2019 Labor Rights Defenders Awards


Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - 5:30pm to Saturday, June 15, 2024 - 12:40am


1501 14th St NW,
Washington, DC 20005

Our awards ceremony brings together policy leaders, labor activists, and an increasingly diverse group of internationalists who know that human rights and economic justice depend on the ability of workers and their advocates to speak out and defend human rights at work. We honor trailblazers, both nationally and internationally, for their innovation and visionary leadership in labor rights advocacy, from fighting for safe and just working conditions to demanding corporate accountability. 

Tickets available here! Interested in becoming a sponsor? Please fill out this form.


Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) – Representative Speier is a longtime advocate of and fearless fighter for women’s equality and leadership at work. She co-sponsored a bi-cameral resolution on women’s rights at work, which she developed in consultation with the ILRF, AFL-CIO, and others. She also sponsored the more recent ME TOO Congress Act and supports the new ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, which is being negotiated this year. Representative Speier is dedicated not only to her constituents in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, but to workers' rights globally. She was named to Newsweek’s list of 150 “Fearless Women” in the world and was named one of “Politico's 50” most influential people in American politics for bringing the ‘Me Too’ reckoning to Congress.

Justice for Port Drivers Campaign – The Justice for Port Drivers Campaign, supported by the Teamsters, is an inspiration for thousands of US workers who are being misclassified and abused by the gig economy. The campaign has exposed cases of wage theft and debt bondage among port truck drivers who, in becoming independent contractors, were trapped in a cycle of debt, unable to leave their jobs without also losing the money they had invested in financing their own trucks. USA Today's investigation found that port trucking companies in Southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to work against their will – up to 20 hours a day – by requiring them to finance their own trucks. Among the retail giants these drivers are hauling goods for are Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Lowe's. In 2018, more than 50 human rights and social justice organizations signed a public letter denouncing these abuses and voicing their support for Port Drivers.

Gaspar Matalaev and Alternative Turkmenistan News  – Gaspar Matalaev, a prominent human rights activist in Turkmenistan, was tortured, denied legal counsel, and imprisoned over two years ago after publishing a story documenting state-sponsored forced labor in the Turkmen cotton sector. Matalaev was arrested the night of October 4, 2016, two days after his report on state-orchestrated forced labor of children and adults in Turkmenistan's cotton harvest was posted on Alternative Turkmenistan News's website. Matalaev was one of the few independent monitors working undercover to reveal the state-run nature of forced and child labor during cotton harvests in one of the world's most authoritarian countries, where the government treats refusal to contribute to the cotton harvest as insubordination, incitement to sabotage, and even 'contempt of the homeland.' ILRF’s campaign to free Gaspar is ongoing.

For information about previous years' awardees, see here.

Many thanks to the 2019 Labor Rights Defenders Awards Sponsors!

Leadership Circle

International Brotherhood of Teamsters
L Brands Foundation


International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Jules Bernstein & Linda Lipsett


GlobalWorks Foundation
Joe Eldridge & Maria Otero
Laborers’ International Union of North America
The Moriah Fund
Service Employees International Union
United Auto Workers


Amalgamated Transit Union
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Lichten & Liss-Riordan, PC
Rachel Neild & George McCabe
Solidarity Center
Ullico, Inc.


AEO, Inc.
American Postal Workers Union
Cathy Hurwit
Coalition of Labor Union Women
Communications Workers of America
David Holiday
Divine Chocolate
Eileen Fisher
Elizabeth Colton
Eric Dirnbach
Ethix Merch
Fairtrade America
Fontheim International
Fruit of the Loom Inc.
George Miller
GoodWeave International
Institute for Policy Studies
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
Jobs with Justice
Judith White
Julie Burton & Roger Hickey
Levi Strauss & Co.
Markley Roberts
Massachusetts Nurses Association
National Consumers League
Northern NM Central Labor Council 
Peter Gearhart
Sorini Samet & Associates LLC
United Methodist Women

Host Committee:

Eric Biel
Julie Burton
Dennis Coyne
Joe Eldridge
Claude Fontheim
Sam Fried
Agnieszka Fryszman
Stan Gacek
Sarita Gupta
Pharis Harvey
Owen Herrnstadt
Shannon Liss-Riordan
George Miller
Yvette Pena-O’Sullivan
Fred Potter
Markley Roberts
Ashwini Sukthankar
Judith White

Honorary Committee:

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
Congresswoman Nanette Barragán
Senator Ben Cardin
Senator Chris Van Hollen
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro
Congressman Jamie Raskin
Congresswoman Linda Sánchez