporters to factory owners to verify their employment—a practice that effectively makes it impossible for unions to gather sufficient support to register with the government because factory owners often penalize or fire workers who support unionization.
Rana Plaza, the Bangladesh factory that collapsed three weeks ago, killed more than 1,100 workers, many of them young women. This tragedy adds to the more than 1,500 Bangladeshi workers killed in preventable fires and building collapses since 2005. Documents found at the factory show that the workers produced for big names in global retail, revealing the link between poor workers in Bangladesh and major retail brands. Obviously, the government must improve local laws and their enforcement to stop these tragedies, but brands also must take responsibility for their supply chains. They must be held accountable to the tragedy that happened in their supply chain.
Last year, local Bangladeshi and international unions and workers’ rights groups negotiated an agreement to stop these deaths and help Bangladesh’s garment workers claim their rights. Two brands signed the agreement; the other major brands must sign on now!
In Colombia, “even when there’s an improvement in the overall economy, women don’t see any improvement,” says Sohely Rua Catañeda. As a result, many women who are unable to secure formal employment are forced into the informal sector to support themselves and their families, laboring as domestic workers or street vendors. Women in these low-paying jobs have limited or no access to social services and are unable to address workplace harassment or unsafe working conditions.
A stunning 73.4 million young workers are estimated to be jobless in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013, according to an International Labor Organization (ILO) report released Wednesday. Even worse, the number of unemployed young workers is likely to increase through 2018, with the long-term impact felt for decades, the report forecasts.
Like many of our global counterparts, the AFL-CIO faces many challenges. Last year, the federal Bureau for Labor Statistics announced that the percentage of U.S. workers represented by unions fell in 2012 to levels not seen since the 1930s. In response, the AFL-CIO Executive Council reaffirmed its commitment to organizing a stronger, more inclusive labor movement. As part of this commitment, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, announced an initiative on the future of worker representation. The initiative will engage elected union leaders in the United States and globally, as well as their members and staff, workers, allies and experts, to gather information to ensure that workers continue to be represented at work and in the political arena and that the labor movement makes the changes necessary for a renewal of worker representation.
Around the United States and across the globe today, workers, unions, activists and allies are celebrating International Workers' Day. May Day is a national holiday in more than 80 nations that honor workers and workers’ rights and celebrates the significant role unions play. May Day actions in the United States this year will place a special emphasis on immigrant rights and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
After last week's Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, which killed at least 377 garment workers, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) started a petition calling on three of the leading users of Bangladeshi garment workers—Walmart, the Gap and H&M—to demand that factories in the country be made safe for workers. The building collapse is already the deadliest garment factory disaster in known history and the death toll is not yet final. USAS says the deaths could have easily been prevented, as cracks appeared in the structure the day before it collapsed. Workers were ordered to work in the building anyway, under threat of losing a month's pay.