The promotion of labor rights is an integral part of United States foreign policy. U.S. Special Representative for International Labor Affairs Sarah Fox says supporting fundamental worker rights, such as freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, are an important part of U.S. economic diplomacy:
“Labor Rights are human rights, but they’re also economic rights. And workers being able to exercise these rights is very important to building economies in which prosperity and the benefits of growth are broadly shared. This in turn contributes to stability, to democracy and to building the kinds of prosperous, peaceful societies in which everyone feels that they are part of the economy, that they have opportunity, which is what we promote over all. So it fits very well into many threads of our foreign policy agenda.”
Special Representative Fox and her team at the U.S. State Department have worked closely with foreign governments and stakeholders to address worker rights in countries such as Bangladesh, where the Rana Plaza clothing factory collapse killed 1,137 people in 2013:
“We came together -- the U.S. government with the European Union, with Canada, with the International Labor Organization, with the government of Bangladesh on what we call the Sustainability Compact to help improve labor rights and worker safety and health in that sector. So that’s been a big focus on our work.”
Members of the Sustainability Compact work with private sector stakeholders and the United Nations to fulfill short and long term commitments related to respect for labor rights; structural integrity of buildings; occupational safety and health; and responsible business conduct. On-the-ground work has included safety inspections in some 4000 factories. The group has also worked with the United Nations International Labor Organization and with the Bangladeshi government on reforming labor laws, developing mechanisms to facilitate union registration, and on investigation and prevention of unfair labor practices.
The United States will continue to engage Bangladesh and other governments to improve worker rights around the world.