From the Arab uprisings to the international recognition of the rights of domestic workers, 2011 was a turning point for millions of workers around the globe. The AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center, whose mission is to support workers in building independent trade unions around the world, partnered with workers and their unions as they organized for better working conditions, greater social protections, more fair labor laws and increased democracy and equity in their countries.
In its just-released 2011 Annual Report, the Solidarity Center shows how its staff in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas partnered with workers and their unions organizing for better working conditions and for the fundamental rights denied to them.
Here are a few highlights:
- After years of work helping global partners advocate for domestic workers’ rights, the Solidarity Center and activists around the globe celebrated as the International Labor Organization (ILO) in June 2011 adopted a standard, “Decent Work for Domestic Workers.” The standard requires nations to take steps to make decent work a reality for domestic workers. (Decent work, broadly defined, is productive work in conditions of freedom, security, equity and human dignity, including a fair income and the ability to form unions.)
- In conjunction with the Burma Lawyers’ Council and the Thai Human Rights and Development Fund, Solidarity Center staff held courses on workers’ rights and human rights law. As Burma begins to embrace democracy, those trained can now advocate for Burmese workers and push the government to enact laws protecting workers, help Burmese workers achieve a voice at work and push for legal reforms to address such abuses as failure to pay minimum wages, unsafe workplaces and discrimination against women and minority workers.
- The Solidarity Center helped the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria maintain organizing strategies and promote public dialogue around democracy after a massive strike in January 2011, in which at least 10 people were killed and more than 600 treated for injuries. Thousands of workers protested the government’s removal of a long-standing fuel subsidy, which caused oil and gas prices to triple overnight. The strike ended when President Goodluck Jonathan announced the partial restoration of the fuel subsidy.
- The Solidarity Center in Peru, in cooperation with Peru’s four main union confederations, helped give voice to agricultural workers fighting a law that lowers wages and reduces job protections. Solidarity Center staff held regional and national workshops in which workers interviewed one another and recorded their personal testimonies. They then produced four radio spots featuring the workers. These spots, as part of a broader campaign that has included rallies and letter writing, were sent to more than 60 educational and community radio stations and union media outlets.