In Ukraine, the Solidarity Center supports trade unions and allied advocates seeking freedom of association and economic fairness in their struggles to defend worker rights in the face of severe economic and political crisis and entrenched corruption.

Ukraine is a country with great potential wealth. Yet workers and their families struggle to get by. Progress is particularly impeded by corruption and inequality, and freedom of association is under assault: Employers and government officials illegally harass and threaten active unions and other democratic worker rights defenders. Legislation passed in 2016 further impedes union activity, including a law complicating trade union registration and tax status.

The Independent Trade Union of Miners (NPGU) was one of the first and strongest democratic unions in the independent post-Soviet republics. Today, the NPGU continues working for freedom of association, democracy and transparency in government and corporate activity. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU), an active national union alliance, was formed by mine workers who joined with unions in transportation, education, health care and other sectors to push for improved worker rights across the country.

The Solidarity Center conducts programs that assist trade unions in boosting their ability to help workers gain a voice at work through collective bargaining. The Solidarity Center’s work also involves legal assistance, including the 2014 launch of Labor Initiatives, a project partnering with Ukrainian unions and civil society organizations that provides direct legal representation in labor and employment issues and serves as a community center, research incubator and policy hub.

Solidarity Center programs in Ukraine also provide foundational economic education and training for union leaders and rank-and-file members. The Solidarity Center supports efforts by Ukrainian unions to strengthen their capability to bolster freedom of association and achieve gender equity advocacy in economic and workplace issues.

Unions are at the center of efforts to reform and democratize the country, and are an essential presence in the pro-democracy movement, particularly in rural and industrial areas outside the major cities. Unions are among the largest pro-reform mass organizations in civil society, with thousands of branches in every region of Ukraine, giving them important access to influence popular support for reform.

The success of the Maidan movement in changing the political leadership of Ukraine did not guarantee the triumph of democracy, an end to corruption, or full respect of human and worker rights. Unions in Ukraine continue to push to defend core human rights values in the face of the ongoing crisis and war.