Amber Barth, Director of the ILO Office for the US and Canada, joins DC LERA Board

The Board of Governors of the Washington, DC chapter of LERA welcomes its newest board member, Amber Barth, Director of the ILO Office for the US and Canada. The Board elected Ms. Barth as a member at its meeting on November 14, 2023.

As Director of the ILO’s Office for the US and Canada, Ms. Barth is responsible for steering the International Labor Organization’s efforts to advocate for policies and priorities that promote decent work. Her responsibilities extend to fostering collaboration with key government officials, workers’ and employers’ organizations, as well as engaging with the Bretton Woods Institutions and other stakeholders to champion actions that support a sustainable future of work.

Prior to her new role in Washington, Ms. Barth held the position of Senior Multilateral Relations Specialist at the ILO Office for the United Nations in New York. In this capacity, she played a vital role in providing strategic economic and social policy guidance, making substantial contributions to enhancing decent work outcomes within the United Nations and other global development processes. She also served as Decent Work Specialist within the Multilateral Cooperation Department at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. There, she spearheaded the coordination of multi-stakeholder partnerships to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing the integral role of decent work in achieving broader global development objectives. Her commitment to advancing the principles of decent work on a global scale was further underscored during her tenure as the ILO executive coordinator for various UN initiatives, including, most recently, the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions. In this capacity, she played a pivotal role in advancing policies and commitments to support sustainable and equitable transitions in the world of work.

Welcome to the Board, Amber! We look forward to working with you.

DC LERA submits 4 successful panel proposals for LERA-ILERA-FMCS in NYC (June 2024)

In 2024, the ILERA 20th World Congress, the LERA 76th Annual Meeting, and the FMCS 2024 National Labor-Management Conference will all be held simultaneously in New York City from June 26-30, 2024.

The Washington, DC chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association will be well-represented at the ILERA – LERA – FMCS conference next year, having submitted four successful chapter proposals for consideration by the conference committee.

DC LERA Board Member Jeff Wheeler will be moderating two panels featuring international members of the board, including Marcos Fraile Pastor of the Spanish Embassy, Yasmin Hilpert of the German Embassy, and Benoit Sevcik of the French Embassy. The titles of these two panels are:

  • Panel 1: The Role of the Labor Attaché: Diplomacy, Research, Analysis and Dialogue (LERA)
  • Panel 2: Hot Topics and Trends for Labor Attachés: US, National, and Global (LERA)

DC LERA member Stacy Hickox will be moderating DC LERA’s panel US and International Perspectives on Sexual Harassment in Organized and Unorganized Workplaces (LERA). This panel will reprise DC LERA’s successful 2023 webinar with an Asia Pacific twist.

Anannya Bhattacharjee of AFWA and Anna Lee Fos Tuvera of ITUC-Asia Pacific will also participate in a panel organized by Emily E. LB. Twarog on Building Women’s Union Leadership Globally through Education (ILERA). This panel will also feature Pinar Ozcan and  Stephanie Fortado and will be moderated by DC LERA President Tequila Brooks.

DC LERA member and President of the African Labour Law Society (ALLS) Pamhidzai Bamu will moderate DC LERA’s panel Constructing and Deconstructing Racism: Tales of Work and Life in Virginia, Europe, South Africa, South America, and the U.S. (ILERA) This panel will be a reprise of DC LERA’s successful 2022 webinar with the addition of a Latin American perspective and deeper discussion of affirmative measures to address racism in the workplace and society. In addition to all of the original speakers, the panel will feature Professor Mariela Noles Cotito of the Universidad del Pacifico (Lima, Peru).

Congratulations to the submitters, moderators, and speakers! We also wish success to everyone in the DC area who is submitting an individual paper proposal.

Tequila Brooks, Pamhidzai Bamu, and Emily E. LB. Twarog will be working to raise funds to assist speakers in traveling from outside the U.S. to the conference in New York next June. Please email dcleramailbox@gmail.com if you would like to make a contribution or have an idea about funding sources.

US and International Perspectives on Sexual Harassment in Organized and Unorganized Workplaces

By: Adina Aamir, Cornell MPS Global Development – Class of ’23

On October 6, DC LERA hosted a webinar for its 3rd Annual Labor Law Forum to discuss US and international perspectives on sexual harassment in organized and unorganized workplaces.

Moderated by Tequila Brooks, a Comparative Labor and Employment Law Scholar, the discussion featured presentations by ITUC’s expert on gender equality and domestic work issues Marieke Koning, International Coordinator of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance Anannya Bhattacharjee, adjunct professor at University of Maryland and Michigan State University Stacy Hickox, and Princeton University postdoctoral fellow Garima Sharma.

Introducing  the discussion, Marieke Koning talked  about  the ITUC’s #RatifyC190 Campaign which calls on governments to adopt the International Labour Organization’s  Convention 190 (C190)1 on  Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

C190 is the first international treaty to recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH).

ITUC’s #RatifyC190 Campaign

Representing 191 million workers from 167 countries, the ITUC has been supporting its affiliates in their initiatives to promote and advance C190. Marieke mentioned that countries like Lesotho, South Africa, and France have ratified C190, and other like Pakistan and Indonesia have made progress in making dignified and decent work a reality for all.

Following Marieke’s presentation on ITUC’s international efforts to end GBVH, Anannya Bhattacharjee  shifted the focus to an innovative example of reducing violence and harassment in clothing factories. The Dindigul Agreement, a first of its kind in the Asian garment industry, delivers power and support to women workers to monitor, prevent, and remediate GBVH collectively and with management.

AFWA: Dindigul Agreement

Negotiated by the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), the agreement was established in response to the horrific violence and harassment that took the life of Jeyasre Kathiravel at a factory supplying to H&M. It legally holds both suppliers and fashion brands accountable to prevent such violence in their factories and has led to a remarkable 67% decrease in employee attrition rates and 98% grievance resolution rate.

After these two examples from the World of Work, Stacy Hickox turned the conversation to academic research on GBVH reduction. She discussed findings from the paper she co-authored with Michelle Kaminsky questioning whether arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution designated in collective bargaining agreements to resolve conflicts between employers and employees, is an effective method for resolving issues of workplace harassment. In cases where employers discipline employees based on reports of harassment, an alleged harasser can file a grievance requiring their employer to show a just cause for disciplining them. Hickox and Kaminsky found that in 54.1% of arbitrations they examined for the period 2008-2018 the discipline of the alleged harassers was upheld, while discipline was reduced in 29.7% and overturned in 16.2% of cases.

Their overall finding was that arbitration can sometimes offer a resolution in such situations but only if supported by an adequate policy framework. Rather than relying on arbitrators to eradicate harassment, Stacy recommends that employers and unions work together to holistically address the issue.

After some very engaging presentations, the last panelist of the series was Garima Sharma a postdoctoral scholar from Princeton University who discussed why workplaces are not better designed for women in this paper and explained how union agreements can support female-friendly jobs.

Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT) – Brazilian Trade Union

She used the example of Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT), the largest trade union in Brazil, as it instituted a 50% quota for female representation in its leadership, and compared their performance with other unions that had not implemented any reforms. The study noted an increase in female centered amenities both in paper and practice with no change in wages, greater female workforce participation, and no evidence to indicate men were worse off due to the reforms. She concluded that firms can decrease the gender wage gap by simply shifting institutional priorities.

In summary, the webinar brought together various examples of frontline progress made to protect women in the workplace, and provided recommendations on areas of improvements, particularly highlighting the close collaboration between stakeholders such as unions, employers and international organizations required to reduce GBVH.

  1. C190 is one of the most comprehensive set of guidelines advancing international labor law by defining violence and harassment as a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices that result in physical, psychological, sexual, or economic harm, and notes the disproportionate impact of such acts faced by those of a particular gender or sex. It extends these protections to all workers, whether formal, informal, interns, applications, and more in all sectors, in the full World of Work. This includes any acts of violence and harassment occurring in the course of, linked with or arising out of work such as in spaces where workers take rest breaks, sanitary facilities, work-related trips, and employer-provided accommodation in addition to the workplace.

Amaury Pineda, Georgetown University fellow researcher and Jobs With Justice policy analyst joins DC LERA as Director of Communications.

Amaury Pineda joined the DC LERA Board of Governors representing Georgetown University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor in October of 2023.

As a researcher and policy analyst, Amaury Pineda uses his research skills to find new ways to increase workers’ power through local, state, and federal policy. Before joining the Kalmanovitz Initiative and Jobs With Justice, Pineda represented and advocated for graduate students’ rights as the Graduate Student Association president at Western Michigan University.

Furthermore, Pineda holds a law degree from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he worked as a labor lawyer before pursuing a Ph.D. at Western. He completed his Ph.D. in political science in Dec. 2021, focusing on comparative politics and political theory.

You can find Pineda watching movies, playing chess or basketball, and spending time with friends in his free time.

Christian Collins of Johns Hopkins University and CLASP joins DC LERA as First Student Board Member

On September 6, 2023, the DC LERA Board of Governors adopted a measure designating 2-3 new positions on the board for Student Board Members. The purpose of these positions is to bring a student perspective to the board and serve as a short- and long-term organizational succession strategy.

Christian Collins joined the DC LERA board as its first Student Board Member.

Christian is a current graduate student attending Johns Hopkins University and a policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)’s education, labor, and worker justice team. A native of Akron, Ohio and proud product of public schools, he brings expertise in labor rights advocacy and workforce and economic development. He holds a strong commitment to promoting racial justice through public policy and advocacy. Preceding his career at CLASP, Christian was a researcher with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In this role, he assisted local union chapters with organizing efforts, while partnering with outside organizations and partners to advocate for increased rights and benefits for workers. Additionally, he’s served as a research assistant at Urban Institute and a state fiscal project campaigns intern with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities since moving to DC. While in his home state of Ohio, Christian spent time as an intern for both the Ohio State Senate and Columbus City Council. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in public policy from The Ohio State University and also attended Kent State University during his undergraduate studies.

Japanese Labor Attache Takahito Fushiki joins DC LERA Board

Takahito Fushiki, Labor Attache with the Embassy of Japan, has joined the Board of Governors of DC LERA. He replaces Yoshi Suzuki, who returned to Japan in August 2023.

Taka joined the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan in 2007. He has worked in departments related to Pharmaceutical Safety, Labor Standards, Welfare for Persons with Disabilities, and Unemployment Insurance.

Welcome to Washington, Taka!

A Farewell Address from Yoshi Suzuki, former Labor Attaché with the Embassy of Japan

By: Yoshi Suzuki, Former Labor Attaché, Embassy of Japan

I arrived in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. I remember as if it were yesterday that I addressed a virtual board meeting. The exchange of information and interactive discussion in DC LERA was so stimulating and meaningful to me. I would like to briefly describe my impressions after working in DC for three years.

The pandemic hit the U.S. economy hard, with the unemployment rate soaring to 14.7% in April 2020, but it soon recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and the turbulence in the U.S. labor market has been remarkable. From the perspective of Japan, which is generally regarded as stable internationally (not only unemployment rate but also wage increase…), it should be admired the positive aspects of the dynamism of the U.S. economy. On the other hand, it looks like that there appears to be a steadily increasing number of voices in the U.S. that are concerned about the weak safety net for those left behind in the economic growth and calling for policy responses.

In response to these voices, Biden administration has been working to realize various social policies, including labor policies, but the existence of the Senate filibuster etc. has made the hurdles to policy realization through legislation extremely high, forcing the administration to rely on policy tools such as executive order. However, I think this is inextricably linked to the fragility of legal stability and predictability. Stricter scrutiny of administrative authority by conservative federal courts will also affect the policy formation process, and it is likely that even greater caution will be required in the future, not only in terms of policy content, but also in terms of procedures.

The Biden administration’s emphasis on labor unions in its various policies is a major characteristic of its administration, and while it is true that the bargaining power of labor unions and workers has increased under the recent labor market conditions in which workers are dominant, it will take more time to determine whether the trend of decline in labor unions over the medium to long term can be reversed. Whether or not the Democratic Party will be able to retain power and secure a sufficient base of support in the presidential election of 2024 will be the touchstone for the penetration and maturation of the various policies implemented by the Biden administration into the U.S. society.

Although it is difficult to make simple comparisons between Japan and U.S. because of differences in social systems, cultures, and practices, labor policy and labor market trends in U.S., where market functions are strongly activated, can provide hints toward more optimal policy formulation by making Japanese policies more relative. I would like to continue to observe them regularly in the future.

In Japan, I will return to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) and be in charge of unemployment benefit planning. Based on the reflections under the pandemic, a number of systemic revisions will be made, including the extension of employment insurance coverage to part-time workers and others.

Leaving DC is excruciating, but I am also excited about my new job.

ILO hosts DC LERA panel on Trade & Policy Tools to Address Forced Labor

On June 27, 2023, the ILO Office for US and Canada hosted a DC LERA panel on Trade & Policy Tools to Address Forced Labor in Global Supply Chains. The featured speakers were Allison Gill of GLJ-ILRF, Dean Pinkert of the Corporate Accountability Lab, and Kevin Willcuts of the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Kevin Cassidy, Executive Director of the ILO Office for US and Canada, gave opening remarks and hosted a reception afterward. The event brought together labor professionals, academics, government officials, internationalists, students, community activists, human rights advocates, and trade attorneys to learn the latest about trade and policy tools to address forced and child labor in global supply chains.

Kevin Cassidy of the ILO gave a broad overview and update on the ILO’s efforts in developing resources and issuing reports on the growing area of international, bi-lateral, and multilateral trade agreements containing labor provisions.

Allison Gill of GLJ-ILRF used a number of case studies to show how worker rights advocates and broad coalitions of labor, business, human rights, and community activists utilize trade and other mechanisms to eliminate forced labor from global supply chains. The case studies she discussed included: the Cotton Campaign, the Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labor, and the Dindigul Agreement. Some of the legal and policy mechanisms utilized to eliminate forced labor include GSP, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, ILO supervisory mechanisms, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Dindigul Agreement is an enforceable global supply chain agreement negotiated by the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union in India, clothing manufacturer Eastman Exports, global brand H&M, and other social partners.

Dean Pinkert of Corporate Accountability built on Ms. Gill’s overview by delving more deeply into the use of legal provisions in the 1930 U.S. Tariff Act (the U.S. Forced Labor Ban in Sec. 307) and in the 1974 U.S. Trade Act (the Relief From Unfair Trade Practices in Sec. 301). Advocates and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have made inroads in excluding goods made under forced labor excluded from the U.S. market. Use of Sec. 307 Relief From Unfair Trade Practices is still cutting edge and in its infancy.

Kevin Willcutts of U.S. DOL’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs spoke about non-trade mechanisms like assistance and training programs and the adoption of industry-wide standards and certification programs to eliminate child labor and the worst forms of child labor in cocoa supply chains in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Mr. Willcutts noted that the informality of cocoa farming and production are barriers to progress in eliminating forced and child labor in the cocoa sector.

RESOURCE LIST: Trade & Policy Tools to Address Forced Labor in Global Supply Chains: 2023.06.27 DC LERA Forced Labor Resources List

Event background and speaker biographies: 2023.06.27 01 Intro DC LERA Trade & Policy Tools Forced Labor

DC LERA welcomes the German Embassy’s new representative Yasmin Hilpert to Board

Yasmin Hilpert joined the DC LERA Board of Governors as the Representative of the German Embassy in July 2023.

Yasmin Hilpert is an experienced researcher, advisor and consultant on labor market development, digitization and technological innovation, social policy and inclusion. She serves as the Counselor for Labor and Social Affairs at the German Embassy in Washington DC since July 2023.

Yasmin comes from an extensive trade union background with experience in strategic development, labor issues and workforce development. She brings close to ten years of experience as a trainer and educator in a labor union vocational training institute in Germany. She worked as a strategic advisor to human rights and labor organizations to develop strategies for Industry 4.0 and workforce automation in light of technology innovation.

Since 2016, Yasmin has been working in academia and think tanks in the US, with a particular focus on the intersection of technology and industrial policy and the implications for the labor market, workers and qualifications.

Prior to her work in the U.S., she worked as leadership advisor at IndustriALL Global (50m members) in Geneva and IndustriALL Europe (7m members) in Brussels, the global and European umbrella organizations of all heavy industry manufacturing sectors. She engaged in high-level negotiations on a national and European level with employers and multi-national corporations and is regularly invited as a contributor to meetings of labor, business and government leaders in Germany, the UK and the EU as a whole.

Yasmin is an expert on metropolitan industrial policy and regional development, innovation infrastructure, and sustainability. With an interdisciplinary academic background in political science and with a focus on Industry 4.0, Yasmin holds a Masters from Humboldt University Berlin and is graduating with her Ph.D. in 2023. She regularly presents at academic conferences and was elected chair of the Research Committee 11 “Science and Politics” of the International Political Science Association in July 2023.

Welcome, Yasmin!

Stephen Silvia of American University gives book talk on Organizing Foreign-Owned Auto Plants in the U.S. South

By Amaury Pineda, Policy Analyst, Jobs with Justice

On May 24, 2023, Dr. Stephen Silvia of American University School of International Service gave a book talk on his recently published book, The UAW’s Southern Gamble: Organizing Workers at Foreign-Owned Vehicle Plants. The book talk was hosted by Jobs with Justice and catered by Moby Dick.

Using archives, newspapers, and interviews, Dr. Silvia shared some lessons from UAW organizing efforts in foreign companies in the US South. His findings indicate that while it is still possible to organize in the South, it has become harder. His research encompassed 16 organizing drives that took place in nine plants of four vehicle manufacturing companies – Nissan, Daimler Trucks North America, Mercedes US International, and Volkswagen – from 1984 to 2019.

First, Dr. Silvia unpacked the cases of two Nissan plants in Smyrna, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi, where the UAW failed to win a union, but for different reasons. In the case of Smyrna, TN, the UAW was unsuccessful mainly because of a set of anti-union innovations oriented at creating the idea that managers and the rank-in-file were all one. For example, they all wore the same uniform, and the company eliminated the executive cafeteria. The company also engaged in more aggressive tactics. For example, the company gave workers reduced-rate rental cars, screened workers to identify union sympathizers, installed monitors in the workplace through which they ran negative information about the UAW, and had one-on-one meetings to check on workers’ satisfaction. These tactics were part of the ‘Union Avoidance Playbook’ devised by Nissan’s Head of Operations, Marvin Runyon, and were key to preventing organizing efforts in this plant.

At the Canton, MS plant, the UAW used a new strategy that aimed to blend union organizing efforts with the civil rights movement. Nevertheless, the union failed to organize this plant. In Canton, workers had experienced considerable poverty before Nissan’s arrival and did not want to risk job security for the potential of better working conditions.

Dr. Silvia also explained how international cooperation can help in organizing efforts, highlighting the UAW’s success at Daimler Trucks North America in Mount Holly, North Carolina. After winning the union election and negotiating for their first contract for almost two years, the UAW realized they would have to strike. However, before doing so, a few of the union representatives traveled to Germany and managed to get the head of the Daimler Group Works Council, Karl Feuerstein, to support their cause. The UAW got its first contract about two months after Feuerstein phoned the American executives.

The case of the Mercedes US plant in Vance, Alabama, illustrates how a ‘split workforce’ diminishes organizing efforts. Dr. Silvia used the term ‘split workforce’ to refer to situations where half or so of the workers are temporary employees, and the rest are permanent workers. Notwithstanding UAW’s many efforts to organize Mercedes-Benz workers in the Alabama plant, their campaign never picked up steam because Mercedes’ permanent employees were paid above the UAW’s contract rate and also received many benefits.

In other words, permanent employees did not care to organize because they already had a good deal vis-à-vis their temporary colleagues who received low wages and no benefits. Although temporary workers had all the reasons to organize, they were kept in line under the promise of a permanent position, yet only a handful ever made it.

During the discussion, a DC LERA member mentioned the report “Job Quality and Community Well-Being in Mississippi and Alabama’s Manufacturing Facilities,” where the authors found that non-unionized workers face many other issues besides wages, such as work-family balance due to rotating shifts. When asked whether unions pay attention to these issues, Dr. Silvia noted that yes, he saw this phenomenon at different plants. For example, in Volkswagen Chattanooga, the main discussion still is paid time off, and at Nissan, itis workplace injuries. The UAW paid attention to issues that resonate with workers to make the case for organizing.

See HERE for a more detailed version of this report.