The Solidarity Center supports initiatives to protect the rights of all workers in Jordan, through worksite mobilization and organization, and through national advocacy campaigns.
Jordan’s economic development agenda has failed to halt eroding living conditions for average Jordanian workers. The cost of living continues to rise, with no commensurate rise in wages. The gap between the very wealthy and the poor is increasingly visible, both inside and outside of the capital. Many of Jordan’s trade unionists have a long history of struggling for workers rights, but internal organization of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions (GFJTU) and external legal frameworks mount a significant challenge.
In July 2008, after over two years of debate under intense international scrutiny, the Jordanian parliament amended the country’s deficient labor law. The law contains some significant improvements, but falls far short of expectations and promises made by the Jordanian government to its public and to the international community. While it extends labor protections to agricultural and domestic workers, it fails to protect the fundamental rights of public sector workers. A new law extending organizing rights to migrant workers is still pending before the parliament. Workers are forbidden from organizing in the public sector, and civil servants do not have collective bargaining rights. Jordanian unions are expected to obtain permission from the government before a strike may take place.
Many migrant workers from Egypt and Syria are employed in the Jordanian construction and agriculture sectors. In the textile factories of the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs), men and women from South and Southeast Asia represent an increasing majority of the workforce. These non-Jordanian workers have historically been denied their basic right to freely associate, organize, and bargain collectively. The denial of rights to migrant workers undermines the rights of all workers, including citizen workers.
The 2000 US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) contained a historic labor chapter, requiring both countries to comply with internationally recognized labor rights and to enforce their respective national labor laws. In 2006, Jordan’s egregious violations of these labor provisions were extensively documented by a National Labor Committee (NLC) report which was followed by a formal complaint from the AFL-CIO and National Textile Association (NTA). The Solidarity Center released its report Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Jordan, which explores how Jordan can make a crucial commitment to follow a path toward democracy and social justice that will give working people a chance to share in the prosperity they help create. These efforts have facilitated important advances for Jordanian unions, but substantial work remains. The Solidarity Center continues its support for the GFJTU and its affiliates in their initiatives to build capacity, organize workers, and advocate for legal reform. Critical to this work is the Women’s Regional Empowerment Network, which connects union activists and educators across the Middle East and North Africa, and develops skills, techniques, and solidarity for stronger, more democratic trade unions.
The Solidarity Center mourns the passing of Marsha Pripstein Posusney, professor of Political Science at Bryant University and adjunct professor at the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University. Posusney was the main author of Justice for All: Worker Rights in Jordan
. She received the Albert Hourani Book Award of the Middle East Studies Association for Labor and the State in Egypt: Workers, Unions and Economic Restructuring
(Columbia, 1988). Posusney fought a valiant battle with cancer. Her expertise and activism for peace and social justice will be missed.
Education for Change: Sowing the Seeds of Solidarity
. Solidarity Center hosts a seven-member delegation of women union educators from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Yemen.
Women’s Regional Empowerment Network (WREN)
. This Solidarity Center program is training over 100 women in Algeria, Bahrain, and Jordan, as labor educators and activists in their unions and communities.
A Voice for Migrant Workers in Jordan's Export Factories
. The Jordanian Textile Union has mobilized teams of Jordanian and non-Jordanian union organizers to work in the two largest Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs).
"I Can No Longer Keep Silent": Migrant Workers in Jordan Speak Out
. Migrant workers and their families defy employer threats of arrest and deportation to tell their stories to union organizers.
Inhumane Treatment: Migrant Garmet Workers in Jordan
. Gregory Junemann, President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, visits the Middle East as part of an AFL-CIO-led labor delegation.
Related Solidarity Center Publications