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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Mexico: Mineworkers Leader Cleared of All Criminal Charges

September 2, 2014—A panel of federal judges in Mexico dropped all criminal charges against Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, president and general secretary of the National Mine and Metal Workers Union (Los Mineros), freeing him to return to Mexico from Canada where he has lived in exile. 

Gómez Urrutia, who was been removed as president of the 250,000-member union by Mexican authorities and replaced with a company-backed rival, was repeatedly threatened and forced to leave Mexico in 2006. He also was charged with embezzling $55 million in union funds, an accusation struck down multiple times by the country’s courts. Following the August 28 decision, Gómez Urrutia said through Los Mineros that he plans to return to Mexico by the end of September.

Solidarity Center Mourns Passing of Ahmed Seif al-Islam

August 27, 2014—The Solidarity Center mourns the passing of one of Egypt's leading human and labor rights activists, Ahemd Seif al Islam. The following is an excerpt from Mada Masr.

Renowned human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif al-Islam died on Wednesday after slipping into a coma following open-heart surgery earlier this month, his family announced in a statement.

Seif was involved in political activism since his student days, but studied law and became a human rights defender following his detention in 1983, during which time he was reportedly tortured.

Read the full article.

U.S.-Africa Summit—How Was It for the Unions?

August 25, 2014—This is an excerpt from Equal Times.

After three days of passionate debate at the first-ever U.S.-Africa Summit earlier this month in Washington D.C., trade union delegates report mixed feelings about the success of the talks.

Trade union delegates ... say some progress has been made. But they stress that there “has to be a more complex view of development” that goes beyond foreign direct investment, and say that the major issue of growing inequality had not been treated with the seriousness it deserved.

“The summit was officially going to be focused on creating investment opportunities and facilitating business links between the U.S. and Africa—all under the pretext of overall development—but without enough focus on who is really benefiting,” says Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO executive vice president (above).

Read the full story.

Take Action in Support of Fired Aviation Union Leader in Poland 

August 25, 2014—This is a crosspost from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

The ITF and (European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) are urging their affiliates to take action over the unlawful dismissal of an aviation trade union leader in Poland.

Andrzej Jezewski, vice president of ITF and ETF affiliate Cabin Crew Union ZZPP, has been sacked by LOT Polish Airlines during collective bargaining negotiations. This is in breach of Polish law, under which a certain number of trade union board members enjoy particular job security rights and cannot be dismissed without the consent of their board. Je¿ewski is in this category but the airline terminated his contract without ZZPP’s consent.
Read the full story.

Bangladesh: Employers, Workers Resolve Issues Together

August 18, 2014—When 1,300 Bangladeshi garment workers started to organize a trade union at their factory in the Gazipur suburb of Dhaka, the capital, they faced an uphill battle.

However, with assistance from their union federation, the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Federation (BIGUF) and the Solidarity Center, and by working to develop a constructive relationship with their employer, Masco Cotton, both sides have been able to sit down and negotiate and resolve issues in the factory. And the dynamics have changed.

Swazi Union Leader Backs AGOA; Country Must Meet Benchmarks

August 15, 2014—U.S. trade benefits for Africa—known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)—provide key economic support for countries such as Swaziland, according to Vincent Ncongwane, secretary general of the Trade Union Confederation of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

Yet some in the Swazi government are falsely accusing Ncongwane and human rights lawyer Sipho Gumedze of taking a stand against AGOA benefits for Swaziland when they were in Washington, D.C., last week as part of a delegation of 40 African trade union leaders. In June, the U.S. government took the rare step of suspending AGOA trade benefits for Swaziland, citing the Swazi government’s systematic violations of fundamental worker rights.

Apple’s Benzene Ban Welcomed But Not Enough

August 14, 2014—This is a crosspost from Labour Action China.

Labour Action China welcomes Apple’s decision today to ban the use of benzene and n-hexane during the final assembly of iPhones and iPads. The two chemicals have long been widely used in the electronics industry, causing the death of thousands of Chinese workers and leaving many more disabled. While the industry does have various chemical guidelines, the focus has always been on product safety and environmental pollution, not on workers’ health. Apple’s move signals a wakeup call for the industry, and we hope that other players in the industry would follow the suit and devise chemical use policy in the workplace in order to safeguard workers’ health.

However it is regrettable that Apple would go only so far as to ban benzene during the final assembly, and not for its entire production process. Benzene is hardly a vital chemical in most industrial productions; its use as solvent in paint, glue and cleaning agents are all replaceable.

Read the full article.

U.S. and African Unions Pledge Partnership, Push Pro-Worker Policies

August 14, 2014—This is a crosspost from the AFL-CIO.

Last week African trade union leaders from across the continent converged on Washington, D.C., to push U.S. and African leaders to focus on decent work, worker rights and job creation during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

They challenged the growing “Africa Rising" narrative, which mainly focuses on macro-level economic growth, trade opportunities and growing consumer markets for international corporations, and sought to refocus the debate on policy changes that would improve the lives of working families.

Read the full article.

African Union Leader: Africa Rising only for the 1 Percent

August 11, 2014—“Africa rising” was the catchphrase buzzing around Washington, D.C., last week, as African heads of state met for a three-day summit with U.S. government and private business. 

But Joel Odigie, coordinator of human and trade union rights for the International Trade Union Confederation-Africa, says working people are not benefiting from the continent’s economic growth.

“In reality, there is an economic growth in Africa that is for the 1 percent. Poverty continues to increase, inequality continues to widen,” he said,” speaking on RadioLabour. “The question of investment and trade should be the issues of how we are able to use that to address some of these concerns.”

Millions of Working Africans Heard in U.S.-Africa Summit

August 12, 2014—The U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C., last week stood apart from similar trade and investment meetings held by China or by the European Union because African union leaders, representing millions of working people, made their voices heard, said Imani Countess, Solidarity Center regional program director for Africa.

“Any U.S. conversation discussing economic development, trade and investment in Africa couldn’t happen without … people understanding how foundational decent work, labor rights ... are to overall growth and economic development,” Countess said, speaking on RadioLabour.

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