ILRF works with trade unions, faith-based organizations, and community groups to support workers and their families. We lead on initiatives such as making apparel factories safe in Bangladesh; stopping the exploitation of children in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan; increasing the income of farm workers in the cocoa fields of West Africa; developing labor law clinics in China; and supporting threatened union leaders in Latin America’s banana sector. ILRF’s work in Latin America carries forward the mission of the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) and its founder Stephen Coats (1952-2013).
ILRF is dedicated to achieving dignity and justice for workers worldwide.
ILRF works for a world where workers have the power to speak out and organize to defend and advance their rights and interests; a world where workers have the right to form unions and bargain collectively to secure a safe and dignified life for themselves and their families; and a world where everyone is free from discrimination, forced labor and child labor.
1. Labor rights are universal and inalienable. Workers and labor rights advocates need to build global networks to support each other across borders and to ensure labor rights are integrated into national and international laws and upheld by justice systems everywhere. Today, more than ever, “a violation of one worker’s rights is a violation of all workers’ rights.”
2. Labor rights are a central pillar of social justice and economic development. With decent work opportunities for adults, families can afford sending children to school. With a living wage, the right to health is more attainable. When equality is secured, women and minorities are assured a place in society. And with the ability to organize and bargain collectively, workers are better equipped to support and participate in building and maintaining a democratic society.
3. Child labor and forced labor are both the consequences of deeper social injustices and the cause of these same injustices being perpetuated. Child labor, especially bonded child labor, is among the most egregious and exploitative labor practices. It emerges wherever workers have no voice or means to escape poverty. Policy solutions to child labor need to address deeper, causal issues, such as migration policies, workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, and workers’ access to a decent wage for fulltime work.
4. Social change is made by workers and their community partners with the support of global solidarity. Only workers can make labor rights meaningful; government policies, global trade and business practices should be crafted to enable and protect worker’s exercising of those rights. Only when workers and the organizations that represent them lead the campaigns for change, will power imbalances that foster exploitation be reformed.
5. Consumers have the right to know and the power to advance transparency and accountability, thus connecting consumer and worker interests in advocating for just and dignified jobs. By advancing transparency and solidarity, we can scale the global economy to human size, bridge the gulf between workers and consumers, deepen international solidarity, and combine the strength of workers everywhere in shared struggles for economic and social justice.
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