The United States has said they will work to hold accountable those who threaten, intimidate, attack union leaders, labour rights defenders, labour organizations – including using things like sanctions, trade penalties, visa restrictions – all the tools in their kit.
"We want to be there for people like Kalpona Atker, a Bangladeshi garment worker and activist, who says that she is alive today because the US embassy advocated on her behalf," said US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken at the rollout of the Presidential Memorandum on "Advancing Worker Empowerment, Rights, and High Labor Standards Globally" on 16 November.
He said when they use their voice, their advocacy around the world, they can make a concrete difference in making sure that those who are trying to advance labour rights are protected and defended.
"We will strengthen the federal government’s capacity to advance worker rights abroad by prioritizing greater job opportunities for employees with labour expertise, training our personnel to know about worker rights, to look for and prevent abuses," Blinken said.
He said they will work with governments and multilateral institutions like the United Nations, with the G20, to promote labour rights and standards.
"This will be part of the work that we do in these international organizations, where so many of the rules are set. It happens in windowless rooms around the world, but it’s important – the standards, the norms, the rights that are established. These have a profound effect around the world. We’re going to be in there making sure that we’re advocating for labour," Blinken said.
He said they will step up their due diligence and enforcement to ensure that their own trade agreements, supply chains, protect workers, and that we’re not importing goods made with forced labour.
Blinken said they will engage governments, workers, labor organizations, trade unions, civil society, and the private sector around the world to protect and promote respect for internationally recognized labor rights.
"That means, for instance, that all of our ambassadors, all of the folks running our embassies around the world, will engage with workers, with unions so that their voices are reflected in everything that we do," he said.
The US Department of State will begin implementing key actions from President Biden’s Presidential Memorandum on "Advancing Worker Empowerment, Rights, and High Labor Standards Globally."
"Labour rights are integral to building democracy, achieving economic growth, strengthening supply chain resilience, and levelling the playing field for American workers and companies," said Blinken on Thursday.
This new whole-of-government approach will advance worker empowerment and unions, in line with President Biden’s policies here at home, according to an announcement made by the US Department of State.
The Presidential Memorandum for the first time directs Chiefs of Mission and Department officials to directly engage in labor diplomacy and enhancing programming and public messaging on workers and labor rights.
The Department’s efforts to advance internationally recognized workers’ rights will be carried out alongside interagency partners, including US Department of Labor.
"This Memorandum is intended to raise global labour standards, building on the full range of existing authorities and tools in diplomacy, foreign assistance and programming, law enforcement, and global trade and economic cooperation, consistent with relevant international obligations and commitments," the announcement reads.