Blog: September 2009

Sign a Petition to Stop Uzbek Child Labor on Cotton Fields

Located in Central Asia, Uzbekistan is a former soviet republic with an economy that is heavily dependent on agriculture.  The most important agricultural crop that is produced in Uzbekistan is cotton or “white gold” as it is sometimes refereed too.  Uzbekistan is currently the world’s second largest exporter of cotton in the world and the fifth largest producer, selling over 800,000 tons of cotton a year.  Cotton is vital to the Uzbek economy because the crop is worth over US$1 billion.  Despite the revenue that the cotton industry produced for Uzbekistan most of this money ends up in the hands of political elites and their allies.  The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) reported that c

400 Cut-Flower Workers Strike and Take Plantation Over Mistreatment

On Monday
September 7, the owners of Benilda defiantly refused to set a date for a settlement on the dispute regarding back compensation. Workers were fed up and finally went on strike on the 10th, taking control of the company's facilities. Since then, workers have been taking turns monitoring over 40 hectares of farms. For more than 15 days, groups of workers have spent cold
nights in the open savanna, while also going to neighboring
municipalities to receive support. They have dealt with aggressive attitudes from various police commanders.

Impunity in Colombia: One Woman's Story with Yessika Hoyos Morales

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is currently pending in Congress,
while Colombian trade unionists continue to be threatened and murdered
everyday, and the Colombian government continues to participate and
systematically violate human rights.  

As a victim of violence herself, Ms. Hoyos is co-founder of Sons and Daughters
Against Impunity and for the Memory of the Fallen, an organization for children
of victims of disappearance, torture, exile, and murder in Argentina, Chile,
and other Latin American countries.  She is also the recipient of the 2008
AFL-CIO George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award.

ILO Mission to the Philippines to probe labor violations launched today.

The ILO mission was triggered by a complaint the KMU brought before the ILO’s Committee on the Freedom of Association in 2006.  In the complaint, KMU alleged, “Killings, grave threats, continuous harassment and intimidation and other forms of violence inflicted on leaders, members, organizers, union supporters/labor advocates of trade unions and informal workers' organizations who actively pursue their legitimate demands at the local and national levels.”  Specifically, KMU mentioned the deaths of 64 trade unionist and advocates since Arroyo took power in 2001.  ILRF has also been calling for a high level mission for some time now.  You can see more of the history

Comments Inform USTR on Labor Rights Violations

In the comments, ILRF focused on the importance of addressing the factors that have caused the violence, impunity and labor contracting, making Colombia one of the world's worst environments for workers to freely affiliate with a union. The Obama Administration has been cautious about moving forward with a Colombia FTA but has indicated that if certain benchmarks are met on violence and impunity, Colombia could still be rewarded with an agreement in the near future.

Cambodian Labor Rights in Jeopardy

Despite these gains, Mr. Moeun made clear that Cambodia still has much to accomplish and without urgent action could actually regress.  In his testimony, Mr. Moeun described the continued repression of unions by pointing out events like the murder of Cambodia’s best know union leader Chea Vichea.  (You can learn more about Chea Vichea’s story in the Freedom at Work Toolkit that ILRF just launched on Labor Day.)  Additionally, Mr. Moeun commented that wages continue to be inadequate.  Even though the 1997 labor law requires the creation of minimum wage, the Cambodian Government has failed to enact one making it very difficult for people to live at a decent level.

Freedom at Work toolkit launched for Labor Day

According to the International Trade Union Confederation’s Annual Survey, at least 76 labor activists were killed as a result of their actions to defend workers’ rights worldwide in 2008 alone.  Thousands of workers were physically and verbally harassed, arrested and abducted for their involvement with unions and millions more are in precarious, temporary positions to which they have no right unionize at all. In Colombia, the world's most dangerous place to organize a union, U.S. corporations continue to remain complicit in the murders of their own workers.

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