Sanctions For Those Who Curtail Workers' Rights: Blinken

Desk Report

Published: 17 Nov 2023, 04:20 pm

Secretary of the US Department of State Antony J Blinken || Photo: Times of Israel

Secretary of the US Department of State Antony J Blinken || Photo: Times of Israel

Secretary of the US Department of State Antony J Blinken has said those who threaten, intimidate, attack union leaders, labour rights defenders and labour organisations will be held accountable.

The State Secretary made the statement during the Rollout of the Presidential Memorandum on Advancing Worker Empowerment, Rights, and High Labor Standards Globally on Thursday (16 November).

During his speech, Blinken said this is not simply a domestic issue; it is a matter of national security, a matter of foreign policy of the US. 

He laid out five lines of efforts to proactively integrate and elevate workers' rights around the world, which includes engaging with various stakeholders of any country, working with multilateral institutions like the United Nations, with the G20, to promote labour rights and standards.

One of the lines of efforts is steps like sanctions, trade penalties, and visa restrictions.

"We will work to hold accountable those who threaten, who intimidate, who attack union leaders, labour rights defenders, labour organisations – including using things like sanctions, trade penalties, visa restrictions – all the tools in our kit," said Blinken.

He said, "We want to be there for people like Kalpona Atker, a Bangladeshi garment worker and activist, who says that she is alive today because the US embassy advocated on her behalf. 

"When we use our voice, when we use our advocacy around the world, we can make a concrete difference in making sure that those who are trying to advance labour rights are protected and defended," he added.

He also said the United States stands with the service workers in Cambodia, agricultural leaders in Guatemala, labour lawyers in Eswatini, and countless brave individuals fighting for the right to organise, to work under safe and healthy conditions, to be free from forced labour, trafficking, and discrimination.

He said they will step up their due diligence and enforcement to ensure that their own trade agreements, supply chains, protect workers, and that we're not importing goods made with forced labor.  

Blinken said they will engage governments, workers, labour organisations, trade unions, civil society, and the private sector around the world to protect and promote respect for internationally recognized labour rights.  

"That means, for instance, that all of our ambassadors, all of the folks running our embassies around the world, will engage with workers, with unions so that their voices are reflected in everything that we do," he said. 

The US Department of State will begin implementing key actions from President Biden's Presidential Memorandum on "Advancing Worker Empowerment, Rights, and High Labor Standards Globally." 

"Labor rights are integral to building democracy, achieving economic growth, strengthening supply chain resilience, and leveling the playing field for American workers and companies," said  Blinken on Thursday. 

This new whole-of-government approach will advance worker empowerment and unions, in line with President Biden's policies here at home, according to an announcement made by the US Department of State. 

The Presidential Memorandum for the first time directs Chiefs of Mission and Department officials to directly engage in labor diplomacy and enhancing programming and public messaging on workers and labor rights. 

The Department's efforts to advance internationally recognized workers' rights will be carried out alongside interagency partners, including U.S. Department of Labor. 

"This Memorandum is intended to raise global labour standards, building on the full range of existing authorities and tools in diplomacy, foreign assistance and programming, law enforcement, and global trade and economic cooperation, consistent with relevant international obligations and commitments," the announcement reads.

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