AFT Resolution

INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS DEFENDERS

WHEREAS, labor rights are being threatened all over the world; the number of countries in which workers were killed for their trade union activity rose last year, and the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are being violated in more than 50 countries around the world, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. Consider:

  • In Asia, more than 2,000 workers were dismissed for having attempted to defend their rights. A culture of impunity is threatening trade unionists, an impunity that stems from many governments’ lack of political will to ensure respect for due process and the rule of law for workers;
  • In Africa, although trade union rights are enshrined in the constitutions of most African countries, they are often flouted as a result of the lack of social dialogue and employers’ and authorities’ contempt for workers’ demands, which manifest in blatant repression of trade union activities;
  • Central and South America have seen an escalation in trade union rights violations, where several countries remain among the most dangerous for trade unions, and labor activists, along with campaigners for the indigenous and campesino movements, are often victims of violence, abuse, threats and retaliation;
  • In Europe, millions of workers have lost their rights, including the right to strike, and many union-related activities have been unduly restricted, even criminalized; and
  • In the Middle East and North Africa, trade union rights are still ignored on a wide scale. Many workers have their passports confiscated and work in particularly harsh and abusive conditions, for very low pay, despite forming the backbone of the region’s economies; and

WHEREAS, labor rights defenders play an important role not only in protecting workers rights but also in protecting our democracies, right to organize, right to quality education, right to healthcare and right to other necessities for a life with dignity. Despite the dangers that activists and defenders face, they persist to fight for what is right and just:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers stands in solidarity with those defenders worldwide who are fighting for basic labor rights—freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively, defense from discrimination and protection from exploitation at work. There are many who will always stand up for our central values of equality, dignity, development, democracy and peace. Among them:

  • Education unionists Mohamed Habibi, Mohammad Beheshti Langroudi and Esmail Abdi, who were jailed by their government for denouncing the violation of workers’ rights in Iran;
  • Executive committee member of the Turkish national public sector workers’ union (KESK) Elif Cuhadar, who is one of many who have been jailed for denouncing anti-labor policies in her country;
  • In South Korea, Han Sang-gyun and Lee Young-joo, former president and general secretary, respectively, of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, who were held against their will for years for exercising their democratic right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly;
  • In Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a trade unionist and advocate for workers’ rights, who has been jailed after a highly prejudicial trial waged by the courts and the media;
  • Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ activist and workers’ defender Marielle Franco, who was killed by police assassins in Rio de Janeiro;
  • In Mexico, the crusader families of “Ayotzinapa Vive,” who are still demanding accountability in the case of 43 teacher-trainees who disappeared in 2014;
  • In Liberia, Joseph S. Tamba and George Poe Williams, president and general secretary, respectively, of NAHWUL, a Public Services International health and social care affiliate, who were dismissed by the government following a nationwide strike against poor working conditions in the healthcare sector; and
  • In Hungary, the faculty members of Central European University, who won support from higher education unions from across Europe in their fight for academic freedom in the face of right-wing political oppression; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with its affiliates, Education International, Public Services International and allies such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, utilizing traditional media and social media platforms, to ensure that these defenders are recognized, their demands are heard and their injustices are exposed

(2018)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.