Organizations, networks, and initiatives
For descriptions of organizations and networks, including trade union initiatives and trade and development NGOs, see the listings below.
For links to research database section, campaigns surrounding global workers’ rights, teaching resources, including videos for use in the classroom, and research portal, describing international treaties, protocols, and country-specific information on workers’ rights, please see the side menu.
The Center would like to extend thanks to Penn State student Shelby Mastovich for her valuable help with the following sections relating to resources on global workers’ rights.
International and national non-governmental organizations and networks
United Students Against Sweatshops
Through the use of concepts such as solidarity, collective liberation, pluralism, grassroots democracy, and a diversity of tactics, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) promotes workers’ rights to create sustainable power for working people. This student- and youth-led group attempts to accomplish this aim by eradicating workers’ rights abuses. The definition of a sweatshop for USAS is very broad, encompassing all struggles against the daily abuses of workers in the global economic system.
International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
The ILRF advocates for workers’ rights through corporate campaigns focusing on the elimination of child labor, supporting the rights for working women, creating a sweatshop-free world, and endorsing freedom at work.
U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP)
USLEAP is an independent, non-profit organization based in Chicago that engages a wide range of organizations and individuals in the U.S. and abroad to promote full respect for the rights of workers in Latin America.
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an advocacy group that draws international attention to human rights abuses. It supports workers’ rights through the lens of intended implementation of human rights in all nations.
Amnesty International promotes human rights throughout the world. One area the organization encompasses in the fight for international justice is based on the defense of workers’ rights.
Oxfam International provides a network of organizations fighting to rid the world of poverty. The group addresses workers’ rights through a vision for fair trade.
Worker Rights Consortium (WRC)
The WRC brings attention to sweatshops and seeks to uphold the rights of workers as an independent monitoring agency. By facilitating in-depth investigations of factories used by major brands, the WRC is currently the most effective monitoring agency available for university and college affiliates.
SweatFree Communities advocates for workers’ rights specifically through the eradication of sweatshops.
SweatFree Purchasing Consortium
The goal of the SweatFree Purchasing Consortium is to end public spending on products made in sweatshops. It helps ensure that tax dollars are not aiding the “race to the bottom” by focusing on both the bettering of communities and advocacy for proper working conditions for employees producing products ultimately purchased by governments.
Adbusters is a progressive magazine that fueled the birth of the Occupy Movement. It supports workers’ rights throughout many of its campaigns, including Buy Nothing Day, which focuses on the negative impacts of some forms of consumerism. This campaign advocates for workers across the globe who are continually compromised so that consumers have access to cheaper and cheaper products.
National Domestic Workers Alliance
The National Domestic Workers Alliance advocates for workers’ rights for domestic workers in the United States who are left out of most protective labor laws and often do not see what rights they do possess upheld.
Fair Trade USA
Fair Trade USA certifies and promotes products that are made fairly, taking into consideration the rights of the workers.
Young Workers Movement
The Young Workers Movement seeks to document the challenging issues facing young workers (defined as 18-30 year olds) so to increase awareness about the potential role of younger workers in the labor movement. The goal is to make organizing around work and labor more appealing to young workers and progressive students and thus turn discussion into action.
Students for a Democratic Society
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) is comprised of individuals attempting to use their power to strengthen democracy. The group is currently focused on the Campaign for Education Rights, which encompasses elements of workers’ rights. Specifically, SDS acknowledges rising student tuition proves problematic for them personally, but as tuition goes up more workers are also being laid off at universities as class sizes are increasing. SDS advocates for the opportunity to vote on university policies in this regard and therefore have a say in the administration of one’s own university.
Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC)
The CCC seeks to educate and mobilize consumers, offer solidarity support to workers, and lobby companies and governments to achieve respected rights for workers. The organization consists of 15 organizations in European countries.
International and national institutions, including trade union initiatives
The International Labour Organization (ILO)
The ILO is a tripartite, specialized agency of the United Nations that seeks to uphold labor standards throughout the world by giving an equal voice to workers, employers, and governments. The organization attempts to increase rights at work, decent employment, social protection, and social dialogue related to work-related issues.
Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
SEWA is a trade union, initially created in 1972, that strives to improve the lives of self-employed, poor women. Women who comprise this union earn a living through their own, individual labor, especially through small businesses. The organization, with affiliates around the world works to provide services such as credit, health care, child care, insurance, legal aid, capacity building and communication, all of which serve important needs of poor women
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
The AFL-CIO represents millions of union members in the United States in an attempt to uphold fairness and dignity in the workplace in hopes that all people that work will be valued, respected, and awarded. The AFL-CIO several unions and initiatives offer rigorous analysis of global labor issues.
American Center for International Labor Solidarity
Established in 1997, the Solidarity Center is a non-profit organization that assists workers attempting to build democratic and independent trade unions worldwide. Its mission is to help build a global labor movement by strengthening the economic and political power of workers around the world through effective, independent and democratic unions. In cooperation with the Global Labour University (GLU), the AFL-CIO recently launched a program on the Future of Worker Representation and as part 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.
With eleven member organizations, Global Unions is an international trade union initiative aimed at sharing a commitment to organize, defend workers’ rights, and encourage trade unionization worldwide.
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
The ITUC was founded in 2006 with the intent to represent workers worldwide. It is the main international trade union organization, grouping together the former International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the World Confederation of Labour (WCL), and other unions that previously had no global affiliation.
Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB)
The United States Department of Labor seeks to uphold workers’ rights at the legal level by enforcing laws regarding a federal minimum wage, child labor, overtime, homework, record keeping, safety in the workplace, and other protections. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) leads the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to ensure that workers around the world are treated fairly and are able to share in the benefits of the global economy. ILAB’s mission is to use all available international channels to improve working conditions, raise living standards, protect workers’ ability to exercise their rights, and address the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was enacted to help protect the safety of workers in their workplaces. The administrating agency, OSHA, provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers. Workers may file complaints to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards.
Trade and Development NGOs and initiatives
Action Aid contributes to trade development assessment through its campaign initiatives and lobbying, hoping to change international trade rules as well as through providing microcredit and skills training to women.
Care International’s main focuses is Economic Development, which includes implementation of microfinance programs, business skills training, and institutional development of local partner organizations.
Concern Worldwide pursues microfinance programs, business and vocational skills training, rural development schemes, and campaigns for changes in trade policy.
Consumers International takes part in advocacy surrounding agricultural trade, the liberalization of services, competition policy, intellectual property rules, and standards and transparency, pressing for the accountability of institutions.
Counterpart International initiates financial service programs such as microfinance and strengthening community-based organizations and business service development.
Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
IATP works to form stronger and fairer multilateral trade rules.
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)
ICTSD advocates for sustainable development through information and research, networking and dialogue, and training for trade and sustainable development.
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
The IISD provides policy recommendations for sustainable development in trade and investment, economic policy, climate change, measurement and assessment of sustainable development progress, and natural resource management.
Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA)
MEDA provides assistance to low-income individuals through microfinance, technological and marketing assistance, business training, and community economic development.
Third World Network (TWN)
TWN takes part in research pertaining to economic and trade development issues.
Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO)
WEDO advocates for women’s equality through sustainable development and economic justice programs.