International Labor Rights Forum is a human rights organization that advocates for workers globally.
Their core work is three-fold:
Hold global corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains.
Advance policies and laws that protect workers.
Strengthen workers’ ability to advocate for their rights.
ILRF works with trade unions, faith-based organizations, and community groups to support workers and their families. They 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).
In the early 1980s, strong voices in human rights, labor, academic, and faith-based communities formed a coalition to fight for the rights of workers in international trade. In 1984, the coalition succeeded in winning legislation linking the granting of U.S. trade and investment benefits -- through the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) -- to a country's respect for fundamental labor rights. In 1986, the group launched the International Labor Rights Education & Research Fund (the name was later shortened to International Labor Rights Forum, or ILRF) to monitor enforcement of these laws and to develop other means to protect workers' rights around the world.
Through the years, ILRF has become an instrumental force in stimulating solutions to the issues and problems of worker rights and labor standards around the world. Many of the successes have resulted from participation in and leadership of NGO coalitions; close collaboration with trade unions and other partners around the globe, including religious and consumer organizations; and ongoing dialogue with governments and businesses.
ILRF has alternately taken on or spun off several endeavors over the years. For example, ILRF helped to found Rugmark, now known as Good Weave, in 1994. In 2007, ILRF spun off its litigation practice to form a new project, International Rights Advocates, headed by former ILRF executive director Terry Collingsworth. In 2010, ILRF and SweatFree Communities joined forces to enhance the ability to create change for workers around the world by encouraging ethical government procurement. Most recently, ILRF became the new home for U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) in the fall of 2013, in order to continue USLEAP's mission of achieving just labor conditions and treatment for workers in Latin America. Through all this work, ILRF has continuously pushed for strong systemic change within trade systems, government institutions and industry supply chains to give workers a voice on the job.
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, they 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.