2008 ILRF Annual Report

Publication Date: 

June 1, 2009


International Labor Rights Forum

Letter from the Executive Director

As I write this, President Barack Obama has just completed his 100th day in office - and it is clear that 2008 was indeed a year of change.

In 2008 we critiqued a “free” trade policy, embodied in the US-Colombia
Free Trade Agreement
, that encourages developing countries to dominate their economies with unstable export industries. We promoted fair trade policies as an alternative that would provide permanent, decent jobs to workers around the world. We released new reports on the pineapple, cotton, cocoa, rubber and soccer ball sectors that pointed out human rights abuses in these industries, and initiated change by companies in those industries. We also worked to develop a new standard for “sustainable agriculture” that incorporated basic worker rights guarantees into the definition of sustainability.

We welcomed the change in government here at home, and believe that the new Administration and Congress will be importantly and substantially different in their objectives for trade, seeking to balance corporate interests with the interests of working people at home and in the developing world. The new Administration’s commitment to international engagement in the arena of human rights is also notable, and provides an important and striking difference from the prior Administration.

These changes will help us chart an exciting new course for our work in 2009, as we will be asked to rise to the challenge of proposing new alternatives to trade, development and human rights policies to protect workers around the world. It is always easier to critique what is wrong than to suggest better alternatives, but the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is prepared with specific and detailed new proposals for a blueprint for trade agreements that would ensure sustainable and decent jobs for workers around the world. ILRF will engage in campaigns to ensure that both the US government and its trade partners around the world uphold and strengthen their commitments to fundamental labor rights, as defined by the International Labour Organization and through other international instruments. ILRF will also use campaigns and policies to ensure that multinational corporations fully respect workers’ rights throughout their operations everywhere in the world.

ILRF has played a unique role in the human rights and labor movements, as an innovator of effective new strategies to create accountability for human rights abuses in the workplace. We look forward to the challenges of the coming year and creating new tools with our partners worldwide to press for meaningful protections for workers’ rights.

Bama Athreya
Executive Director