Sunday, November 25, 2018

Rose-Marie Belle Antoine knocks it out of the park with new article on intersectionality and gender discrimination in the Caribbean

The inaugural issue of the University of Oxford Human Rights Hub Journal is out - and readers will
not be disappointed.

The first gem in this treasure trove is the excellent article by Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, An Intersectional Approach to Addressing Gender and Other Forms of Discrimination in Labour in the Commonwealth Caribbean. This article analyzes the intersection of race and gender in discrimination against women in multi-ethnic societies in Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean nations.

Nothing is left out. Every axis is explored - not just racial divides and how they amplify gender discrimination, but how urban-rural divides, internal acceptance of external gender and racial identities, inadequate child care, and national laws, regional trade frameworks, and international economic trends all impact and keep women in poverty.

If you are interested in any of these topics, you should race to the Oxford Human Rights Hub website and download and read this article immediately.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

American Bar Association's International Anti-Corruption Newsletter highlights compliance risk posed by labor protection contracts in Mexico

The summer 2018 issue of the American Bar Association's International Anti-Corruption Committee Newsletter highlights the corporate compliance, bribery and HR risk posed by labor protection contracts in Mexico.

The article can be found at the following link:ABA International Anti-Corruption Committee Newsletter - Summer 2018 (pdf opens, pp. 6-10).

The newsletter also contains insightful anti-corruption stories and updates from every region in the world and a report on insights provided by Ana Pinelas Pinto of the Miranda Alliance in Portugual on anti-corruption compliance concerns related to payments to public entities or officials in Africa (pp. 3-4).

The International Section's Anti-Corruption Newsletter changed its format in Winter 2017 to include both substantive articles and regional anti-corruption updates. See the following link for past and future issues, as well as additional information about the Committee's work: ABA International Section Anti-Corruption Newsletter

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bold and innovative NAFTA labor petitions spotlight gender discrimination in international migrant labor market

In July  2016, UFCW Canada and Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM)  filed petitions under NAFTA’s labor side agreement alleging sex discrimination in recruitment for the Canadian  Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and the U.S. H-2A and H-2B agricultural and low wage visa programs. In early 2018, CDM filed a supplement to its petition, arguing that sex discrimination is pervasive in recruitment for professional visa programs as well as low wage visa programs.
Because of sex discrimination in recruitment, less than 4 percent of the workers who participate in U.S. and Canadian agricultural and low wage guest worker programs are women. While working conditions in guest worker programs are rife with human and labor rights issues, they still represent economic opportunity for women who would like to participate.  Moreover, women who are excluded are forced into migration through informal channels, leading to the risk of violence, human trafficking, and even worse working conditions.
These two bold and innovative petitions highlight in a tangible and human way the bifurcation of global migrant labor markets.  Global migrant labor markets bifurcated based on gender exclude women from economic opportunity based on gender stereotyping. Discrimination in recruitment and treatment of women in the global migrant labor market is the norm, not the exception.
My forthcoming article in the Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journaldiscusses and compares the facts and claims raised in each petition under applicable legal frameworks in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). The article explores possible outcomes of the petitions given the nuances and political environments in the Canadian and U.S. cases and the current state of relations between the Government of Mexico and its North American neighbors. Finally, the article places sexism and gender stereotyping in North American guest worker programs in an international context, discussing other examples of sexism in the global labor market and existing norms in ILO Conventions and CEDAW Recommendation No. 26 on Women Migrant Workers.
Row of flowers and sidewalkIn the Canadian case, the article argues that the Governments of Canada and Mexico should renegotiate international agreements that form the SAWP to implement the recommendations of the Mexican Council on the Prevention of Discrimination. In the U.S. case, the article argues that the Government of Mexico should pursue the establishment of an Evaluative Committee of Experts (ECE) under Article 23 of the NAALC if the U.S. does not enact and enforce meaningful reforms to eliminate sex discrimination in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs.
Also published on IntLawGrrls and Medium.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mexico moves toward elimination of labor protection contract system with some hurdles along the way

The practice of protection unionism in Mexico appears to be on its way out - though slowly, with several bumps in the road.  In early 2017, the Mexican Congress passed sweeping constitutional reforms to eliminate protection unionism through replacement of tripartite labor boards with independent labor courts.

My recent piece in the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law International Newsletter provides an update on legislative efforts to implement the constitutional reforms. According to Proceso, a leading political analysis magazine in Mexico, President Peña Nieto's administration introduced the reforms to meet labor commitments as part of the process of negotiation the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Labor protection contracts exist at the intersection of international labor standards, free trade, and corporate compliance - particularly compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  Long denounced by Mexican and international labor and human rights activists, these contracts are negotiated by employers and representatives of "official" unions before a company opens its doors - and without the participation or knowledge of workers.

Less recognized by Mexican and international companies that engage in protection unionism in Mexico is the serious corporate compliance risk presented by the practice because of the current configuration of tripartite labor boards in Mexico.  Payments made by employers to leaders of "official" unions may in fact be payments to government officials, since these individuals often serve as labor representatives on tripartite labor boards and as officials in local and federal government.  For example, as reported by Proceso in 2010, after signing a labor protection contract, an employer in the State of Jalisco paid 2,000 pesos a month to a trade union leader for "paperwork processing."

In recent years, Mexico has increased its efforts to eliminate corruption and bribery of government officials.  In March 2018, the labor department of the State of Jalisco introduced a new campaign against corruption.  Mexico will not eliminate government corruption without eliminating the practice of protection unionism, however.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

2018 OECD Social Policy Forum Showcases Powerful Female Labor and Social Ministers

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) held its 2018 Ministerial Meeting and Forum on Social Policy in Montreal, Canada on May 14 and 15, 2018.  The event, titled Social Policy for Shared Prosperty: Embracing the Future, was the first time in the OECD's history that the Social Policy Forum and Ministerial Meeting were held outside Paris.  Elder Ka'nahsohon Kevin Deer conducted a blessing ceremony at the beginning of the event.

Labor and Social Policy Ministers from over 35 countries participated in the social forum on May 14, 2018 and conducted closed door discussions on May 15, 2018.  Speakers in the public Social Policy Forum grappled with the challenge of setting social policy in an era of globalization and technical change, particularly with the increase in non-standard working relationships as a result of technological change, the Uberization of work, and the proliferation of the "gig economy" throughout the developed and developing world.  Topics to be addressed in the Ministerial Meeting included modernization of social protection systems to better incorporate workers in non-standard jobs; promotion of diversity and social inclusion; coping with aging populations; ensuring equal opportunities for children and youth; and mainstreaming gender equality in policy design and reform.

During a special public mid-day session titled "Investing in Working Parents Pays Off," researchers and policy makers from the Nordic countries presented their new study Is the Last Mile the Longest? Economic Gains from Gender Equality in Nordic Countries.  The study contains economic data demonstrating that gender equality actually improves countries' overall economic performance.  Swedish Minister for Health and Social Affairs Annika Strandhäll pointed out that Sweden's over 40 years of experience with gender and family support policies can be instructive to other countries, as mistakes were made and not every experiment worked as well as policy makers hoped.

By far, the highlight of the Social Policy Forum was its showcasing of powerful, elegant, and effective female labor and social ministers from a number of OECD member states, including Ireland, Sweden, Japan, and Greece.  These strong - and, for the most part, fairly young - leaders are guiding their countries' labor and social policies into the future.  They are stars to watch on the global and their own national stages.

A powerful and witty speaker, Regina Doherty, Minister for Employment Affairs & Social Protection of the Republic of Ireland, spoke in the first plenary session on the importance of walking in constituents' shoes in order to better understand what kind of policies to design and implement.  A Dubliner, Doherty started her career in the IT sector while raising 4 children with her husband before entering politics in 2009.  She was appointed to her current position in 2017.  Some of the issues she has tackled during her political career include IRA sex abuse allegations and increasing public funding to improve childcare in Ireland.

Annika Strandhall of Sweden, also appointed to her position in 2017, spoke in the final plenary session.  Strandhall started her career as a trade unionist and public sector employee, working her way up to president of her trade union.  She served as Sweden's Minister for Social Security from 2014 to 2017 before becoming Minister for Health and Social Affairs in 2017.  Her remarks demonstrated that she is emotionally and intellectually engaged with the issues and challenges faced by her constituents within and outside Sweden.

Japan's Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Mizuho Onuma was appointed to her position in 2017 after an almost meteoric rise through government ranks when she moved to the public sector from her first job in broadcasting.  Mizuho was first elected to Parliament in 2013.  Mizuho spoke about the need for public officials to take the ideas they exchange at the OECD forum back to their home countries for implementation and harmonization.

Finally, Greece's Minister of Labor, Social Security and Social Solidarity Effie Achtsioglou spoke powerfully and poignantly about pulling Greece out of its 2008 debt crisis, the negative impact international and European conditions for restructuring Greece's public debt have had on Greek workers and labor markets, and emerging signs that Greece's labor market may indeed be recovering after its decade-long ordeal.   First appointed to her position in November 2016, Achitsioglou is responsible for guiding Greece's workers, employers, and labor markets from a position of complete collapse to healthy and near full employment.  An academic who obtained her Ph.D. in European Labor Law in 2015, Achtsioglou is a widely published expert on financial crises and labor markets.

Achtsioglou is a tireless advocate for Greece's workers in the global community.  Prior to her current appointment, she was the Ministry's chief negotiator in charge of negotiations with European and international institutions (EC, ECB, IMF, etc.). In February 2017, she informed the IMF that Greece will no longer accept further pension cuts as a condition for continued debt restructuring.  Recently, she argued in the Huffington Post that labor rights in Greece must not be exempted from European Union standards.  Finally, in a March 2017 speech, Achtsiogiou argued that Europe's future is inextricably tied to labor relations in Greece.

These four rock stars of the 2018 OECD Social Policy Forum are truly the Wonder Women of our age.  I look forward to observing how their grit, intellectual prowess, and political acumen help them shape their own and their countries' futures in years to come.

Also published on Medium.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

U.S.-Guatemala Arbitration Panel Clarifies Effective Enforcement Under Labor Provisions of Free Trade Agreement

US FTAs have had labor clauses since 1994, but do they actually work?  See my comment in the International Labor Case Law Journal on the recent controversial CAFTA-DR Guatemala labor arbitration decisiron.

I'd also like to draw your attention to some other articles in the current issue of the International Labor Case Law Journal on the Bangladesh Accordcompulsory trade union dues in Brazilcollective bargaining in the public sector in Peru, a new decision from the European Court of Human Rights on wage deductions and forced labor, equal pay for work of equal value in Germany, a fascinating Dutch case in the Democratic Republic of Congo under the OECD Guidelines, and labor standards and the World Cup.

The ILRC was established four years ago and has proven to be an important resource on international labor law developments.  One of the nice things about the ILRC is that the case comments are all concise and to the point. They can be accessed free in PDF format, though the actual case reports and decisions can only be accessed with a subscription.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Twarog, Cornell, and Trestman: My favorite 3 books of 2017

Of my three favorite books of 2017, one is not a book and one was published in 2016, but all are wonderful, and each opens a door to a whole new way of seeing work, labor, organizations, history - and women.

First on the list is Emily E. L.B. Twarog's Politics of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in Twentieth-Century America published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

This excellent U.S. working class history book takes the reader to homes, grocery stores, and streets in a world that is almost the exact opposite of that portrayed in AMC's Mad Men.  While Don Draper and Sally Olsen worked out ways to display Dutch beer in grocery stores to catch the eye of the country's housewives, real housewives across the United States waged a grassroots struggle to ensure that their husbands and families had enough to eat on a working person's wages.  Imagine that just behind that glorious stand of beautiful green bottles there are housewives standing next to the meat counter refusing to buy until grocery chains reduce prices to fit into their meager budgets.

Ignored by histories of the labor and feminist movements, these courageous and well-organized housewives defined a working women's movement based on their identities not as bra burning feminists, but on their identities as home keepers and housewives with the duty to keep their families fed and strong.  Not only is the book intellectually stimulating and fill a gap in feminist and labor historical literature, its style and prose are light and enjoyable to read - not to mention filled with that absurdist Americana we all love, like the delivery of a live calf to the front yard of one midwestern housewife's home.  As Whoopie Goldberg said on TV recently, her working class mother couldn't afford to burn the one bra she owned.

Next on the list is the non-book, Angela Cornell's 2017 case comment Inter-American Court Recognizes Elevated Status of Trade Unions, Rejects Standing of Corporations, published in the International Labor Rights Case Law journal.  

Elegantly written and concise, this case comment highlights an important and new legal distinction between trade unions and corporations in Inter-American and International Human Rights Law - recognizing that as direct representatives, trade unions have standing to defend and protect the human rights of their members.  "The jurisdiction of the Court to entertain contentious cases involving freedom of association advanced by trade unions," writes Cornell, "has been established with the understanding that this result will facilitate broader protection and the effective exercise of workers rights."

Last on the list is Marlene Trestman's 2016 book Fair Labor Lawyer The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin, published by Louisiana State University Press.

Bessie Margolin was an elegant lady raised in a Jewish orphanage in New Orleans when her single immigrant father could not afford to keep her and her brother and sister.  She grew up to be a pre-eminent Constitutional Lawyer, arguing 27 - and winning 24 - cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.  It is because of the strength of her intellect and argumentive style that the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the strong and effective legal tool it became during Margolin's three decades at the U.S. Department of Labor.  Margolin argued and won these cases in an era when few women were afforded the opportunity to do so.  She also - quite literally - wrote the rules for the prosecution of Nazi War Criminals in Nuremburg.

In addition to being an excellent advocate and attorney, Margolin was an avant garde bachelor woman enjoying life in her Washington, DC apartment on her own terms.  The book shows that even though she was imperfect, human, and feminine, Margolin, she is a true American hero we can and should all emulate.

Friday, February 2, 2018

New article assesses FTA labor provisions from gender perspective

My forthcoming article in the Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal assesses labor provisions in US and Canadian free trade agreements both generally and from a gender perspective. See SSRN for a link to the article: See this IntLawGrrls piece for a sketch of the main arguments and points made in the article.

Policy makers and advocates in both countries have made great strides in the past quarter century since NAFTA was negotiated, but much work remains to be done.  The key to progress has been creative advocacy efforts by trade unions and workers' human rights advocates on the one hand and intelligent, creative, and responsive problem solving methods by policy makers.

The article shows how both advocates and policy makers have overcome definitional and procedural shortcomings in FTA labor provisions to make them useful tools for worker rights advocacy.  It also highlights weaknesses and shortcomings in the texts of FTA labor provisions that must be addressed to make them truly transformational.