Right to Organize and Bargain

Photograph of workers protesting

Freedom of Association, the right of workers to speak out collectively about abusive treatment and conditions, to organize, join and participate in unions, and to nonviolently protest and strike, is, along with the right to bargain collectively with employers, a fundamental workplace and human right.

This right is protected in international covenants, from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights to ILO conventions, and by national laws in nearly all countries. The right to speak out, organize, and negotiate with employers is a crucial enabling right that empowers workers to raise vital concerns regarding health and safety, wage-and-hour violations, and harassment and discrimination.

Together with our partners around the world, the WRC has helped more than 1,500 workers, in more than a dozen countries, win reinstatement to their jobs, back wages, and other compensation after they were illegally fired and, in some cases, violently attacked or falsely jailed for exercising the right to freedom of association. The WRC has also helped tens of thousands of workers and their unions secure representational and organizing rights in their factories—and held factory managers accountable for violence and intimidation against worker activists.

Freedom of Association during Covid-19

During the Covid-19 pandemic, workers seeking to exercise Freedom of Association find themselves under attack like never before—facing firings from their jobs, violence, death threats, or false imprisonment. The pandemic’s devastating impact on garment factories around the world, from outbreaks of Covid-19 in workplaces to mass layoffs when plants shut down, make protecting workers’ ability to exercise associational and collective bargaining rights more important than ever.