Some of the most essential workers are also among the most overlooked—the women and men who plant, harvest and transport our fruits and vegetables, ensuring our tables are full every day, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Worldwide, they also are among workers with the fewest legal protections and rights on the job. On the latest Solidarity Center Podcast, Hamada Abu Nijmeh describes how agricultural workers in Jordan collectively campaigned for—and won—a landmark law that will bring them safer jobs, overtime pay, 14 days annual paid leave and 14 days paid sick leave.
The workers, the majority of whom are women, also won 10 weeks paid maternity leave. Significantly, the legislation also covers migrant agricultural workers, who frequently are not protected by countries’ labor laws.
Abu Nijmeh is director of the Jordan-based Workers’ House for Studies, and with the Agricultural Workers Union, led the campaign for this first-ever legislation.
“So I can proudly say that it is through the efforts of many that we have been able to achieve this landmark achievement,” says Abu Nijmeh. “I can say without a doubt that this is a historic achievement because since Jordan was founded, agricultural workers have not been included in the labor law until now.”
Agricultural workers won this victory despite the legally limited ability of all workers to form unions in Jordan, says Abu Nijmeh. He tells Solidarity Center Podcast host Shawna Bader-Blau that the union’s next steps include winning the fundamental right for workers to freely form unions and bargain collectively.
“The trade union of agricultural workers tried to register [with the government] and, of course, they have been denied and they took it to court,” he says. “The best way to protect the agriculture sector and any future trade union in the agricultural sector is to fix the problem with the entire system.”
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The Solidarity Center Podcast, “Billions of Us, One Just Future,” highlights conversations with workers (and other smart people) worldwide shaping the workplace for the better.