Yesterday, Hassine Abassi, Gerneral Secretary, Tunisian General Union of Labor (UGTT) and S. Salman Jaddar Al Mahfoodh, General Secretary, General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), received the 2012 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award on behalf of their respective labor movements, as emblematic of the labor movements across the Middle East working to preserve democracy, justice and freedom during a ceremony at the AFL-CIO’s headquarters in Washington.
At the ceremony, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recognized the labor movements throughout the Arab region for their ongoing role in the struggle for democracy:
“I’m proud to honor the brave working people of Bahrain and Tunisia, who transformed a wave of protests into the mass movement of democracy and economic equality that has come to be known as the Arab Spring. Unionists are a leading voice against corruption, for women’s rights and for a robust democracy with the rights of working people at its core… Their courage inspires us, and we at the AFL-CIO have been proud to join the unions of Tunisia and Bahrain in this struggle. We will use every available channel to pursue the fundamental human rights that they so courageously champion. And we will not stop until you’ve achieved the goals you want and need,” said Trumka.
“This award is recognition of the revolution for freedom and dignity in Tunisia, and it is confirmation of strong global labor solidarity. While we take pride in being recognized, we feel a growing responsibility to continue our common struggle for freedom and democracy with strong will and determination,” Hassine Abassi, General Secretary of the UGTT.
Said S. Salman Jaddar Al Mahfoodh: “This award does not only belong to the GBFTU, but first and foremost, it belongs to the more than 4,000 Bahraini workers and unionists who have been suffering from unjust firings and the consequences of expressing their opinions. It also belongs to the Bahraini people, who are still struggling for freedom, democracy and social justice.”
In addition to the award recipients, President Trumka also recognized union activists from Egypt, Algeria and Morocco who mobilized thousands in their own countries to carry forward a message of social justice.