In Africa, the Solidarity Center strives to help build the labor movement and promote worker rights by organizing workers and strengthening their voice at the bargaining table; protecting their rights on the job; ending the scourge of child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking; and stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS through workplace policies.
In sharp contrast with its rich natural resources, Africa counts 32 of the 38 least developed countries. It is the only continent where poverty levels have increased despite higher growth rates. HIV/AIDS has ravaged the population, and those who survive are losing their jobs. Governments, multinational corporations, and international financial institutions are selling out worker rights in the name of globalization. To combat these multifaceted challenges, the Solidarity Center’s Africa programs focus on common themes and uniform campaigns while at the same time adapting to the needs of a diverse group of countries.
Find out how the Solidarity Center is teaming up with unions to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and worldwide.
Oretha Tarnue: Mobilizing, Empowering Liberian Domestic Workers.
March 6, 2014—Oretha Tarnue, vice president of the United Workers Union of Liberia (UWUL) and a former domestic worker, is spearheading a drive in her country to organize domestic workers who,like their counterparts elsewhere, are routinely exploited by their employers.
Four South African Unions Tackle Gender Inequality
. March 5, 2014—Unions around the world are at the forefront of the struggle for gender equality. And sometimes, that means taking a look at their own structures, policies and practices to ensure they, too, are working to make equal treatment and non-discrimination central to their efforts.
A Privileged Witness to South Africa Transformation
. December 6, 2013—Stanislaw Cieniuch, former Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to South Africa (1991-1997), recalls his firsthand experience with South Africa's transformation from apartheid, led by Nelson Mandela. Cieniuch is Solidarity Center Kyrgystan Country Director.
The Solidarity Center Mourns Nelson Mandela
. December 5, 2013—The Solidarity Center today marks the loss of former South African President Nelson Mandela, whose unyielding struggle to attain equality, human dignity and social justice for his countrymen and women will remain an inspiration to all who still carry on the fight for human rights.
South Africa Domestic Workers Strategize with U.S. Counterparts
. December 2, 2012—Clapping and singing “women must be praised,” a traditional South African protest song from the years of apartheid oppression, eight domestic workers from South Africa gathered with their American sisters and brothers from the United Domestic Workers of America (UDW)/AFSCME in San Diego on one of their first full days in the United States.
Africa Expert: More than One Type of Piracy off Somalia
. October 18, 2013—The new movie “Captain Phillips” tells only part of the story of Somali piracy—one that has already been repeated by the media and in policymaking circles around the world, according to two Africa region experts. “The conventional conception of piracy in Somalia is myopic,” said Dr. Abdi Samatar. “There is more than one type of piracy off the Somali coast.”
Nigerian Workers Protest Plan to End National Minimum Wage
. September 20, 2013— Carrying signs reading, “Minimum Living Wage, Not Slave Wage,” Nigerian workers peacefully marched this week to protest a proposal to remove the Parliament’s ability to legislate wage, labor and pension issues by making such rulemaking the purview of 37 different states.
In Post-Election Zimbabwe, Unions Can Help Rebuild Economy. September 18, 2013—Independent and credible institutions in Zimbabwe, in particular its main union federation, have a fundamental role to play in any effort to improve the country’s yawning social and economic needs, testified the Solidarity Center’s Imani Countess before a recent U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing.
Union Observers Strongly Question Fairness of Zimbabwe Vote
. August 5, 2013—Both the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and an election observer mission comprised of trade union activists from southern Africa have raised sharp concerns regarding the presidential and parliamentary elections conducted last week in Zimbabwe.
After Zimbabwe Elections, Union’s Worker Education Continues.
July 24, 2013—As Zimbabwe’s July 31 presidential elections approach, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), one of the country’s only nonpolitical, mass- based movements, plans to actively promote free and fair elections and, equally important, hold lawmakers accountable after elections.
Kenya: Court Rules Domestic Workers Covered by Employment Law.
May 6, 2013—Employers in Kenya now must abide by the verbal contracts they make with domestic workers, following a landmark ruling by the nation’s high court that also effectively places domestic workers under Kenya’s employment law. Saying that under the Employment Act, “a verbal contract is a contract that can confer rights and can be enforced,” the judge ruled that domestic workers are covered by the national minimum wage and other provisions of the employment law.
Nigeria: Union Women Moving Gender Issues to Forefront.
March 25, 2013—Since 1978, when the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) was formed, few women have been part of the professional trade union’s leadership—even though 80 percent of its members are female.
Unions in South Africa, Mozambique, Condemn Death of Taxi Driver
. March 6, 2013—As friends and family hold a memorial service today for a Mozambican man who died after being handcuffed and dragged behind a South African police van, unions are denouncing the death and calling for continued action to investigate the tragedy.
Kenya: Presidential Candidates Talk Jobs at First-Ever Forum. February 22, 2012— In the largest gathering of presidential candidates organized by civil society in Kenya in the current election, five of eight presidential candidates took part this week in a forum sponsored by the labor movement. Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who is running again for office, also took part.
Kenya: A Commitment to Unionize Informal-Sector Workers. January 29, 2013—Millions of people around the world labor in the informal economy as taxi drivers, fruit sellers and in other jobs partially or fully outside government regulation and taxation. In Kenya, where the informal sector accounts for 80 percent of employment and contributes 25 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), union outreach is helping give these workers a voice on the job.
ILO Report: 52 Million Domestic Workers Worldwide. January 9, 2013—Some 52 million people over age 15—primarily women—labor as domestic workers around the world, according to a report released today by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Of those, 83 percent are women. The vast number of domestic workers, 21.4 million, are in Asia and the Pacific region, with 19.6 million in Latin America, 5.2 million in Africa and 2.1 million in the Middle East.
South African Fights for a New Generation of Domestic Workers. December 12, 2012—Gladys Mnyengeza has been a domestic worker in Cape Town, South Africa, for about 40 years—and knows full well the problems and rewards that come with a job traditionally undervalued and performed by workers at the margins of society. Her experience has made her a tireless advocate for the rights of domestic workers. Mnyengeza, like domestic workers everywhere, holds down several part-time positions providing critical household support for families. Across the world today, domestic workers like Mnyengeza are mobilizing to promote ratification of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189, Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
South Africa Domestic Workers Hold First-Ever National Meeting. December 7, 2012—Dozens of leaders of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) gathered recently in Cape Town in a first-ever national conference to plan organizing and advocacy goals.
Reaching Workers on the Job Key to HIV/AIDS Prevention. November 30, 2012—Roseline Mosibudi Nkgapele, a member of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), has made it her mission to educate workers about HIV/AIDS. The virus is particularly cruel in that it strikes workers in their prime, affecting their ability to remain productive on the job and earn a living wage. Prevention and care is an urgent issue for workers and their unions.
Liberian Union Signs Agreement with Mining Multinational. September 12, 2012—On August 31, the United Workers Union of Liberia (UWUL) signed an historic collective bargaining agreement with the largest mining multinational in Liberia. The agreement, retroactive to April 1, 2012, includes salary increases and improved benefits. It also codifies a system of labor relations at all the multinational facilities, setting up avenues for labor-management dialogue in areas such as health and safety, and conflict resolution.
Moroccan Teachers Locked Out for Union Activities. September 6, 2012—A lock-out is preventing recently unionized teachers and administrative staff from returning to work at the Notre Dame de la Paix, a private elementary school in Rabat, Morocco. Last year, when uprisings swept across the Arab world, workers at the school established a union for the first time in more than 60 years of operation. School authorities retaliated by illegally firing eachers for their union activities.
'Preventive Detention' for Moroccan Union Leaders. August 28, 2012—Two Moroccan union leaders remain in jail and under "preventive detention," arrested more than 10 weeks ago as they worked to defend the rights of ferry workers who were stranded in France and Spain when their company declared bankruptcy. At the time, they were working with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) to secure the repatriation of workers abandoned aboard their impounded vessels. Their trial date of July 2 has been postponed.
AIDS: Workplace Partnerships Have Impact. July 24, 2012—Globally, through the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation, unions have collaborated on HIV/AIDS. Partners in the global south, particularly in southern Africa, have produced a body of successful workplace interventions. As the world comes together, let us not forget the partnerships that work. Op-ed by Solidarity Center Regional Program Director for Africa, Imani Countess.
Liberia: Decent Work in Law and Practice Key to Worker Rights, Says Union Leader. June 21, 2012—In Liberia, unions are working to ensure worker rights are preserved and protected in the country’s rubber industry and beyond. Edwin Cisco, general secretary of the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL), says his union is focused on three specific remedies for issues facing Liberian rubber and other workers.
Labor Delegation Meets with Union Federation in South Sudan. May 11, 2012—Representatives of the East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)-Africa, Solidarity Center, and International Labor Organization (ILO) visited South Sudan last week to assess worker issues and trade union developments in Africa’s newest country and to identify areas of support and collaboration. They found workers and their organizations looking toward the future and motivated to develop a prosperous South Sudan that will benefit all of its people.
No Union Movement Can Afford Not to Bring Women to the Table: Interview. January 4, 2012—Rosalyn Pelles, director of the AFL-CIO’s Civil, Human, and Women’s Rights Department, recently spent nearly two weeks in Uganda and Tanzania, where she facilitated women’s leadership trining sessions and attended a trade union convention. In her 25 years in the labor movement, this was Pelles’s first trip to Africa and her first opportunity to work with the Solidarity Center. Pelles spoke with Solidarity Center Communications Program Officer Joan Seidman Welsh about the many cultural differences and similarities she shared with her union sisters in Africa and the global need for more women union leaders.
Eastern Africa: Fighting for Journalists' Rights and Press Freedom. November 29, 2011—Omar Faruk Osman is the president of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the secretary general of the Eastern African Journalists Association. He founded the National Union of Somali Journalists in 2005 and remains its secretary general. This statement is based on his remarks at a November 15, 2011, panel discussion, “Independent Media in East Africa: Democratic Pillar in Peril?” The discussion was co-sponsored by the Center for International Media Assistance and the Solidarity Center.
Hotel and Tourism Workers Help Fight Human Trafficking in Kenya. December 18, 2008—In the coastal city of Mombasa, where tourism is the main industry, the Solidarity Center trained shop stewards from a hotel and service workers union about the danger signs of human trafficking.
U.S. Steelworkers, Nigerian Oil Workers: Partners in Health and Safety. January 30, 2009—In April 2008, a group of trainers from the United Steelworkers union (USW) traveled to Nigeria to conduct a week of occupational health and safety workshops for oil workers.
South African Union Ties HIV/AIDS to Bargaining. December 12, 2008—The Solidarity Center’s partnerships with South African unions ensure that HIV/AIDS issues remain at the forefront of every workplace contract negotiation, policy, and practice.
Solidarity Center Publications