Unions are a fundamental component of a free and democratic society, and freedom of association—workers’ right to form and join unions and pursue their interests collectively—is the foundation for all other worker rights. The Solidarity Center trains union organizers, shares information with union activists, and provides support for struggling unions all over the world.
Freedom of association is the underpinning of every democratic society. Without the right to organize, people have no way to strive for economic and social justice. A union is a group of workers who come together to win respect on the job, better wages and benefits, and more flexibility for work and family needs. Unions are built through the active participation of its members, and encourage political participation at the grassroots and national levels. Unions equalize the balance of power between employers and employees by giving workers a voice. Union members have a say about pay, benefits, and working conditions. With a union, workers have a voice on the job and the ability to improve their lives and their communities. Without unions, workers have little or no recourse when their rights are violated. Without collective bargaining, they have no way to improve their wages and workplace conditions.
In many countries, governments and multinational companies routinely deny workers their legal right to form free and independent unions. Anti-union tactics include dissolving unions, denying unions legal recognition, seizing union property, violently repressing strikes and marches, and imposing legal restrictions that threaten to legislate many unions out of existence. Year after year, union activists are fired, arrested, attacked, and even killed for exercising their legal right to free association and a voice on the job. In cooperation with union partners, the Solidarity Center develops comprehensive workers education programs that meet the challenges of today's global economy. We support organizing campaigns, educate workers about their legal right to form a union, and promote strong labor laws.
Health and Safety as an Organizing Strategy
. April 28, 2011—Workplace health and safety can be a key factor in the choice to form or join a union. A new Solidarity Center guide lays out strategies for using health and safety issues in organizing and collective bargaining campaigns. Originally targeting oil workers in the Niger Delta, the guide can be adapted for use by any sector globally.
On Free Association, Business and Labor Agree.
It is essential that workers and businesses have the right to organize freely to pursue their own interests in the marketplace and in the halls of government, say Greg Lebedev and John Sweeney. Lebedev is chairman of the Center for International Private Enterprise, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Sweeney is chairman of the Solidarity Center Board of Trustees. Read their op-ed in the September 17, 2010, Wall Street Journal.
Support Striking Mineworkers and Their Families in Cananea, Mexico. More than 1,000 members of Mexico´s National Union of Mine, Metal and Steelworkers have been on strike at the Cananea copper mine in Northern Mexico since July 30, 2007, protesting health and safety and other contract violations.
After 16 Days, Egyptian Workers End Sit-In. On February 23, 2010, the workers of the Tanta Linen, Flax and Oil Company ended their 16 day sit-in in front of the Egyptian Cabinet after an agreement with Minister of Manpower and Migration was reached. The workers were demanding the reinstatement of several workers who have been fired, an increase in their meal allowance, and payment of back wages and bonuses that they are owed.
Haiti FTZ Workers Win Groundbreaking Contract. In 2006, after months of negotiations, more than 800 workers in the SOCOWA union at the Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone in Haiti ratified a groundbreaking contract with Dominican-owned clothing manufacturer Grupo M.
Victory for Interstoff Workers. In Bangladesh the Solidarity Center helped workers defend their right to organize and form a union.
8,500 Mexican Migrant Farm Workers Win a Voice in North Carolina. Mexican migrant farm workers won a historic first union contract covering more than 1,000 farms throughout North Carolina.
Support for Striking Shoe Workers in Sri Lanka. In 2004, the Solidarity Center helped to mobilize support for striking shoe workers in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Fired Cambodian Hotel Workers Back on the Job. The Solidarity Center helped striking hotel workers in Cambodia exercise their rights on the job.
Just Garments: Union Made in El Salvador. In El Salvador, the Solidarity Center helped garment and textile workers win back their jobs and their union.