Blog

Focus on Fixing the Streetcar, Not Fighting Workers

Streetcars made their last run in Washington, D.C. back in 1959. For the past 5 years DC City government is on track to rebuild the system, this time via a problematic public-private partnership. Plagued with delays and mismanagement, the new line is about to start service. More than $200 million has been spent to establish the first of what some hope will be several segments of new streetcar service in the growing city. Even prior to operation the D.C. Streetcar has stimulated economic development on the H Street Corridor, a long suffering neighborhood decimated by the 1968 riots.

What is Bangladesh’s Position on Freedom of Association?

One of the reasons the Accord on Fire and Building Safety is such an important safety program in Bangladesh is that they understand that dangerous workplaces are not just failures in building engineering or fire and electrical safety, but also of failures of a social system that ignores and excludes workers and denies them their voice.  Workers know the safety problems in their factories better than anyone else.  When they are denied the opportunity to report on those problems and suggest solutions, their workplaces are not safe.  That is why the Accord comes to the defense of workers who are courageous enough to voice their concerns about safety only to be fired or otherwise punished.  So should the Bangladeshi government and the industry association, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacture

Ten Years after Uzbekistan’s Massacre, the Tragedy Continues to Unfold

This is a guest post from Open Society Foundations, a long-time ILRF partner in the Cotton Campaign to end forced labor in Uzbekistan's cotton harvest, to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Andijan Massacre in Uzbekistan. For more on this tragic event, please watch this chilling video from Human Rights Watch, another ally in the Cotton Campaign. ILRF partner Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights has also posted pieces in both French and Russian.

From Slavery to Debt-Bondage: Big Tobacco’s Addiction to Cheap Labor

I was in North Carolina last week, marching through the streets of Winston-Salem with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) to demand collective bargaining rights for farmworkers who harvest tobacco. As these workers shared their stories about unjust conditions in the fields and sub-poverty earnings, I was struck by the similarities between tobacco industry exploitation in my own country and what our partners in Malawi, the Center for Social Concern (CSC) and Tobacco and Allied Workers Union of Malawi (TOAWUM), are fighting against.

The TPP's dirty labor laundry

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is being touted as a “21st century” trade agreement that will contain strong and enforceable labor standards to ensure our trade partners honor their promise to uphold workers’ fundamental rights.  

But if history is any guide, labor rights advocates should remain deeply skeptical of any such claims.

Legislation introduced in April aims to provide the President with trade promotion authority (aka “fast track”), a procedure that requires Congress to vote on proposed trade deals with limited debate and no opportunity to offer amendments.

Remembering Rana Plaza

Today I revisited the Rana Plaza factory site where the eight-story building collapsed two years ago, horrifically killing 1,138 workers and seriously injuring more than 2,500 others.  The site has not changed much since I came here in 2013, a month after the collapse.  You can still find spools of thread, fabric, the occasional lost scarf or shoe, and remnants of the Joe Fresh jeans, which were being produced for JC Penney and Loblaw’s at the time.  Most of the building has been demolished, but the rubble remains.  In the center, a rain puddle has become a pond with an unnatural green hue and algae growing around the edges.  

Respect, not restraints, for workers in Thailand's seafood industry

Workers in cages – that’s what reporters from the Associated Press found during a year-long investigation into forced labor in the global seafood supply chain. The workers were Burmese nationals, trafficked onto Thai-run fishing vessels working for an Indonesian firm in Indonesian waters, underlining the complex, global nature of the problem. While the cries of help the AP documented from these trapped workers has shaken the industry and led to renewed calls for action, their voices are rarely included in the solutions. All too often efforts to “reform” the industry leave them as vulnerable as ever.

Toxic, Deadly Tanneries

In the wee hours of the morning on January 31, in the worst tannery disaster in the industry's history in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a deluge of toxic sludge from a storage tank killed nine sleeping workers and a watchman. The Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association said the tank explosion was due to poor construction and they are demanding 10 lakh rupees (US$16,200) compensation for the victims. 

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