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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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“I Am Not Garbage That Can Be Thrown out”
In a new report by the Solidarity Center, Bangladeshi shrimp-processing workers—mostly women—speak out about their struggle for dignity on the job, toiling long hours for low pay in difficult conditions, often at odds with labor law.

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Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund

Bangladeshi union organizer Hasina Akter was talking with garment workers in Dhaka when a group of at least 20 people accosted her and the three other union organizers and a worker leader with her. She and her companions were threatened and beaten, one into unconsciousness. Two organizers had to be hospitalized following the assault, and the factory worker went into hiding.

The February attack was not an isolated incident. Union organizers in Bangladesh are in constant peril, and these brave women and men need your help.

Find out more.

Donate now to the Bangladesh Worker Rights Defense Fund.

Wall St. Journal: Bangladesh Union Organizers Allege Intimidation

April 14, 2014—The Wall Street Journal today highlights a February attack on union organizers in Bangladesh in which a garment worker leader and four union organizers, including two women, were badly injured after being beaten. The incident occurred while the organizers were talking with garment workers from Chunji Knit Ltd.

The article notes that Chunji did not pay workers the legal minimum wage after the government raised it to $67 a month last November. When  workers at Chunji tried to form a union, they were fired, one worker said.

Zimbabwe Women Key to Making Workplace Rights a Reality

April 11, 2014—Zimbabwe women workers are key to ensuring the implementation of workplace rights established by the country’s new constitution, says Fiona Magaya, coordinator of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Gender Department. The constitution, ratified in 2013, also expands the rights of women, but to make those rights a reality, “We have to train women to know these rights and to build on these rights in the workplace,” she says.

As part of that effort, ZCTU and its Gender Department are rolling out awareness trainings at the regional level. Nationally, the federation is promoting policy changes that would improve labor laws covering family leave for women and men, maternity leave and sexual harassment. The federation also is backing a proposed Domestic Violence Act that addresses gender-based violence. 

Hard-won Victory for Workers at Vidriera de San Potosí in Mexico

April 11, 2014—This is a crosspost from the global union IndustriAll. (Watch a video on the workers’ long struggle.)

Thirty-three workers won an important victory in their fight for reinstatement at Vidriera de San Luis Potosí. The company, which dismissed hundreds of workers in 2008 for forming an independent trade union, makes bottles for the export beer brand Corona Extra and is a subsidiary of Grupo Modelo-AB InBev.

The independent trade union, Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Empresa Industria Vidriera del Potosí (SUTEIVP), with strong support from its members (about 850), won a 19 percent pay rise in 2007, higher than any won for a long time in the state. The response of companies located at the San Luis Potosí industrial estate was not long in coming. They felt they could not tolerate this unacceptable precedent in labor relations, which showed that an independent union founded by theworkers themselves could provide an alternative to “official” trade unionism.

Briefing: Decent Work for Adults Can Reduce Child Labor

April 9, 2014—Reducing and eliminating child labor requires a focus on decent work for adults, said Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau, speaking yesterday on Capitol Hill. Such an approach, she said, must build the capacity of vulnerable workers to negotiate the terms of their employment and to advocate for local and national policies that address the economic welfare of entire communities.

Bader-Blau joined a panel of experts in a congressional briefing, “Combating Exploitative Child Labor,” sponsored by the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition spearheaded by the nonprofit Humanity United, and the Child Labor Coalition—both of which include the Solidarity Center.  (Watch a video of the full event.)

Morocco: 300,000 March for Economic and Social Justice

April 9, 2014—Calling for greater economic and social justice, more than 300,000 working people marched in Casablanca, Morocco, to protest official indifference to reduced consumer purchasing power and increasingly degraded public services.

In a strong show of union solidarity, workers filled the streets Sunday after a joint call to action by the Democratic Confederation of Labor (CDT), the Democratic Federation of Labor (FDT) and the Moroccan Labor Union (UMT).

Make the Colombia Labor Rights Action Plan Work for Workers

April 8, 2014—The governments of Colombia and the United States signed the Labor Action Plan (LAP) three years ago this week. The plan was intended to provide a road map for Colombia to protect internationally recognized labor rights, prevent violence against labor leaders and prosecute the perpetrators of such violence.

As a new AFL-CIO report shows, systemic violence against Colombian workers continues and workers still face persistent employer abuses. Palm workers like Miguel Conde of the union SINTRAINAGRO at the Bucarelia plantation initially were hopeful, but the LAP profoundly failed to deliver on its promises. In the blog, Make the Colombia Labor Rights Action Plan Work for Workers, the AFL-CIO Now writes:

“Like many Colombian workers, palm workers at Bucarelia were increasingly hired on as temporary subcontracts. Subcontracting prevents workers from forming unions, gets employers out of paying social security and other benefits due to direct hires and makes it easier to fire anyone who complains or supports unions, the LAP was supposed to end abusive subcontracting of those doing a company’s core work."

Read the full story.

Thousands of Peruvians Protest Violence

April 4, 2014—Thousands of Peruvians marched in Lima, the capital, yesterday in a strong show of support for an end to organized crime and related violence in Peru's booming construction sector.

Unions and civil society leaders called for a systemic solution to the phenomenon of false “unions” that extort construction firms and turn building sites into battlefields across Peru. Violence related to worksite conflicts has resulted in the death of six construction worker union activists over the last three years and significant economic losses that affect construction projects, workers and their families.

Bangladesh: Find Killers of Labor Activist

April 2, 2014–This is a crosspost from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The Bangladeshi government should publicly explain what efforts have been made to investigate the abduction, torture, and killing of the labor rights activist Aminul Islam two years ago, including alleged links to state officials, Human Rights Watch said today. While police have filed charges against a missing suspect, there have been no apparent efforts to investigate allegations that members of Bangladeshi security forces were part of the conspiracy to kill the labor activist.

Islam, 39, was a trade union organizer with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), which supports the rights of factory workers in the garment and seafood industries. He disappeared on April 4, 2012. His body was discovered two days later, almost 100 kilometers from where he was last seen, and showed signs of torture under circumstances that raise concerns of involvement by Bangladeshi security forces.

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