Bahrain’s Sad Anniversary: Three Years of Worker Repression

February 14, 2014—Three years after the people of Bahrain stood up for a more participatory government, the crackdown on dissent and rampant discrimination in the workplace continues.

Solidarity Center

Workers in Bahrain protest large-scale firings and repression in the wake of the 2011 protests. Photo: Kate Conradt

Hundreds of workers—including teachers, doctors, nurses and journalists who were doing their jobs when marches were met with violence—have been fired, demoted or sidelined at their workplaces. Many were imprisoned and tortured, including the president of the Teachers’ Association who remains in jail.

During a recent trip to the island country, the Solidarity Center met with workers still without employment despite government commitments to rectify wrongful dismissals. These include workers who were fired in the immediate aftermath of the February 2011 democracy protests and those who are losing their jobs now. One woman was fired after she was imprisoned and tortured for not surrendering a music cassette at a checkpoint. A hotel security guard, trained in emergency medicine, was fired for treating injured protesters. Leading medical specialists, including one of the country’s few rheumatologists, have been denied hospital credentials. Journalists say they have been blacklisted, not only in Bahrain but across Gulf countries, forcing them to seek a way to learn a living far outside their training. Continue reading

Oct 17 Event: Piracy of the Rich and Poor in Somalia

October 15, 2013—The Solidarity Center and the African Studies Association are sponsoring a discussion in Washington, D.C., on “The Piracy of the Rich and the Piracy of the Poor in Somalia,” Thursday, October 17.

The Capitol Hill event features Dr. Abdi Samatar (left), president of the African Studies Association, an internationally respected scholar whose research focuses on the relationship between democracy and development in Africa. Samatar is a professor of geography at the University of Minnesota and a fellow at the University of Pretoria. Continue reading

Solidarity Center Mourns for Workers Killed in Bangladesh

Solidarity Center

Dozens of Bangladesh workers in several garment factores were killed in a building collapse today. Photo: Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity (BFWS).

Dozens of Bangladesh workers in several garment factores were killed in a building collapse today. Photo: Bangladesh Federation of Workers Solidarity (BFWS).

April 24, 2013—Another four garment factories in Bangladesh became death traps today, and the Solidarity Center is mourning the senseless loss of life and the grievous injuries that have befallen hundreds of workers who were simply trying to make a living. The organization is calling on the Bangladesh government to enforce its labor and building codes, on brands that source from the country to prioritize health and safety conditions in factories, and on both to respect the rights of workers and to recognize that the only way Bangladesh will have safe factories is if workers have a voice on the job.
At least 80 workers lost their lives and more than 600 people were injured when the eight-story building collapsed, according to the Bangladesh government. Hundreds remain trapped.

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ILO: 52 Million in Domestic Work Worldwide

by Tula Connell

ILO-52-Million-in-Domestic-Work-Worldwide_mediumSome 52 million people older than 15—primarily women—labor as domestic workers around the world, according to a report released today by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Of those, 83 percent are women. The vast number of domestic workers, 21.4 million, are in Asia and the Pacific region, with 19.6 million in Latin America, 5.2 million in Africa and 2.1 million in the Middle East.

These figures exclude child domestic workers younger than 15. The ILO, in 2008, estimated 7.4 million children work in domestic labor.

This first-of-its-kind ILO report is meant to further spotlight the plight of domestic workers, many of whom are vulnerable to abuses—from low wages and long hours to physical abuse and human trafficking.

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Unions Mark “No to Violence against Women Day”

Solidarity Center

November 26, 2012—At a Turkish-owned textile plant in the Democratic Republic of Georgia a few years ago, female employers were repeatedly forced to remain on the job without pay for hours a day. When they ultimately demanded to be released, the factory manager responded by yelling and throwing a heavy load of unfinished dresses at one woman. The blow knocked her unconscious. The factory manager returned to Turkey to avoid prosecution—but likely would not have faced charges even if he had stayed, says Bob Fielding, Solidarity Center country program in Georgia, who described the incident.

Like the Georgian garment worker, millions of women around the world are the targets of violence—which is why trade unionists and others highlighted November 25 as “NO to Violence Against Women” day.

Globally, up to six out of every 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, much of it work-related. Yet it is impossible to accurately tally incidents of workplace-related violence because in most countries, those statistics are not reflected in employer or police records. In fact, many women do not report such abuse because they fear reprisals, including the possibility of losing their livelihood. Further, they do not trust anything will be done to address the problem.

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Generals Still in Charge Tough Days Ahead in Egypt

By Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Cairo, Egypt (Jan. 26, 2012)—The most populated country in the Arab world took the day off on Wednesday, January 25.

Tahrir Square was overloaded with people stretching and squeezing into every nook and cranny on adjacent streets, storefront alcoves and building doorways. Still, thousands were simply unable to ever reach the center.

But there was something equally noteworthy on this day—the total absence of the police and army. In a country where the army has far too much control in all affairs of state, on this day they could not be found.

Nonetheless, it must be said that the army’s presence was very much felt. For example, the largest center stage in the middle of the square was controlled by their key ally, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Continuous “God is Great” and pro-military chants were consciously intended to counter opposition slogans of the protest movement.

Voices of the Youth and Workers

Beyond the center stage, however, were dozens of political groups, student and youth organizations and independent union contingents calling for a second revolution. They completely engulfed the areas along the perimeter of Tahrir.

After a series of recent bloody attacks against young protestors, along with continued repression of worker protests, a clear statement was made on January 25 that voices of the youth and workers, in particular, would not be muted.

Nonetheless, Egypt’s generals have shown themselves far more astute in dealing with raging social unrest and complex political issues than the ousted dictator.
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Two More Campus Anti-Sweatshop Movement Victories

by Paul Garver

The anti-sweatshop movement on American campuses has chalked up two more victories in its battle to assist Honduran and Dominican workers in winning improved working conditions in the apparel industry.

On 26th July Nike announced that it would pay $1.54 million in compensation to 1800 workers who were denied legally required severance pay when two Nike subcontractors closed their Honduran plants in January 2009.

In addition, the Spartanburg, S.C.-based Knights Apparel, the leading supplier of college-logo apparel to U.S. universities, has agreed to pay the 120 workers at its factory in Alta Gracia, Dominican Republic, 350% of the average pay of the country’s apparel workers—and has allowed workers to create a union without interference.

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