ILRF’s key strategy for change is to strengthen the voices of workers and ensure they have access to justice.

We work with trade unions, faith, and community-based groups and NGOs around the world to expose worker rights abuses and develop and promote solutions.  We work in coalition with both U.S. and international groups to create transnational campaigns in support of workers’ struggles. 

ILRF has three core work streams:

1. Holding global corporations accountable for human rights violations in their supply chains, particularly those relating to child labor, forced labor, discrimination, and restrictions on organizing and collective bargaining rights.

  • Corporate Accountability in Global Supply Chains:  ILRF has a history of proposing, testing and working to improve programs for holding global corporations accountable throughout their far-reaching global supply chains. ILRF established Rug Mark (now Good Weave), an innovative program, independent of ILRF, which moves child laborers in the carpet industry from work to school and helps create a system of international governance to ensure the elimination of child labor in the carpet industry.  ILRF has been a leading innovator and critic of corporate supply chain monitoring programs; most recently successfully campaigning to secure corporate commitments to a legally binding agreement with trade unions to ensure workers’ rights and welfare in the Bangladeshi apparel industry.  ILRF evaluates corporate accountability programs in agriculture, the apparel and electronics industries, including programs designed to guarantee worker safety and the elimination of forced and child labor in the supply chain.  We test worker grievance mechanisms in “fair trade” and other social compliance certification systems and work to ensure consumers can depend on the integrity of labels and certifications that purport to guarantee decent working conditions for workers who make the products.  We research and promote products made by workers who are organized in democratic unions or worker-owned cooperatives through our Shop with a Conscience Consumer Guide.  ILRF is working to make corporate global supply chains more transparent so consumers can use their dollars to stand with workers.

2. Advancing policies and laws that protect workers:  ILRF continually test and propose reforms that enable workers and their organizations to leverage trade and development policies to protect their rights.

  • Trade and Development Policy:  In 1984, ILRF founders created and successfully advocated for the first workers’ rights protection clause in U.S. trade legislation.  Since then we have used this Workers’ Rights Conditionality Clause in the General System of Preferences (GSP) many times to defend workers’ rights, leveraging the GSP review process for both local and international advocacy.  ILRF staff also develops and promote other innovative linkages between workers’ rights and trade, procurement, and foreign assistance policies, including the OECD complaint mechanism, ILO review processes, and bilateral trade agreements, among others.  In addition, ILRF is linking local policy advocacy in the United States with grassroots organizing abroad through our SweatFree Communities Campaign, which is mobilizing local community groups to urge state and city governments to purchase only products made in decent working conditions.

3. Strengthening the voice of workers through action-oriented research: ILRF works with trade unions and community based labor rights advocates to expose violations of workers’ rights and strengthen local capacity to advocate for worker’s rights to organize and bargain for just and dignified working conditions and for the eradication of child labor, forced labor, and discrimination.

  • Worker-driven organizations and solutions:  All of ILRF’s field research is conducted in collaboration with local partners and designed to help strengthen the advocacy and leadership of grassroots community and worker organizations.  ILRF has a strong track record of credible, action-oriented research supporting sustainable change.  For example, in Liberia, ILRF’s child labor research helped support an independent rubber tappers union to negotiate for better wages and enlist farmers’ support to end child labor.  In China, we support local researchers to address the need for more judges, labor law practitioners, and workers who are trained in the content of the country’s labor laws and in the advocacy skills needed to better represent workers’ claims in arbitration and court. In Latin America, we support a confederation of banana workers’ unions to shine a spotlight on violations of workers’ rights in their industry.