Tula Connell's blog

Defying Challenges, Myanmar Workers Win Rights at Work

Fifteen minutes before the gray, 12-foot gate of the garment factory compound in Myanmar’s Hlaing Thar Yar industrial zone opens to release workers, vendors selling fried chicken on sticks and bags of nuts gather in anticipation. At a designated time, the guards roll back the gate and the vendors push their heavy carts up a steep hill and into the compound. If they hesitate, they are locked out as guards quickly close the gate behind them.

Violence at the Workplace: ‘They Treated Us Like Slaves'

Gender-based violence on the job occurs far more often than most people realize, and domestic workers – isolated in individual homes – are especially vulnerable to abuse, said domestic workers, union organizers and experts yesterday at a panel discussion focusing on women and violence at work.

“They treated us like slaves,” said May Joy Guarizo Salapare, describing her experience as a domestic worker for a family in Saudi Arabia.

In Thailand, Burmese Migrant Workers Toil without Rights

An estimated 200,000 Burmese migrants fuel Thailand’s huge fishing industry in Samut Sakhon province, an hour outside of Bangkok. The majority of workers are ethnic Mon from farming villages in southern Burma and they send their salaries to their families back home. Many workers do not hold legal documents and are vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers and lack access to legal protection. 

Kenya's Domestic Workers Find Hope with Union

Like many women in Mombasa, Kenya, Alice Mwadzi says for years she barely eked out a living. A lack of jobs in the port city for many means a constant struggle to survive—selling fruit on busy highways or hauling carts stacked with heavy water containers through congested streets—involving long hours of often back-breaking work for nearly no pay.

Workers’ Equality Forum: Share Your Story!

Sam Oliver, a union shop steward at the Sime Darby Rubber and Oil plantation in Liberia, where workers live in company-provided housing, says “people lived in deplorable” conditions before joining the General Agriculture and Allied Workers Union of Liberia (GAAWUL).

Today, says Oliver, a warehouse clerk on the plantation, “through the intervention of this union, you can now see they are renovating some of these houses and negotiation is on the table so they can fast track the renovation.”

Report: Working without Pay—Wage Theft in Zimbabwe

An astounding 80,000 Zimbabwe workers in formal employment—out of some 350,000 workers—did not receive wages and benefits on time in 2014, according to a new Solidarity Center report, “Working Without Pay: Wage Theft in Zimbabwe,” released in Harare.

One Man’s Evolution to Understanding Gender Inequality

Nhlanhla Mabizela says he first truly grasped the meaning of gender inequality on a winter day in the dusty streets of Alexandra Township in post-apartheid South Africa.

Cutting through an alley surrounded by houses made of iron scrap and plastic sheets, Mabizela and a friend came across a group of children playing. All were barefoot in the cold, with a single layer of clothes he assumed were the only ones they owned.

‘I Was a Garment Worker and I Know Exploitation’

The “Made in Jordan” label is familiar to U.S. consumers shopping for shirts, jeans, and other clothes. Mervat Jumhawi, a Jordanian union organizer, is actively ensuring the largely migrant workforce that cuts and sews these garments does so in safe conditions, receives fair wages, and is treated with respect on the job.

Trafficked Boat Victim: ‘I Survived by Eating Leaves’

Selina Begum, 60, traveled from Bangladesh’s northeast Narshindi district to Dhaka, the capital, for one reason, she said: “I want to know the whereabouts of my son.”

Selina’s son, Taizul Islam Rakib, 22, is among the thousands of workers and their families who have migrated overseas to find jobs. Selina said she glimpsed her son in a television news story on the plight of migrants abandoned on boats, but has not heard from him.

Rana Plaza 2 Years Later: Garment Workers under Siege

In the initial months after the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24, 2013, a preventable catastrophe that killed more than 1,130 Bangladesh garment workers and injured thousands more, global outrage spurred much-needed changes.

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