UN Sanctions and North Korea’s Forgotten Workers

The United Nations Security Council recently adopted Resolution 2371—the latest sanctions on North Korea. In so doing, the Security Council acquiesced to the continuation of the country’s state-sponsored, forced-labor-for-export scheme and abandoned an important opportunity to protect the rights and dignity of workers as defined by UN conventions, writes the Solidarity Center’s Jeff Vogt.

Youth Day 2017: Young Workers Stand up for Their Rights at Work

Youth Day 2017: Young Workers Stand up for Their Rights at Work

With youth unemployment rates at record highs and working poverty levels increasing, young workers around the world faced with a lack of decent jobs increasingly are joining with union movements and worker associations to challenge policies that do not promote an economy that works for all. On International Youth Day, the Solidarity Center recognizes those young workers who are standing up for their rights and making their voices heard at work.

Kyrgyzstan, garment workers, unions, Solidarity Center

Young workers like Kymbat Sherimbayeva are standing up for their rights to decent work and collective bargaining. The Kyrgyzstan garment worker recently joined with some 200 co-workers, most of whom are between the ages of 18 and 25, to improve wages and safety conditions. With the help of trainings provided by the Garment Workers’ Union of Kyrgyzstan, with Solidarity Center support, workers at the factory formed a union, recognizing they could negotiate improvements with management much more effectively as a group than as individuals.

Jane Njoki Muthoni, president of ITUC-Africa Young Workers Committee in 2017. Photo Credit: Solidarity Center/Tula Connell

Jane Njoki Muthoni, president of ITUC-Africa Young Workers Committee in 2017. Photo Credit: Solidarity Center/Tula Connell

Unions are reaching out to young workers to develop the next generation of leaders. From Kenya, Jane Njoki Muthoni works to enable young women advance to union leadership positions through her roles as president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)-Africa Young Workers Committee and youth leader for the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU)-Kenya. The Kenya union movement “makes sure that it protects the rights of young women, the rights of young workers in society,” says Njoki.

Brazil, Solidarity Center, human rights

Youth Representatives of Brazil’s CUT at a May Day Rally in 2017. Photo Credit: Maria Robalino.

Young workers are mobilizing in vast numbers to challenge laws and policies that would deny them the ability to attain good wages and stable jobs. For instance in Brazil, young workers were a key force in a  24-hour general strike in May 2017, protesting labor law reforms that penalize mainly unemployed young people and young Afro-Brazilian workers.

A meeting between a union organizer and hotel workers in Sri Lanka in 2015. Photo Credit: Solidarity Center/Pushpa Kumara.

Seeking to reach the many young workers in Sri Lanka’s booming tourism industry, unions launched a web-based platform, Wedabima, for workers to share comments, learn about union-related workshops, and access a labor perspective on daily news. The site is part of the Sri Lankan union movement’s innovative strategies to attract young workers into Sri Lanka’s labor movement.

Zimbabwe, young workers, Solidarity Center, unions

Young Zimbabweans rally against nonpayment of salaries in Bulawayo in 2015. Photo Credit: Abigail Mangunda

Fed up with low pay and a government proposal for at-will employment, Zimbabwean workers spearheaded demonstrations across six cities in 2015, demanding better conditions. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions points to high unemployment as a leading cause of the country’s “brain drain”—the migration of young, educated workers out of country.

A young garment worker demonstrates against safety violations at a 2015 rally commemorating the deadly Rana Plaza collapse. Photo Credit: Solidarity Center.

In the Bangladesh garment industry, where more than 90 percent of workers are age 29 or younger, young workers are leading the drive to achieve workplace safety, decent wages and fair treatment at the workplace by forming unions.

Young workers participate in a May Day rally in Georgia in 2015. Photo Credit: GTUC

The youth chapter of the Georgian Trade Union Confederation came out in force to share May Day celebrations of their rights as workers.

Young workers in Peru rally against a discriminatory labor law in march 2015. Photo Credit: Luis Mendoza

In Peru, after lawmakers in 2015 rammed through a law that reduced salaries and benefits for workers under age 25, tens of thousands of young workers and their allies organized meetings with workers across industries and marched in a series of massive protests. Their efforts resulted in the law’s nearly immediate repeal.

May Day 2017: Standing up for Worker Rights across the Globe

May Day 2017: Standing up for Worker Rights across the Globe

From Cambodia to Zimbabwe, in Serbia and Honduras, hundred of thousands of workers and their families are celebrating International Workers Day, honoring the dignity of work and the accomplishments of the labor movement in defending human rights, job stability, fair wages and safe workplaces. Together, workers and their unions are demonstrating their commitment to sustaining and improving worker lives.  

Here is a roundup of May Day events by Solidarity Center allies around the globe.

Bangladesh, garment workers, May Day 2017, Solidarity Center

Bangladeshi garment workers lit torches and marched peacefully on the eve of May Day, illuminating the night and workers’ spirits.

Cambodia, May Day 2017, Solidarity Center

Some 3,000 workers from unions across Cambodia celebrated May Day with a march to the National Assembly, where they submitted a petition demanding construction workers be included under minimum wage and national guidelines for workplace safety. Police and barricades lined the route, and workers initially were ordered to disperse. Ultimately, the crowd was allowed to march to the National Assembly, where a member of parliament accepted their petition and addressed the crowd.

Honduras, Solidarity Center, agricultural workers, May Day 2017

Members of the Honduran agricultural federation FESTAGRO rallied for fair economic policies to enable workers to earn family-supporting wages, and an end to violence against union leaders and members.

Tunisia, May Day 2017, Solidarity Center

In Tunisia, workers rallied at the country’s union federation, Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT), and marched down Avenue Bourguiba after UGTT General Secretary Noureddine Taboubi highlighted improvements for workers achieved through their unions.

Serbia, Solidarity Center, May Day 2017, human rights

In Serbia, some 3,000 workers took part in a May Day rally and march sponsored by the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia and the United Trade Union Nezavisnost. Workers emphasized the need for economic reform to create good jobs, a secure retirement and improved employment prospects for young people to encourage them to stay in Serbia.

Thailand, May Day, Solidarity Center, human rights

Thai workers marched nearly a mile from the Democracy Monument to the United Nations Building to demand the Thai government expand human and worker rights for all, including the country’s millions of marginalized workers struggling to support their families in the informal economy as pedicab drivers, market vendors and in other precarious wor

Across Zimbabwe, workers took part in May Day events to celebrate improvements at the workplace won through their unions. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has led efforts to end unemployment, inhumane working conditions and wage theft.

Jordan, May Day 2017, Solidarity Center, human rights

Workers in Jordan rallied and marched, calling for changes to the country’s labor law to protect worker rights, union freedom to organize and dignity on the job, and to provide social protections for all Jordanians. In Brazil, below, workers also got an early start May 1 commemorations with a massive, 24-hour general strike Friday to protest legislation that would weaken labor regulations and force many Brazilians to work years longer before drawing a pension.

Brazil, general strike, pension, human rights, Solidarity Center

Thousands of Iraqi workers from a range of unions converged in Baghdad for a massive May Day celebration, where they rallied around messages emphasizing that the war on terrorism begins by eliminating unemployment, providing decent work opportunities and supporting national industries. Participants also expressed the need for workers to set the financial policies of the country, not international financial institutions. Credit: Solidarity Center/Wesam Chaseb

Iraq, May Day 2017, Solidarity Center

Members of the Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF) rallied in Islamabad, Lahore and other cities across the country to mark May Day. The PWF represents more then 880,000 workers nationwide.

Pakistan, May Day, Solidarity Center

Andrea Nguyen

Nepal Quake Recovery, Done Right, Could Ease Migration Pressure

Two years after Nepal’s powerful earthquake, slow pace of reconstruction offers an opportunity for the nation to change its economic model, which leans heavily on remittances from Nepali migrant workers. It is a “unique moment” to create jobs that protect workers’ rights, pay fair wages and boost the economic status of its citizens, according to a new report by U.S.-based groups Solidarity Center and JustJobs Network.

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