A Conversation on International Labor Rights

From her upbringing in a family of trade unionists to her current work as Executive Director of the Solidarity Center, Shawna Bader-Blau is a tenacious advocate for workers’ rights. Shawna is the public face of the Solidarity Center, the largest U.S.-based global worker rights organization, which advocates for the human rights and human dignity of workers worldwide and implements programs in 60 countries.

The Solidarity Center is a key partner of the Office of International Labor Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, in our efforts to advance internationally recognized worker rights. Shawna and the Solidarity Center share the U.S. government’s goal of ensuring that all workers are able to support their families and work in conditions of dignity, free from danger, violence, or harassment. The Solidarity Center’s programs help workers exercise their rights to join unions and to engage in collective bargaining, giving them a voice in the workplace and helping to ensure that the benefits of economic growth and development are broadly and fairly shared. This work has impacts that extend beyond the workplace.  For example, organized workers have been key catalysts of pro-democracy movements in many countries around the globe.

I had the chance to sit down with Shawna to discuss the Solidarity Center’s work, some of its recent successes, and opportunities to continue to strengthen workers’ rights worldwide.

Our discussion comes at a pivotal time. This week, we celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, who spoke passionately in support of labor rights in Memphis the day before he was assassinated. His life and legacy shine a light on the struggle for inclusiveness and equality. We also find ourselves on the eve of a democratic transition, at a time when some American workers feel left behind in the global economy. As our work on labor rights moves forward, we will continue to look to members of civil society and governments to provide leadership in this key area. In 2017, I expect the Solidarity Center to mark its 20th anniversary with the steadfast focus on labor rights it has provided since its founding and throughout my time as Special Representative for International Labor Affairs.

Shawna offers us a powerful reminder of why workers’ rights and labor issues are central to our goals of upholding human rights and ensuring inclusive economic growth. Thank you for listening.

You can hear Special Representive Sarah Fox's conversation with Shawna Bader-Blau on international labor rights on the State Department's iTunes channel.

About the Author: Sarah Fox serves as the Special Representative for International Labor Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

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A laborer carries material for scaffolding during his day shift at a construction site
Posted by Sarah Fox
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