Let’s Create a Global Civil Rights Movement

With a rousing call to action, Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau urged the more than 200 participants in the final session of the Solidarity Center’s Labor Migration: Who Benefits? conference to “exercise our voice for a bigger push for global democracy.

“Let’s break down all those barriers between us to create a global civil rights movement,” Bader-Blau said.

Speaker after speaker, on the podium and in the conference room, strongly reiterated the call for unity, between unions and human rights organizations across the globe.

migrant workers, Solidarity Center, domestic workers

Domestic workers and allies gather at the Labor Migration: Who Benefits? conference. Credit: Solidarity Center/Kate Conradt

“When we act collectively to ensure that people all over the world have their human rights … enjoy the full range of their social protections, then we all have political clout,” said Chidi King, Equality Department director of the International Trade Union Confederation.

“Today’s labor movement has a very clear commitment that we have to act on the right, on the dignity of migrant workers,” King said.

Colin Rajah, coordinator and co-founder of the Global Coalition on Migration said, “our commitment is to re-engage a strategic commitment between unions and migrant workers.”

Noting how the AFL-CIO is “expanding partnerships to protect fundamental labor rights, Charlie Fanning, AFL-CIO global resource coordinator, said “we really need to build a broad-based movement to achieve this vision of shared prosperity.”

migrant workers, Solidarity Center, domestic workers

Baria and Anis Hidayah from Migrant Care joined the final conference plenary session.

Participants also committed to specific actions, including pushing the International Labor Organization (ILO) for creation of a gender-based violence convention; urging their countries to pass ILO conventions supporting the rights of migrant workers and domestic workers; demanding their unions do more to outreach among and support migrant workers; and helping more domestic workers, many of whomare migrant workers, form unions. Wisborn Malaya, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA), urged participants to support workers in his economy who are under attack in the informal and formal sectors.

Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care, which co-sponsored the conference, introduced Baria, a former migrant worker in Malaysia who now is working for Migrant Care in Jakarta.

“The forum that discusses migrant workers, has to involve us, the migrant worker,” said Baria. “It has been quite long, the injustice we have been living with.  This afternoon, I am so glad our voice has been heard in this forum.”