Solidarity Center
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The Solidarity Center's mission is to help build a global labor movement by strengthening the economic and political power of workers around the world through effective, independent and democratic unions.

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Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund

Bangladeshi union organizers are in peril and need your help. Please donate now to support them as they reach out to garment workers in unsafe factories. Find out more.
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Where We Work

The High Cost of Low Wages in Haiti
Haiti's apparel exports have increased 45 percent since the 2010 earthquake. Yet garment workers who make goods destined for the U.S. market barely earn enough to pay for lunch and transportation to work, a new Solidarity Center survey finds.

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A New Vision for the African Growth and Opportunity Act

July 21, 2014—This is a crosspost from the AFL-CIO.

The AFL-CIO and the Solidarity Center released a new policy brief Thursday on how to improve the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and ensure that it delivers on its ambitious goals of supporting democratic governance, enhancing civil society, combating corruption and promoting the rule of law in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the 15 years AGOA has been in effect, it has increased exports from sub-Saharan Africa, but by focusing mostly on tariff reductions, it has not spurred broader development or fostered a robust and equitable economic system.

AGOA gives eligible sub-Saharan countries duty-free access to the U.S. market for a variety of products. To qualify, countries must establish or make “continual progress toward establishing” measures that promote good governance and a fair economic system. 

Read the full article.

African Trade Unions and Africa’s Future: Strategic Choices

July 15, 2014—The rapid economic growth of many African countries is not translating into good jobs or worker rights, especially for women, and worker organizations, governments and business must be more proactive in expanding employment and improving wages and social protections, according to a new Solidarity Center report.

African Trade Unions and Africa’s Future:  Strategic Choices in a Changing World” calls for measures to promote job creation, secure worker rights, invest in social and physical infrastructure and achieve gender equality.

Based on a 2013 survey of trade unionists in nine African countries, the report finds that trade unions have played a significant part in the political and economic lives of their countries.

Women-Led Coalition Empowers Women Across the Niger Delta

July 15, 2014—In Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta, where the nation’s vast oil revenue has not benefited working people, who typically are paid less than $2 per day, women and children are especially vulnerable. Yet in the face of corruption, environmental degradation, gender discrimination and human rights abuses, a unique, women-led grassroots coalition is training and mobilizing women in urban and rural communities, empowering them to hold local lawmakers accountable and achieve concrete goals in their communities.

Women Initiative for Transparency and Social Justice (WITSOJ), a coalition of union and community groups, formed in 2007, inspried by a Solidarity Center workshop on women's empowerment and civil-society participation in Warri, a major oil city in Delta State. Since then, WITSOJ Women-Led Coalition Empowers Women Across the Niger Delta.

Report: Tunisia’s Informal Sector Workers Lack Decent Conditions

July 14, 2014—Tunisia is among many countries around the world seeing rapid growth in their informal economies. In 2013, Tunisia’s informal economy accounted for 38 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), up from 30 percent in 2010.

A new study by the Tunisian General Labor Union (Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, UGTT) and the Solidarity Center looks at factors fueling the expansion of Tunisia’s informal economy and offers recommendations for helping workers in the informal sector get job security and social protections they often do not have as domestic workers, street vendors and construction workers. 

“The Current State of the Informal Economy in Tunisia as Seen through Its Stakeholders: Facts and Alternatives,” incorporates data from a field survey of 1,128 informal economy workers conducted by 100 UGTT young worker volunteers

24 Bangladesh Union Leaders Complete Fire Training

July 11, 2014—Twenty-four garment worker union leaders and organizers in Bangladesh have completed a first-of-its-kind, in-depth training course on fire and building safety, conducted by the Solidarity Center and Selim Newaz Bhuiya, former deputy director of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense.

The 10-session course aims to equip union leaders with essential knowledge and skills on workplace safety. These workers will now, in turn, educate their co- workers and strengthen their unions’ ability to raise and rectify unsafe factory working conditions.

Forced Labor: Panel Spotlights Migrant Worker Plight in Mideast

July 11, 2014—Migrant workers to the Arabian Gulf states are rarely covered by labor law and generally denied the ability to exercise fundamental human rights, including freedom of association, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, said panelists at a standing-room-only Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday.

Migrant workers to countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar endure a “triangle of oppression,” in which they pay steep fees to get a job, generally have their passports taken by employers once they arrive in country and then find they have no legal protection or recourse when they are abused, said Sarah Leah Whitson,executive director for the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch.

Human Trafficking Fueled by Migrant Workers’ Vulnerability

July 10, 2014—Migrant workers’ high vulnerability to human trafficking is one of three main factors involved in labor trafficking in Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia, said Neha Misra,  Solidarity Center senior specialist for Migration and Human Trafficking in testimony on Capitol Hill July 7.

The other two elements involve a lack of investigations, prosecutions and convictions for forced labor (linked to corruption and government complicity) and a lack of economic pressure by governments and businesses to eliminate the scourge. Misra was one of four experts testifying on human trafficking and forced labor before the Senate Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific hearing, “Combating Forced Labor and Modern-Day Slavery in East Asia and the Pacific.”

Swazi Sugar Strike Ends with Important Gains for Workers
July 8, 2014—This is a crosspost from the Food, Farm and Hotel Workers global union (IUF).
The three-week strike by the Swaziland Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (SAPWU) has ended with a settlement bringing workers a 10% wage increase and satisfying the union's non-wage demands, including improved benefits for seasonal workers. Over the course of the strike involving some 3,000 workers, union members stood up to intimidation by military and security forces and legal action by the company intended to hamper picketing. Ubombo Sugar, the Swazi subsidiary of South African sugar giant Illovo, is 40% owned by Swaziland's despotic monarch Mswati III. Illovo in turn is 51% controlled by the UK's Associated British Foods (ABF).

The union's general secretary Archie Sayed has written that "The workers of Ubombo send their gratitude to all who contributed to their struggle and appreciate the spirit of solidarity which has also come as a lesson to them that there no better future for the workers as solidarity and unity."

$11,537 Donated to Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund

July 7, 2014—The Solidarity Center’s Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund has received $11,537 in contributions as of June 30 and donations already have assisted with medical bills for union organizers beaten while talking with garment workers and provided a one-month salary for union leaders assaulted and fired by management.

In February, four union organizers, Hashi, Selim, Ali Hossain and Rita, were badly injured when about two dozen people beat, kicked and threw them to the ground as they were speaking to workers in the dormitory where they live. One of the organizers was taken from the scene, beaten severely and dumped, unconscious, nearby. According to several witnesses, the attack was carried out by Chunjee Garments Ltd. factory managers and others.

Young Girl Kept as Slave Receives Compensation for Torture

July 8, 2014—Time reports the following story about an ethnic Karen girl from Burma, who filed a case against her former employers in Thailand for cruel treatment and enslavement. The young girl, Air, is receiving legal representation from the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), a Solidarity Center ally. Time notes Air’s experience “keeps the spotlight on the dangers faced by the estimated 4 million migrant workers in Thailand.

A 13-year-old Burmese girl who was tortured for five years by a Thai couple who treated her as a slave has finally been awarded $143,000 in compensation by a local court, ending one nightmare but throwing the spotlight on the plight of countless other vulnerable migrants who suffer similar abuse.

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