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CGWR Newsletters

Fall 2013

Spring 2014 Newsletter

Fall 2013 Newsletter

Spring 2013 Newsletter

Fall 2012 Newsletter


ALTA GRACIA in the news:

See the recent PBS Newshour piece on the Alta Gracia garment factory in the Dominican Republic, "Can garment factories pay a living wage and still compete in the global economy?"

Alta Gracia Apparel is a groundbreaking clothing line produced at a very unique factory in the developing world that pays workers a living wage -- a salario digno, or wage with dignity. The company puts forth the effort to respect its employees’ rights as both workers and as human beings.

For more, see the website: Alta Gracia, Living Wage Apparel

Past CGWR speakers


Jeffrey Hilgert spoke about his recent book, Hazard or Hardship on February 27.

Jeff Hilgert photo

Hilgert is Assistant Professor in the School of Industrial Relations at the University of Montreal. His book Hazard or Hardship: Crafting Global Norms on the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work (Cornell University Press, 2013) takes a close look at the rights of workers to refuse unsafe work, describing how a movement in support of such rights was generated in the 1970s and spread globally through international labor standards.

Hilgert spent several years as a labor rights and anti-poverty activist in Minnesota and has been the recipient of human rights awards, a Fulbright and an Archibald Bush Foundation fellowship for his efforts. He holds a Ph.D. in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University.

Click here to see photos from the event.


February 7, the CGWR welcomed Gaochao He, professor in the department of political science at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, and co-director of the International Center for Joint Labor Research. He spoke on “Chinese Labor Unions in an Era of Great Transformation: Challenges and Best Practices in Guangdong.”


Click here to see photos from the event.



Additional events

May 10, 2014 Recognition of the 70th Anniversary of the ILO's Declaration of Philadelphia


For more information see The Global Spirit of Philadelphia

Past CGWR Symposium, March 20-22, 2013

For information on the CGWR symposium on precarious work. See: Symposium 2013

"Global Workers’ Rights: Patterns of Exclusion, Possibilities for Change"

PROFESSOR GUY STANDING gave a keynote address on March 20. For a video of this, see Guy Standing's address.

Watch an interview with Standing, Professor in Development Studies at the University of London and co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), describes the idea of a basic income on the show, The Big Picture.




About the Center

The Center for Global Workers’ Rights (CGWR) works to move the research agenda on sweatshops, labor standards, and labor rights forward by organizing academic exchanges and events, promoting research, and creating a network of scholars, practitioners, and activists working on these issues around the world.


Center for Global Workers' Rights launches new MPS in Labor and Global Workers' Rights

For more information, see MPS Workers Rts tab or click here.

The Center for Global Workers’ Rights, in coordination with the Global Labour University, is launching a twelve month MPS program in Labor and Global Workers’ Rights (pending final presentation to the Board of Trustees of Penn State). The program, designed for mid-career US and international labor practitioners, will focus on strategic corporate research and campaigns, international and comparative employment relations systems, and workers’ rights in the global economy. The deadline for the 2014-2015 academic year has now passed. Look for announcements for the 2015-2016 academic year program in early 2015.

A limited number of assistantships will be awarded to qualified applicants in need of financial support. For more information, please see http://www.global-labour-university.org/323.html.


For an overview of the MPS: MPS overview.

For a description of the curriculum: MPS curriculum.

For information on the application process: MPS application process.

Bangladesh labor organizer Kalpona Akter and Reba Sikder, a garment worker and survivor of the deadly Rana Plaza collapse, spoke to Penn State students on Tuesday, February 18th.

CGWR members and Bangladesh workers toue Bangladeshi labor organizer Kalpona Akter and Reba Sikder, a garment worker who survived the Rana Plaza collapse, spoke at Penn State on a United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) tour. Rana Plaza, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, came into the international spotlight after a tragic collapse killed over 1000 people in April of 2013. The two women spoke about their struggle to force brands to sign a legally binding agreement to improve apparel factory safety and working conditions in Bangladesh, as well as what students can do to make Penn State sweat-free!

Renwei Liu, Joyce Sinakhone, Rana Plaza worker Reba Sikder, Kalpona Akter from the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, CGWR Director Mark Anner and CGWR Post-Doctoral Scholar Jakir Hossain

Last month, Penn State administrators set forth a requirement that, effective March 31, 2014, any company producing Penn State logo goods in Bangladesh must sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety to help ensure safe working conditions. Failure to sign the Accord by March 31 will lead to termination or non-renewal of the license agreement.


Kalpona Akter (left) and Reba Sikder (right)

Reba Sikder speaks about here experience in this video.

Mark Anner, winner of the James G. Scoville Paper Award by Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA)

Mark Anner’s article “Corporate Social Responsibility and Freedom of Association Rights: The Precarious Quest for Legitimacy and Control in Global Supply Chains.” (2012, Politics & Society 40(4): 604 – 639) was awarded the James G. Scoville International/Comparative Best Paper Award at the Labor and Employment Relations Association meeting in June 2013 in St. Louis. For the paper abstract click here, Anner, Corporate Social Responsibility and Freedom of Association Rights.


Workshop on Strikes, Unions, and Workers in China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh


workshop participants

On February 7, the CGWR hosted the "Workshop on Strikes, Unions, and Workers in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh." Attendees included (from left to right) Johns Hopkins University student Guowei Liang, Professor Gaochao He of Sun Yat-Sen University (Guangzhou, China), CGWR Post-doctoral Scholar Jakir Hossain, CGWR Director Mark Anner, and CGWR visiting scholar Renwei Lui.



East Meets West: The ILO From Geneva to the Pacific Rim, edited by Jill Jensen and Nelson Lichtenstein (Palgrave MacMillan, forthcoming 2014)

Despite much discussion about the emergence of a post-industrial economy, more people labor on an assembly line today than at any other moment in world history, in large part due to the explosive rise of export manufacturing in East Asia, in Central America, and much of Latin America. The production of goods is readily shifted around the globe—even from a country such as China, which has reportedly lost production to other countries, many in East Asia, as a result of rising wages and the implementation of the new contract labor law in that large nation. 

Given these dynamics, a labor standards/human rights based model of transnational social regulation as described by the International Labor Organization (ILO) has become essential. East Meets West: The ILO From Geneva to the Pacific Rim (Palgrave MacMillan forthcoming 2014), edited by Nelson Lichtenstein and Jill Jensen, brings together a series of original essays by scholars from various national settings and disciplines to explore the role, influence, and meaning of ILO action for nations of the Americas, Australia, and Eastern Asia. Nelson Lichtenstein is MacArthur Foundation Professor in History at UC, Santa Barbara and Jill Jensen is Visiting Assistant Professor working with the Penn State Center for Global Workers’ Rights.

The Principles of Union Organizing: The AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute

By Joyce Sinakhone

Joyce Sinakhone is writing her Master’s paper on alternative models of union organizing, and she is assisting the Center in launching its new Master’s in Labor and Global Workers’ Rights program.


Within the School of Labor and Employment relations, there are extracurricular groups such as United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and Student Works at Penn State (SWAPS) that connect individuals interested in the labor movement with opportunities. These include internship positions as well as training options that enhance leadership or organizing skills. Along with two other SWAPS members, I participated in one such training through the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute (OI)—a program that for over 25 years has been “identifying, training and developing organizers from our membership, staff, community and college campuses across the country.”*

Unlike most sessions where participants never encounter top leaders of the host organization, Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), and Jack Shea, President of the Allegheny County Labor Council, together led the opening remarks for this event. Approximately 45 participants gathered at the USW headquarters in Pittsburgh for the intensive 3-day training program.

This type of program not only helps build skills that are important for organizing but also provides a direct career path into unions. Students approaching graduation who display skill sets during the training important to unions are often considered for a 3-month paid apprenticeship—which may lead to a full-time position with that union. As a student who has long aspired to joining the labor movement, I was offered an apprenticeship with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Thus, I am most grateful for having the opportunity to meet, befriend, and train alongside people within the labor movement at OI.

*AFL-CIO. Organizing Institute. Retrieved on March 18, 2014 from http://www.aflcio.org/Get-Involved/Become-a-Union-Organizer/Organizing-Institute

To read the full article, click here: AFL-CIO Organizing Institute