Good morning, distinguished participants and guests, my name is Uzra Zeya, and I serve as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the U.S. Department of State. I am delighted to speak with you today about the way we, as democracies, can strengthen the role of worker organizations, especially unions. It is an honor to have this opportunity to highlight the initiatives the Department’s Democracy, Human Rights and Labor bureau continues to carry out to improve the world of work for everyone. The State Department, along with our interagency partners, recently heard from many labor leaders from four regions around the world on the challenges they face. Those sessions were incredibly constructive, and I would like to thank our colleagues at the Labor Department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, USAID, the AFL-CIO, the International Trade Union Confederation, and the Solidarity Center for organizing this event and their continued dedication to uplifting workers’ voices around the world.
I traveled to Guatemala City last week, where I met with organized labor, including indigenous communities, to set out areas of collaboration between the governments of the United States and Guatemala in the processes of labor justice. I am hopeful that this collaboration will strengthen democracy and allow workers to improve their jobs and their lives through exercise of their collective rights.
As Secretary Blinken has said, “We believe strongly, the President believes strongly, that labor groups have to be our partner in policy, and that includes foreign policy.”
At the U.S. Department of State, we have long approached workers’ rights, including freedom of association and collective bargaining, as fundamental to strong and healthy democracies. Through our diplomatic engagement and support for assistance programs, we promote independent and democratic trade unions that represent all workers, including the most vulnerable, in and beyond the workplace. We work to combat forced labor and labor exploitation, including violence and harassment of workers, promote fair competition and inclusive economic growth, and hold governments accountable to international labor standards in support of democratic norms and values.
So the Department is proud to support the new Multilateral M-POWER Initiative to promote global action in support of fundamental labor rights. We look forward to working with USG and other partners on this first-of-its-kind global effort to advance independent democratic worker organizations, promote labor law reform and enforcement in support of worker rights, and support worker organizing and collective bargaining, including for the world’s most vulnerable workers.
This includes working with organized labor, world leaders, the International Labor Organization, civil society organizations, labor advocates, and employers, to tackle challenges faced by workers and make strides towards supporting worker organizations’ role in democracy. We need to work together to have an enduring impact on all three key pillars of the Summit for Democracy: strengthening democracy and countering authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.
The State Department looks forward to continuing to work side by side with worker organizations and advocates in support of their critical role in democracy during the upcoming Summit for Democracy, throughout the impactful year of action, and beyond.
Thank you again for your continued support and the opportunity to address you today. We are pleased to partner with all of you in this vital work.