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.

Solidarity Center: 20 Years Working for Worker Rights

Solidarity Center: 20 Years Working for Worker Rights

Over the past 20 years, the Solidarity Center has helped eliminate child labor in Liberian rubber plantations; assisted Iraqi trade unions in passing an unprecedented labor law that addresses sexual discrimination at work; campaigned to end workplace-based racism against Afro-Brazilians; and enabled the Burmese labor movement to flourish in a newly democratic Myanmar.

Over the past 20 years, the Solidarity Center has enabled workers like those in Bangladesh garment factories to achieve safer working conditions through thousands of occupational safety programs. With support and training for union organizers, the Solidarity Center has assisted union leaders like those in Georgia empower workers in a wide range of industries to achieve collective bargaining.

Over the past 20 years, the Solidarity Center has helped migrant workers in Moldova and other countries learn about their rights at work while seeking to prevent human trafficking. With a focus on achieving gender equality in the workplace, Solidarity Center programs have trained women workers to take leading roles at their workplaces, in their unions and in their communities.

Over the past 20 years, the Solidarity Center has consistently fought for worker rights—and over the next 20 years, we will expand our work to enable workers to assert their fundamental rights at work and build a better future for workers around the world. Here are a few highlights.


In Bangladesh, the Solidarity Center jump-started the process to eradicate child labor from the garment industry, laid the groundwork that nurtured young women leaders at major unions and associations, wrote the first labor law for export-processing zones and is a catalyst to the current resurgence in helping workers form unions.

A Bangladesh garment worker is among tens of thousands of union members who can bargain for rights at work with their unions, with Solidarity Center assistance. Credit: Solidarity Center


As part of worldwide campaign to enshrine labor rights for domestic workers, the Solidarity Center joined other global advocates in pushing for passage of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention 189. Passed in 2011, Convention 189 marked a major milestone, signaling recognition that the 53 million mostly women workers who labor in households, often in isolation and at risk of exploitation and abuse, deserve full protection of labor laws.

domestic workers, ILO convention

Passage of the ILO convention on domestic workers’ rights at work culminated a multiyear effort by the Solidarity Center and allied organizations. Credit: Equal Times/JP-Pouteau


The Solidarity Center was among the first organizations to support Iraq’s blossoming trade union movement and has consistently partnered with the Iraqi labor movement since 2004. It has carried out skills-building programs with dozens of unions and hundreds of their members in every province of the country, and helped Iraqi unions coalesce around and draft a labor law, passed in 2015, that provides for collective bargaining, further limits child labor, improves rights for migrant workers and is the country’s first legislation to address sexual harassment at work.

Iraq, women, labor law, unions, Solidarity Center

In May Day rallies and at other public events, Iraqi workers, with support from the Solidarity Center, pushed for passage of a expansive labor law. Credit: GFITU


Solidarity Center training and support of the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL) laid the groundwork for a landmark collective bargaining agreement in 2008 that eliminated child labor at the Firestone rubber plantation by addressing exploitative wages and workers’ impossible quotas. With Solidarity Center legal support, Liberian union members advocated for the 2015 passage of the Decent Work law, and key provisions, including a minimum wage for informal workers, job safety and health, and workers compensation.

Liberia, student, 17 year old girl, Firestone Junior High, Solidarity Center

Sorbor S. Tarnue, 17, attends school at the Firestone rubber plantation because her parents’ union, FAWUL, a Solidarity Center ally, negotiated a reduction in the high daily production quota of latex. Parents had been forced to bring their children to work to meet the high quotas.


The Georgian union movement withstood deep attacks on worker rights throughout the 2004–2013 regime of Mikheil Saakashvili. With consistent backing from the Solidarity Center, the Georgia Trade Union Confederation (GTUC) tapped into international mechanisms to protect worker rights, and unions fought back against a broad array of union-busting tactics instigated by the government. Now Solidarity Center programs are enabling Georgian workers to form unions in metal factories, coal mines, schools and hospitals and, through the three-year, “Strengthening Worker Organizations in Georgia,” program, helping transit and other workers address critical safety and health issues at work.

Republic of Georgia, metro technician, unions, Solidarity Center

At the Gldani Metro Depot in Tbilisi, Georgia, the Metro Workers’ Trade Union of Georgia is addressing safety issues through collective bargaining. Credit: Solidarity Center/Lela Mepharishvili


The Solidarity Center’s nearly 30-year support of exiled leaders of the Federation of Trade Unions–Burma following a brutal crackdown by Burma’s military junta, enabled the union movement to return in 2012 to Myanmar. Today, the Confederation of Trade Unions–Myanmar has now helped more than 60,000 workers form unions.

Myanmar, rice farmers, Solidarity Center, worker rights

Farmers across Myanmar are the fastest growing group of workers forming unions since 2011, when a new law allowed creation of unions. Credit: Solidarity Center/Tula Connell


In Colombia, the Solidarity Center helped workers form the national port workers’ union and provides ongoing support for the union’s worker organizing efforts in a sector that is rife with rights violations. The union now has affiliated more than 10,000 workers and negotiated three collective bargaining agreements—the sector’s only contracts in the past 25 years. These contracts have improved wages and labor conditions for some 2,000 workers, the majority of whom are of Afro-Colombian descent.

Colombia, port workers, Solidarity Center, unions, human rights

With Solidarity Center support, more than 10,000 Colombia port workers have a voice at work through a union. Credit: Solidarity Center/Rhett Doumitt


In Bahrain, the Solidarity Center played a key role in international efforts, and through a bilateral trade agreement, to defend the local activism of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, which advocated to protect workers from arbitrary dismissal and discrimination in the wake of the Arab uprising.

Bahrain, Solidarity Center

Fired Bahraini women protest in front of Bahrain Labor Ministry. Photo: Kate Conradt


Over the past 20 years, the Solidarity Center has helped unions move beyond xenophobia to embrace migrant workers in their unions in the construction sector in the Dominican Republic; persuaded policymakers globally to eliminate onerous recruitment fees for migrant workers, which often result in debt bondage; connected unions in South Asia with unions in the Middle East to facilitate protection of South Asian migrant worker rights; and provided migrant farm workers in South Africa with increased access to justice for nonpayment of wages and discrimination in the workplace.

Construction workers in Dominican Republic, many of Haitian descent, now have a voice at work through their union. Credit: Solidarity Center/Ricardo Rojas


The Solidarity Center, together with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, worked in Brazil with the Inter-American Union Institute for Racial Equality (INSPIR) for the past 20 years to help eliminate racism against Afro-descendants in the workplace and throughout society.

Workers Rights Are Human Rights: Working People Exercise Freedom of Association

Workers Rights Are Human Rights: Working People Exercise Freedom of Association

In recent decades, the global economy has grown rapidly. But as global production has increased, so too has global inequality.

Inequality has skyrocketed.

Many governments have prioritized the interests of multinational corporations over those of workers–including fair wages, social protections and safe working conditions.

This approach has concentrated most of the wealth produced by millions of working people into the hands of only a few, and has made decent jobs increasingly precarious.

The Solidarity Center supports working people around the world as they stand together and fight for better wages and working conditions.

Learn more about how the Solidarity Center supports working people’s right to organize

Ratan, a tailor in a Bangladesh factory. Credit: Solidarity Center


With millions of workers denied their rights and dignity on the job, the global economy is rife with exploitation.

But when workers are able to exercise their right to freedom of association by collectively finding solutions to unjust practices and other workplace issues by forming and joining unions, they can protect themselves and each other from exploitation, support their families and secure the benefits of their own hard work.

Credit: Solidarity Center/Lela Mepharishvili (top left)/Roberto Armocida (top right)/B.E. Diggs (bottom left)/Jeanne Hallacy (bottom right)

Workers may come from different parts of the world but fight for the same rights (as seen above).

Transport workers in Georgia formed a union to ensure their working conditions were safe. In Mexico, the Mineras de Acero (Women Mineworkers of Steel) help many women miners work safely.

Burmese migrant workers stand outside fish canning factories thinking about their options. In Liberia, workers and their unions played a crucial role in combating the spread of the Ebola virus.


Our world and its globalized economy are changing at lightning pace, and it is critical that the tools we use to protect labor rights adapt just as quickly.

A first step towards that goal is to obliterate the antiquated and artificial distinction between labor rights and human rights.

Labor rights are human rights.


Denying freedom of assembly and association isolates people in the workplace. On their own, workers often do not have enough leverage to negotiate with their employers and demand fair wages and safe working conditions for themselves and for their fellow workers.

Unions are helping to change that.

Members of several unions march for labor reforms in Nigeria on World Day for Decent Work. Credit: IndustriALL


Despite many obstacles, millions of working people around the world are fighting to exercise their basic right to organize by creating and joining unions. In doing so, they gain access to many more rights on the job.

Maung Maung, president of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM), speaks to over a hundred workers. Credit: Jeanne Hallacy


Many workers—including migrant, informal, domestic, and contract workers—find themselves in precarious situations because their work is not protected under national labor laws.

Unions strive to include these groups of workers in their negotiations with governments and employers to broaden and strengthen labor protections for everyone.


Contract workers in agriculture and workers in the informal economy, such as market vendors, have strengthened their collective voice through union activism.

Mr. Cristo Humberto, an african palm fruit collector posses for the camera with his mule inside the plantation of Palmas del Cesar oil CO. Minas, Colombia, April 25, 2016.

Joel De Los Santos sells his plantains in the Municipal Market of San Cristobal, July 28, 2014. SOLIDARITY CENTER /Ricardo Rojas.(DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT SOCIETY MARKET )


Migrant workers are often denied their freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association because of their irregular status in their new communities.

Many migrant workers also fear that if they stand up for their rights by themselves, they may be fired and lose their ability to stay in the country.

With freedom of association, migrant workers can stand up for better wages and working conditions without fear.

citizenship, Dominican Republic, Haiti, human rights, labor, Solidarity Center, worker rights

A construction worker in the Dominican Republic, where many workers are originally from Haiti. Credit: Solidarity Center/Ricardo Rojas

Many garment workers in Myanmar migrated from other parts of the country and from abroad. Credit: Solidarity Center/Tula Connell


Domestic workers are often not recognized under national labor laws, which makes it difficult for them to exercise their assembly and association rights at work.

Domestic workers in many countries have made unprecedented strides in recent years in having their work legally recognized and securing their right to join unions.

Salome Molefe is a domestic worker and union organizer in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. Credit: Solidarity Center/Jemal Countess

Unions in Kenya are helping domestic workers negotiate and enforce contracts with their employers. Credit: Solidarity Center/Kate Holt


Restricting the rights of workers also fuels gender inequality. Women in the global economy are often relegated to low-paying, low-skill jobs. Many women also experience gender-based violence in the workplace that prevents them from speaking up.

Working women are finding strength in unions where they can advocate for better wages and working conditions together.

Dzidai Magada Mwarozva, Director of Human Resources at Phillips, now Destiny Electronics, a principle distributor of Phillips Electronics and Telecommunications products in Zimbabwe at the Phillips Facility in Harare on July 16, 2015.

A garment worker in Cambodia. Credit: Solidarity Center/Claudio Montesano Casillas


By standing up for their dignity and rights together, and in challenging the systems that undermine those rights, working people find collective solutions to local problems–as well as create pathways for change for other workers, across industries, borders and cultures.

Unions in Cambodia rally for a living wage and the expansion of freedom of association. Credit: Solidarity Center/Tharo Khun

Brazil, domestic workers, AWID, Solidarity Center

Domestic workers at the 2016 Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) Forum in Brazil. Credit: Solidarity Center/Tula Connell

Mine workers in Ukraine gain support from the Labor Initiative, a union-based worker rights center. Credit: Solidarity Center/Tristan Masat


When workers’ freedom of assembly and association rights are protected, the relationship with their employer is more fair.

Unions and worker associations provide a collective voice on the job, helping to correct abuses, improve workplace safety and raise wages.

CTUM President Maung Maung accepts a certificate of registration for the union federation. Credit: CTUM


The freedom to assemble and associate is the foundation for worker rights–and for all other rights, as they enable people to voice their interests, protect their dignity and hold governments accountable.

Coca-Cola factory workers in the Hlaing Thay Yar industrial zone outside of Yangon have formed a union with the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar.

Garment workers in Cambodia. Credit: Solidarity Center/Claudio Montesano Casillas


The Solidarity Center partners with workers and their unions around the world as they challenge restrictions on freedom of association and strive for greater equity in the global economy.

Solidarity Center, worker rights, trade union, labor, garment workers, Bangladesh

Workers in Bangladesh fight for the freedom of association on May Day 2016. Credit: Solidarity Center

In Peru, tens of thousands of mineworkers call for an end to laws that facilitate mass layoffs. Credit: Solidarity Center/Samantha Tate


When working people can exercise their basic rights, together they can challenge a global system of poverty and exploitation and achieve a brighter future for themselves and for their children.

Demetrio, a palm worker on the Palmas del Espino plantation in Peru, with his daughter Emelia. Credit: Solidarity Center/Oscar Durand


National laws and company policies have contributed to inequality by systematically undermining the basic rights of the majority of the world’s workers. Most importantly, governments and corporations are denying workers their right to freedom of assembly and association, which prevents them from joining together to advocate for their rights, according to Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur for the rights to freedom of assembly and of association.

“So many workers toil long hours for low wages in unsafe and unhealthy environments, risking disease, injury and death. They work without basic social protections such as health care, education, pensions or, in the case of trafficked workers, the right to choose or leave employment.”




National laws and company policies have contributed to inequality by systematically undermining the basic rights of the majority of the world’s workers. Most importantly, governments and corporations are denying workers their right to freedom of assembly and association, which prevents them from joining together to advocate for their rights, according to Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur for the rights to freedom of assembly and of association.

“So many workers toil long hours for low wages in unsafe and unhealthy environments, risking disease, injury and death. They work without basic social protections such as health care, education, pensions or, in the case of trafficked workers, the right to choose or leave employment.”



UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai, Solidarity Center, unions, human rights

Maina Kiai presented his report to the United Nations in October 2016 in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Freedom of Association (May 2011 – April 2017). Credit: UN

To learn more about working people around the world and how the Solidarity Center supports their right to organize, visit

Migrant Workers in Africa: In Their Own Voices

Migrant Workers in Africa: In Their Own Voices

Some 34 million Africans are migrants, and the majority are workers moving across borders to search for decent work—jobs that pay a living wage, offer safe working conditions and fair treatment.

Yet even as they often leave their families in search of jobs that will support them, many migrant workers find that employers seek to exploit them—refusing to pay their wages, forcing them to work long hours for little or no pay, and even physically abusing them.

Throughout the January 25-27 Solidarity Center Fair Labor Migration conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, migrant domestic workers, farm workers and mine workers share their struggles, but also their courage and hope as many join together to form unions and associations to improve their lives at work. Here are their stories.

Fauzia Muthoni Wanjiru left Kenya after a labor broker told her she would work in Qatar as a receptionist. Instead, she was taken to Saudi Arabia, where she was forced to work 18 hours a day as a domestic worker cleaning two homes a day. Her passport was taken, trapping her in the country. “When you go there, you are a slave to them,” she says.

domestic workers, migrant workers, Solidarity Center, human rights, Zimbabwe

Praxedes moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa so her children would live a better life than she had. “There is nothing for me there (in Zimbabwe), she says. “A lot of employers take advantage of that.” She has worked for more than five years as a domestic worker, and employers have refused to pay her overtime, and shortchanged her pay—even as her transportation costs take up a third of her wages. “My cellphone has to be off at all times. I have three kids. If anything happens to them, I will not know.”

domestic workers, labor migration, migrant workers, Solidarity Center, human rights

Angela Mpofu migrated from Zimbabwe to support herself and her family as a domestic worker in South Africa. But like many migrant workers, she finds that she is treated poorly, as employers take advantage of her migrant status. Worse, says Mpofu, “the way (employers) treat us, it’s like we are not human beings. You’re nothing to them.”

South Africa, mine workers, Solidarity Center, human rights, occupational safety and health

As a migrant mine worker from Swaziland, Mduduzi Thabethe says he has fewer workplace rights than his South African co-workers. Although all mine workers pay the same amount into the health fund, migrant workers get inferior care and pensions are rare. “If you are a citizen of South Africa, you see you are building your country and you have something, but we have nothing.” His union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, is working to improve conditions for migrant workers.


South Africa, Solidarity Center, mine workers, migrant workers, human rights

When Joe Montisetse came to South Africa from Botswana to work in gold mines in the early 1980s, he saw a black pool of water deep in a mine that signified deadly methane. Yet after he brought up the issue to supervisors, they insisted he continue working, but Montisetse refused. Two co-workers were killed a few hours later when the methane exploded. Today, with the National Union of Mineworkers, Montisete, deputy president of the union, says workers are safer now. “We formed union as mine workers to defend against oppression and exploitiation,” says Montisetse.

South Africa, migrant farm workers, Solidarity Center

In 2000, Chris Muwani migrated from Zimbabwe to South Africa, where he works on a tomato farm. If he does not fulfill his daily quota, he is not paid for the day. Migrant farm workers like Muwani are exposed to dangerous workplace conditions and without a union, cannot exercise their rights. “We use a chemical to spray grass but you don’t have rubber boots or a respirator but you are working with poison,” says Muwani. “If you protest about safety conditions, many people are fired.”

South Africa, migrant farm workers, human rights

As a migrant farm worker from Mozambique, France Mnyike receives no health care coverage, even for workplace injuries. When Mnyike broke his leg at work, his employer did not provide medical aid and his leg remains fractured. Even if his workplace offered emergency care, says Mnyike, the employer would “deduct the cost from your salary.”











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