CGWR News & Events

"9to5: The Story of a Movement"

The below story was originally published in Penn State News.  You can check out Assistant Research Professor Jinyoung Park's powerful three-minute introduction to the event here. She shares how the model of 9TO5 helped inspire her and her colleagues' efforts to build South Korea's first women's union in the late 1990s. As Park quips, she's been waiting 23 years for this movie to be made!

On Tuesday, April 6 at 7 p.m. (EDT), Penn State’s Sustainability Institute (SI), Center for Global Workers’ Rights (CGWR), LABOR School and WPSU will co-host an online screening of the film "9to5: The Story of a Movement." Afterward, they will be joined for a post-film discussion with Oscar-winning filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, as well as leaders from the 9to5 labor movement. Those interested in attending can register at

“We're thrilled for the Center for Global Workers’ Rights to be able to co-host this important film and conversation,” said Jinyoung Park, assistant research professor in the CGWR. “Reichart and Bognar's film not only tells the story of an overlooked chapter of the U.S. labor movement, but it demystifies the nuts and bolts of how labor movement organizing works. We are sure it will inspire women to fight for their rights and reclaim their place in the past, present and future of the labor movement.”

The film examines the rise in the 1970s of the women workers’ movement among office workers fighting for better pay, gender equality and an end to sexual harassment. The 9to5 movement served as the basis for the famous "9 to 5" film starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin and the documentary examines the movement’s relationship with that film as well.

Following the film screening, there will be a discussion with the film’s Oscar-winning filmmakers, whose decades-long careers have produced landmark documentary films on labor issues including "Union Maids" and 2019’s "American Factory," which won the 2020 Oscar for Best Documentary and screened at Penn State last year as part of this film series.

“We’re honored to be able to host Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar as part of this film series and to give the Penn State community the opportunity to engage with world-class storytellers committed to social justice,” said Peter Boger, assistant director for community engagement at SI. “Our goal with this film series is to help people see the intersections between social justice and sustainability and to empower our community to take action to address these issues going forward.”

Also joining the post-film discussion will be Kim Cook, a leader of the Seattle chapter of the 9to5 movement and a faculty member in Cornell University’s Worker Institute. The discussion will be moderated by Mary Bellman, director of The LABOR School, Penn State’s outreach program to the Pennsylvania labor movement, providing low-cost education and training programs for workers and their organizations throughout the state.

The film screening is part of WPSU, CGWR and SI’s Intersections: Landscapes of Labor film series, dedicated to exploring the intersection of labor rights with social justice and sustainability issues. All films are free and open to the public. Contact Boger at with any questions. 

Spring 2019 Film Series: Intersections: Landscapes of Labor

The Center for Global Workers' Rights is proud to announce the launch of a new film series, entitled "Intersections: Landscapes of Labor," co-sponsored with the Sustainability Institute here at PSU. The series highlights intersections between worker rights struggles and related issues such as racial, gender, and environmental justice.

This semester's screenings will be as follows:
- January 22, 7pm (Kern 112): Sorry to Bother You (2018, USA)
- February 19, 7pm (Hub 132): Cart (2014, South Korea
- March 19, 7pm (Hub 132): The Second Mother (2015, Brazil)
- April 23 , 7pm (Hub 132): Pride (2014, England)

For more about the series, check out this excellent article in Penn State News.  


The Center for Global Workers’ Rights is proud to host another Spring Symposium and hopes it will be useful in guiding the efforts of scholars and practitioners toward addressing labor informality across various contexts. Weaving together empirical data, historical narratives, and contemporary reflections on labor informality in comparative perspective, we will together ask: How can workers build power in the informal sector? How can our work, practice, teaching and organizing increase worker protections, standards, and dignity in the informal sector? Moreover, how do we bring about a more just future for all workers? 

For program booklet, see: booklet




Call for Papers XII Global Labour University Conference, 2017 Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

New Delhi Reincarnation or Death of Neoliberalism? The rise of market authoritarianism and its challenges for labour The Global Labour University is pleased to announce a call for papers for the 2017 conference on “Reincarnation or Death of Neoliberalism? The rise of market authoritarianism and its challenges for labour” to be held in New Delhi from 4 to 6 October 2017. 



Spring Symposium: "Worker Health & Precarious Work in Global Supply Chains" 

Penn State University, March 23-24, 2017

Program Booklet, here.

Background Papers and Reports

Anner, Mark. "Stopping the Race to the Bottom: Challenges for Workers' Rights in Supply Chains in Asia."

Bhattacharjee, Anannya, and Ashim Roy. "Bargaining in the global commodity chain: the Asia Floor Wage Alliance." 

Brown, Garrett. "Genuine Worker Participation - An Indispensable Key to Effective Global OHS."

Dutta, Madhumita, "The Nokia SEZ Story: Economy of Disappearances." 

Fischer-Daly, Matt. "The Persistence of Forced Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Industry."

Pandita, Sanjiv and Fahmi Panimbang, "Global Supply Chains: Struggle within them or against them?"

Rosenbaum, JJ and Daniel Costa, "Temporary foreign workers by the numbers."

Rosenbaum, JJ, "The world watches the US on labor abuse."

Smith, Ted and Chad Raphael, "The Future of Activism for Electronics Workers."

Sznajder, Kristin, et al., "Gynecologic pain related to occupational stress among female factory workers in Tianjin, China." 

von Broembsen, Marlese and Shae Godfrey, "Labour Law and Development Viewed from Below."



Call for Collaborators, Labour Rights Indicators

The Labour Rights (LR) Indicators is an initiative of the Global Labour University and the Center for Global Workers’ Rights at Penn State University. Its goal is to make available to researchers and practitioners reliable and concise data on the status of trade union rights in law and practice in the world today. The LR indicators are currently available for the year 2012. In order to update the information the Center is looking for coders with a strong interest and knowledge in industrial relations and international labour standards with a commitment to systematic analysis of textual data. 
More information is available here. 


Bhairavi Desai speaks at CGWR event.

Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director NY Taxi Workers’ Alliance, President of the National Taxi Workers Alliance, and AFL-CIO Executive Council Representative spoke at at CGWR event at Penn State on April 20, 2016. Photo: Bhairavi Desai, with CGWR faculty and LGWR students, receiving a CGWR recognition for her work on behalf of workers' rights. 

Lydia Edwards, Alt-Labor Leader and Immigrant Rights Activist for Domestic Workers

Lydia spoke on Wednesday, February 3, at 7:30pm in 112 Kern Building, Penn State University Park.
Event flyer.

Former Student Wins Organizing Drive

Joyce Sinakhone, a former Labor and Employment Relations Master's student and current organizer for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), helped co-op workers win a voice in the workplace. Sinakhone related personally as she had been previously fired herself for trying to organize teachers at a language school where she taught in Japan. A union there helped her win back her job.
See full article

Penn State Hosts the U.S.’s First-Ever Global Labour University Gathering

(University Park, PA) - - For one sparkling, blue-skied week in October, Penn State found itself at the epicenter of the world’s workers’ rights movement. Fifty labor scholars and activists from 22 nations convened here the Global Labour University’s (GLU) alumni school from October 4 – 9 to share strategies and analysis for building sustainable power within a shifting global economy.  It was the first such GLU educational event ever held in the United States. 

Click here to read more.


 Ai-jen Poo talk

Members of the Center for Global Workers' Right with Ai-jen Poo following her talk on February 11, 2015 on “The Future of Care: What we need for a changing America." Ai-jen is the director of the Domestic Workers Alliance and a 2014 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow

ALTA GRACIA in the news:

See the recent PBS Newshour piece on the Alta Gracia garment factory in the Dominican Republic, "Can garment factories pay a living wage and still compete in the global economy?"

Alta Gracia Apparel is a groundbreaking clothing line produced at a very unique factory in the developing world that pays workers a living wage -- a salario digno, or wage with dignity. The company puts forth the effort to respect its employees’ rights as both workers and as human beings.

For more, see the website: Alta Gracia, Living Wage Apparel

Global Labour University/AFL-CIO Solidarity Center dialogue on the Future of Worker Representation

In cooperation with the Global Labour University (GLU), the AFL-CIO launched a program on the Future of Worker Representation. As part, the two organizations have set in place a global online conversation. How are workers and unions worldwide addressing growing inequality and the challenges to organizing and collective representation?  Each week they post a new question and invite others to join the conversation in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

The conversation considers how unions identify country-specific problems as they build alternative models for representing workers, or build worker power in an innovative way; asking what forms of worker representation have thrived in what contexts, and what potential models exist for global partnerships that could lead to collective power for workers.

The Future of Worker Representation conversation begins at

April 2013: Penn State activist Lili Hadsell was honored with The Nancy and Joseph Birkle Student Engagement Award for promoting products made by workers who receive a living wage

On Thursday, April 18, 2013, Lili Hadsell was honored with The Nancy and Joseph Birkle Student Engagement Award by the Center for Democratic Deliberation. The award recognizes students in the Penn State College of Liberal Arts who have made significant contributions to public deliberation and debate by speaking out about important political or social issues.

Lili was nominated for the award by Center for Global Workers’ Rights Director, Mark Anner, who noted in his nomination letter how Lili travelled to Central America to see firsthand working conditions in factories making clothing bearing the Penn State name, helped to re-build the Penn State chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), worked with the administration to terminate contracts of corporations that violated workers’ rights, and promoted Alta Gracia products at Penn State, which are made by workers who receive a living wage and have a strong union with a good collective bargaining agreement. Our congratulations to Lili and to Penn State USAS for this wonderful and much deserved recognition.

Award recipient Lili Hadsell and CGWR Director Mark Anner

CGWR Events 


Speaker Events 2014-2015

Speaking Events, Fall Semester 2014

December 4

Justin McBride2

Justin McBride will speak on December 4, 2014 in Room 502 Keller at 12:00 pm.

Justin McBride is the Campaign Director for the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, and works for the AFL-CIO. He was first exposed to unions with the garment workers’ union, UNITE, in New York City, while he was pursuing undergraduate studies at Duke University in 1999. Upon graduating, he became a staff organizer, and has been helping workers form unions ever since in a variety of industries, including laundry, warehouse, industrial, janitorial, construction, and now carwash workers. Justin began working on the CLEAN Carwash Campaign in 2008.

The carwash industry has become part of the underground economy of Los Angeles and other cities in California, with many carwashes failing to abide by basic labor and health and safety law. Los Angeles carwashes have been equated to the modern day sweatshop. The (CLEAN) Car Wash campaign is a joint effort between the Community Labor Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), the Carwash Workers Organizing Committee (CWOC) and the United Steelworkers (USW). Begun in 2007, the campaign has brought together a diverse group of immigrants’ rights, legal, labor, and community organizations to improve the lives of working families throughout California and across the Los Angeles area.

October 13

Michael Fichter

Michael Fichter will speak on October 24, 2014 in Room 502 Keller at 12:00 pm.

Dr. Fichter was born and raised in the US and completed his PhD in political science at the Freie Universitaet Berlin (FU Berlin) where he was a senior lecturer and researcher specializing in German and European labor relations. Since 2005, he has been a faculty member of the Global Labour University in Germany where he has taught courses on transnational corporations and global labor relations.

His publications include, “Exporting Labor Relations across the Atlantic? Insights on Labor Relations Policies of German Corporations in the U.S.,” in WorkingUSA (2011), and “Building Transnational Union Networks across Global Production Networks: Conceptualising a new arena of Labour-Management Relations' (with M. Helfen) British Journal of Industrial Relations (2013).


Speaker Events 2013- 2014

Speaking Events, Spring Semester 2014

February 27

Jeff Hilgert photo

Jeffrey Hilgert spoke on February 27, 2014 in Room 502 Keller at 12:00 pm.

Hilgert is Assistant Professor in the School of Industrial Relations at the University of Montreal and author of the book, Hazard or Hardship: Crafting Global Norms on the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work (Cornell University Press, 2013). The book takes a close look the rights of workers to refuse unsafe work, describing how a movement in support of such rights was generated in the 1970s and spread globally through international labor standards.

Hilgert spent several years as a labor rights and anti-poverty activist in Minnesota and has been the recipient of human rights awards, a Fulbright and an Archibald Bush Foundation fellowship for his efforts. He holds a Ph.D. in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University.


February 7

Gaochao He

February 7, the CGWR welcomed Gaochao He, professor in the department of political science at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, and co-director of the International Center for Joint Labor Research. He spoke on “Chinese Labor Unions in an Era of Great Transformation: Challenges and Best Practices in Guangdong.”

How is the transformation of socialism to market capitalism in China changing the dynamics of Chinese labor politics? Would the conventional approach of state-society relation still have enough explanatory power to account for the changing realities? Based on the observations of strikes and collective bargaining in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong, an alternative approach will be suggested to explain the challenges and best practices of trade unionism in China.

Gaochao HE received his PhD in political science from the University of Chicago in 1993. His research interests mainly focus on the politics of labor, and on the changing labor relations among the state, trade union, managers and workers in China. He has conducted various surveys and interviews on workplace politics in China since 1995, and is currently conducting research on the impacts of strike wave since 2010 on the evolution of Guangdong labor regime. He is currently working on a book manuscript of Remaking of Remaking of Labor Regime in China in an Era of Reform: A Guangdong Story

Gaochao He

Professor Gaochao He

Penn State students and faculty

Students and faculty at the talk

Leung He and Paul Clark

Guowei Liang, PhD. student at Johns Hopkins University, Professor Gaochao He of Sun Yat-Sen University (Guangzhou, China), and Paul Clark, head of the School of Labor and Employment Relations. Dr. Clark is presenting the guests with a warm fleece inscribed with the School of LER logo, so not to discourage Guowei or Gauchao from spending time in Pennsylvania, especially in the winter.

Guowei Liang, Gaochao He, and Paul Clark

Speaker Events, Fall 2013

October 22

Frank Bardacke

Frank Bardacke spoke on Tuesday, October 22. Bardacke is an educator and long-time community activist based in Watsonville, California and author of Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. The book tells the story of what farmworkers in California called "La Causa," interpreted by the broader public as the rise and fall of the UFW.  It won the 2012 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism and the 2012 book of the year award from the United Association of Labor Educators

Bardacke is a former fieldworker himself and served as a crew shop steward, fighting for workers' rights under the first United Farm Workers contract. He has taught at University of California, Santa Cruz, local community colleges, and an English as second language high school. He helped found the Third World Teaching Resource Center, organized to connect funding sources for broad based workers’ education. With concern for the Mexican-American/Mexican community, Frank has worked also with the Watsonville Human Rights Committee (WHRC) in efforts to defend equal access to education and medical services,  decent working conditions, and safe housing.

For Bardacke's recent article, "The UFW and the Undocumented," part of the Symposium: Cesar Chávez and the United Farm Workers, see International Labor and Working-Class History / Volume 83 / Spring 2013, pp 162-169.

Bardacke is the author of Good Liberals and Great Blue Herons: Land, Labor and Politics in the Pajaro Valley (1994) and a translator of Shadows of Tender Fury: The Letters and Communiqués of Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (1995).

September 12

Jakir Hossain

Dr. Jakir Hossain spoke on Thursday, September 12.

On September 12th we welcomed Dr. Jakir Hossain, this year's Post-doctoral Scholar with the Center for Global Workers’ Rights. He teaches at the Institute of Bangladesh Studies at the University of Rajshah and received a Ph.D. from the School of International Studies, University of Trento, Italy in 2012.

He spoke on the challenges of transforming the plethora of standards already in existence into actionable rights for the health and benefit of workers in Bangladesh. Such standards include international conventions drafted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), for example those targeting workplace safety; private standards defined by corporate codes of conduct; and standards designated through trade action focusing on labor conditions. Dr. Hossain offered suggestions on how to better align rights with such standards, importantly through workers' organizing and involvement.

For an event flyer, click here.

2011-2013 Speaker Series Archive

Spring 2013

mural hospital workers

On April 16, 2013, 12:45 p.m. in Room 502 Keller, Ivone Olmedo, Executive Board member of the Bloom Hospital Workers’ Union (SITHBLOOM), offered a talk titled “Fighting Health Care Privatization in El Salvador.” Alexis Stoumbelis of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) served as translator for the event.

Ivonne and Alexis discussed recent debates surrounding a privatization law in El Salvador, officially titled the Public-Private Partnership (P3) law, and past victories against such privatization attempts in the country. They also commented on how Salvadoran and U.S. Labor movements could support one another in struggles of this sort. See our homepage for more information.

Ruth Milkman pictureFebruary 7, 2013, 12:00 p.m. in Room 502 Keller, Ruth Milkman, Professor of Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center and Academic Director of the Joseph F. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, spoke on low-wage workers in the United States. Her talk was titled, "Back to the Future? U.S. Labor Organizing in the New Gilded Age." Milkman is a sociologist of labor and labor movements who has written on a variety of topics involving work and organized labor in the United States, past and present. 

Milkman's early research focused on the impact of economic crisis and war on women workers in the 1930s and 1940s and, later, the restructuring of the U.S. automobile industry and its impact on workers and their union in the 1980s and 1990s.  More recently she has written extensively about low-wage immigrant workers in the U.S., analyzing their employment conditions as well as the dynamics of immigrant labor organizing.  She helped lead a multi-city team that produced a widely publicized 2009 study documenting the prevalence of wage theft and violations of other workplace laws in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.  She also recently co-authored a study of California’s paid family leave program, focusing on its impact on employers and workers. 

Milkman is author of Gender At Work: The Dynamics Of Job Segregation During World War II (1987)Japan's California Factories: Labor Relations And Economic Globalization (1991)Farewell To The Factory: Auto Workers In The Late 20th Century (1997); and L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers And The Future Of The U.S. Labor Movement (2006)

Spring and Fall, 2012

Eddie Webster photo

On October 18, 2012, 12:30 p.m. in Room 502 Keller, Eddie Webster offered a talk- via teleconferencing from South Africa- on his current research, relating to workers and globalization.

Eddie Webster is emeritus Professor of Sociology and founder and director of the Society, Work and Development (SWOP) Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. His research interests include: the Evolving Labour Relations System in South Africa, Labour Market Segmentation and the impact of Deep Level Gold Mining on the occupational culture of miners. He is a founder of the South African Labour Bulletin, was a member of the review committee on Labour Market Commission, 1996.

Professor Webster is the author of various chapters in books, journal articles and research reports. A list of published books includes the following: Co-authored with Rob Lambert and  Andries Beziudenhout Grounding Globalization: Labour in the Age of Insecurity (2011, winner of the Distinguished Scholarly Monograph Prize, awarded by the American Sociological Association Labor and Labor Movements section); co-authored with Glen Adler, Trade Unions and Democratisation in South Africa 1985-1996 (1999); Cast in A Racial Mould - Labour Process and Trade Unionism in the Foundries (1985); and co-authored with Lawrence Schlemmer, Change, Reform and Economic Growth in South Africa (1978)

Nelson Lichtenstein picture

On February 21, 2012, Nelson Lichtenstein, MacArthur Chair in History and the University of California, Santa Barbara and Director of the Center for the Center of Work, Labor, and Democracy, spoke on "Wal-Mart in China: Work, Politics, and Ideology."

Lichtenstein is the author of The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business (2009) and a contributor to Anita Chan's new collection, Walmart in China (2011), which offers a series of essays by Chinese and American researchers probing the work regime in Walmart's Chinese stores and supplier factories, as well as the prospects for unionization of those facilities.



Fall 2011


Dana Frank

December 5, 2011, Dana Frank, Professor of History at the University of California Santa Cruz, spoke on "Workers' Rights, Resistance, and Repression in Post-Coup Honduras."

Frank’s research focuses on U.S. social and labor history and international labor organizing. She had written on banana workers and unionism in Latin America and modern Honduran history, including contemporary Honduran politics. She is currently doing archival research and interviews for an upcoming book on the history of the U.S. intervention in the Honduran labor movement during the Cold War. Frank is the author of Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism (1999) and Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America(2005).


Au Loong Yu

November 15, 2011, Au Loong-Yu, Hong Kong labor activist, spoke on "Workers' Rights and Workers' Resistance in China Today."

Au Loong Yu is a leading global justice campaigner based in Hong Kong and a founding member of Globalization Monitor. He sits on the editorial board of China Labor Net, a center for news and information relating to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the rest of the world. Au Loong-Yu has  co-authored two books in Chinese on China reform and on free trade and globalization. He is also the main author of the booklet, Women Migrant Workers under the Chinese Social Apartheid, and the author of No Choice but to Fight — a documentary on women working in a global battery factory and their struggle for health and dignity.



International Conferences

The Global Spirit of Philidelphia

May 10, 2014 Recognition of the 70th Anniversary of the ILO's Declaration of Philadelphia

The Center for Global Rights served as co-sponsor for a May 10, 2014 conference held at the University of Pennsylvania commemorating the 70th anniversary of the “Declaration of Philadelphia.” This declaration, offered by the International Labor Organization (ILO), outlined the rights of labor for the postwar era and is still included as an important part of the ILO’s constitution. Titled, The Global Spirit of Philadelphia: The ILO, Economic Security, Political Freedom and Labor Rights in the 21st Century, the event highlighted the origins, context, and continuing prospects of aspirations toward stronger labor standards and economic security for workers. Kari Tapiola, Special Advisor to the ILO Director-General welcomed the guests and Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, offered an opening keynote. Presenters included Dorothy Sue Cobble of Rutgers University, Earl Brown, Director of Rule of Law and China Departments of the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, and Fabricio Rodriquez of the Philadelphia Restaurant Opportunities Center, among others. The event attracted labor scholars, practitioners, activists, and trade unionists interested in strengthening dedication to international labor standards the world over. Presentations were recorded and are available online:

Conference organizers included the Jill Jensen, CGWR; Michael Merrill, Dean of the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies; Francis Ryan of Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations; and Walter Licht, Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. The Center for Global Workers’ Rights received a generous contribution from the Penn State Democracy Institute, which helped make this event possible.

Past Symposia

March 20-22, 2013, Global Workers’ Rights: Patterns of Exclusion, Possibilities for Change

Without doubt, for the world’s workers, the globalization project has brought about a weakening of employment protections and a growing trend towards precarious work. On the one hand, we see multinational companies and their local firm competitors increasingly looking to “externalize” or subcontract labor as a means of lowering their wage costs and reducing the capacity for worker organization. On the other hand, we see national states clamoring to create more “cost competitive” labor markets, as a means of enticing foreign investment; in the process, already inadequate national systems of labor legislation are further hollowed out as a way of avoiding supposed market rigidities. Workers and labor unions, in the process, are left to delineate new strategies and forms of organization that can offer more guarantees and protections in the face of the capital and state assault on worker rights.

Meanwhile, discrimination in low-wage job markets has pushed female, indigenous, and other racial minority heads-of-households and their families into a dangerous circle of poverty, which often implicitly leads to further socio-political exclusion.  Furthermore, the mounting scope and span of the informal economy and other forms of precarious employment has left increasing numbers of families separated from formal systems of social protection. Unstable, casual employment may in fact be considered the new norm for millions of people around the globe who work daily outside the reach of labor law, the safeguards of labor unions, the programs of non-governmental monitors, and the purview of academics concerned with workers’ welfare.

This symposium sought to address the multiple problems that face workers as a result of their exclusion from formal, steady, and dignified work. The aim of the event was to discuss past, present, and future potentials and examples which push for more stable and better remunerated employment and for novel and practical ways in which workers can and have effectively fought for their own empowerment, both at work and within the broader spaces of the polity. Topics for discussion included: The impact of racial, cultural, gender, and sexual discrimination on informal job arrangements and wider life possibilities; particular vulnerabilities facing migrant or immigrant laborers, including dubious legal, social, and economic status; and the power deferential between workers in the Global North and South given continuing tensions associated with the opportunities or scope available to national development plans.

The symposium grappled with the growing degree of worker insecurity in the contemporary global political economy.  Participants were asked to consider how best to confront and overcome worker-absorbed risks, along with the precarious future affected individuals and their families face around the globe, through worker organization and policy reforms.

March 29-30, 2012, Defining and Defending Global Workers’ Rights

This symposium, which included an international cast of participants, was designed to connect practitioners, activists, and scholars from various disciplinary settings to explore the meanings and significances of workers’ rights in a global perspective and strategies to defend them. The intent was to combine the two sides of a larger examination of this multifaceted topic. First, through discussion about the workers’ rights language, including its moral, legal, and philosophical genesis. Second, by an examination of the question of how best to defend these rights in global supply chains, with an exploration of state, inter-state, and non-state approaches.

The forces of globalization are often thought to produce a race to the bottom as companies the world over seek to reduce labor costs in the name of greater profitability.  As part of their cost-cutting endeavors, legal protections for workers are often interpreted as too expensive and too cumbersome.  Is it possible to offer a counter-argument via the notion of workers’ rights? What is the current state of support for the rights of workers, including the right to the realization of a safe and healthy workplace, the right to join labor unions and to bargain collectively, the right for protections against racial, ethnic, or gender discriminations, and the right to social security?  Our hope is that the ideas explored in this manner can help drive change.

Participants assessed the influence of institutions and associations created to support the rights of laborers and to endorse broad social responsibility. They included governmental approaches such as new initiatives of the U.S. Department of Labor; inter-governmental approaches such as worker rights clauses in trade agreements and the on-going efforts of the International Labor Organization; and the efforts of non-governmental organizations such as the Worker Rights Consortium and its Designated Suppliers Program. Participants also explored activists’ strategies such as United Students Against Sweatshop (USAS) efforts to push Russell to accept unionization in Honduras and Nike to pay severance.

Key issues the symposium explored included:

  • The value of worker solidarity, collective action of workers, and other forms of social activism in support of workers’ rights
  • The ways in which either states or civil society have held business accountable through an evaluation of value and supply chains and the regulation of financial investments
  • Efforts to revise trade agreements, including on-going attempts to make the international enforcement of labor standards part of the system of global trade
  • The evaluation of interactions between national governments and global institutions and their impact on labor standards and conditions for fair and equitable economic growth.


Earn an MPS in Labor and Global Workers' Rights

The Center for Global Workers’ Rights, in coordination with the Global Labour University, offers a twelve-month MPS program in Labor and Global Workers’ Rights. The program, designed for mid-career US and international labor practitioners, focuses on strategic corporate research and campaigns, international and comparative employment relations systems, and workers’ rights in the global economy. The deadline is March 1, 2016. More information. 

Post-Doctoral Scholar, Center for Global Workers’ Rights

The School of Labor and Employment Relations at The Pennsylvania State University invites applications for the position of Post-Doctoral Scholar with the Center for Global Workers’ Rights. This is a twelve-month position that begins on August 14, 2016. For more information on the position and how to apply, click here

Center Releases Report on Workers' Rights in El Salvador

The Center for Global Workers' Rights together with the Worker Rights Consortium announce the publication of their report, "Unholy Alliances: How Employers in El Salvador’s Garment Industry Collude with a Corrupt Labor Federation, Company Unions and Violent Gangs to Suppress Workers’ Rights." For full report, click here. For Spanish version, click here.

Center for Global Workers’ Rights Co-Hosts the Global Labour Journal

The Center for Global Workers’ Rights joins the International Center for Development and Decent Work of Kassel University and the Research Committee on Labour Movements of the International Sociology Association in co-hosting the Global Labour Journal. The online journal publishes on a range of topics on labor and workers’ movement in the global economy by top scholars in the field. It is an open access journal and is run by an editorial team from the Global South and North. For more information, please see: . To access the Journal, go to:

Bangladesh survivor of the Rana Plaza collapse speaks at Penn State

Bangladeshi labor organizer Kalpona Akter and Reba Sikder, a garment worker who survived the Rana Plaza collapse, spoke at Penn State on a United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) tour. Rana Plaza, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, came into the international spotlight after a tragic collapse killed over 1000 people in April of 2013. The two women spoke about their struggle to force brands to sign a legally binding agreement to improve apparel factory safety and working conditions in Bangladesh, as well as what students can do to make Penn State sweat-free! Penn State administrators set forth a requirement that, effective March 31, 2014, any company producing Penn State logo goods in Bangladesh must sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety to help ensure safe working conditions. Failure to sign the Accord by March 31 will lead to termination or non-renewal of the license agreement.

Kalpona Akter (left) and Reba Sikder (right)

Reba Sikder speaks about here experience in this video.



Massive Open Online Course on Fair Wage Strategies in a Global Economy

Billions of workers around the world have no regular income or do not even earn a wage sufficient to live a decent life. Wages for many workers have been stagnant and most economic gains have gone to the top of the income pyramid.

Why do income inequalities continue to increase in so many countries? What role can collective bargaining and minimum wages play in reducing social and economic inequalities? What constitutes a fair wage?

Join this new Online Course to learn and discuss these and many other questions with experts from universities, the International Labour Organisation and the international trade union movement. You can watch the course trailer and enroll for free on


Decent Work in global supply chains

Watch the course trailer here.

Enroll here.

Course flyer.


Mark Anner, winner of the James G. Scoville Paper Award by Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA)

Mark Anner’s article “Corporate Social Responsibility and Freedom of Association Rights: The Precarious Quest for Legitimacy and Control in Global Supply Chains.” (2012, Politics & Society 40(4): 604 – 639) was awarded the James G. Scoville International/Comparative Best Paper Award at the Labor and Employment Relations Association meeting in June 2013 in St. Louis. For the paper abstract click here, Anner, Corporate Social Responsibility and Freedom of Association Rights.

Workshop on Strikes, Unions, and Workers in China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh

CGWR Workshop group: Guowei- Gaochao- Jakir- Mark - RenweiOn February 7, the CGWR hosted the "Workshop on Strikes, Unions, and Workers in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh." Attendees included (from left to right) Johns Hopkins University student Guowei Liang, Professor Gaochao He of Sun Yat-Sen University (Guangzhou, China), CGWR Post-doctoral Scholar Jakir Hossain, CGWR Director Mark Anner, and CGWR visiting scholar Renwei Lui.


MPS Labor and Global Workers' Rights student, Shirley Pryce, received the Jamaican "Order of Distinction (OD)" 

Shirley Pryce holding awardMPS Labor and Global Workers' Rights 2014-15 student, Shirley Pryce, received the Jamaican "Order of Distinction (OD)," which is one of her country’s highest honors. Shirley is the Founder and President of the Jamaican Household Workers’ Union. She was actively involved in the successful campaign for the International Labour Organization Convention for Domestic Workers, ILO Convention 189. Shirley is a former domestic worker and has been a human rights advocate for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.