US organizations file suit against Jordan over workers’ rights

So after issuing a report slamming the rights extended to workers in Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, and the US National Textile Association (NTA), are filing a lawsuit against Jordan.

The AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the US, representing more than 10 million workers, and the National Textile Association, which represents US textile producers, on Sept. 21 filed the first worker rights case ever submitted under the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA). "This is the first time a business association has formally joined in filing a worker rights case under a trade agreement," the AFL-CIO and NTA said in a joint press release issued last week. They called on the Bush administration to initiate dispute settlement proceedings under the FTA that would halt alleged workers’ rights violations in Jordan. The complaint charges that the Jordanian government failed to meet its obligations under the Jordan-US FTA’s labor chapter, both because its labor laws fall short of international standards and because the government has failed to effectively enforce its laws. Source: [The Jordan Times] [Complaint in full here. Or as PDF]

And here is the Jordanian government’s reaction:

"We would like to know what else is needed to prove that we are totally serious when dealing with these allegations," Minister of Labor Bassem Salem told The Jordan Times yesterday. "The ministry has increased the number of inspectors on the team to 164, to ensure that workers’ rights are protected," the minister added.

The ministry has also initiated a hot-line, in seven different Asian languages, creating a channel through which workers can lodge complaints. In its response to the allegations listed in the AFL-CIO and NTA lawsuit, the government reiterated its position that "it takes these allegations very seriously and will not tolerate any labor violations against guest workers and takes all steps necessary to ensure that the treatment of such workers is in accordance with international standards."
Source: [The Jordan Times]

It’s hard not to notice that there has been a lot of pressure on Jordan these days from international organizations. Just last week Human Rights Watch slammed Jordan’s alleged use of torture in detention centers. I guess being a US ally makes Jordan the subject of greater scrutiny.

6 thoughts on “US organizations file suit against Jordan over workers’ rights”

  1. I’m all for raising awareness about human rights violations in factories with cheap laborers, and I’m dismayed at what is happening in Jordan.
    However, I find it absurd that such a lawsuit would be raised against the Jordanian government, while American companies are all over the world making the same violations in factories in China, Indonesia, India, etc. Why don’t these labor organizations stand up for the employees of American companies which use the cheapest labor all over the world and some in the most horrendous working and living conditions. I realize that this case is somewhat different because of the FTA but that doesn’t mean we can’t hold ourselves accountable before we go out trying to correct the mistakes of others. If we practice what preach, maybe then people will listen.

  2. Has anyone sued Nepal and Thailand for using 10-year old kids as prostitutes? What about children working in gulf countries? What about allowing 12 million illegal Mexicans to come to the US and paying them much worse than what the average Philippino maid gets in Jordan?

  3. Moi, Hareega:

    Absolutely correct and I am sure there are other cases worth noting if we had all day to research them. Although, down here on the border — whether or not the 12 million Mexican illegals were allowed in would get some argument from various factions here — but, yes, they certainly aren’t paid very well by U.S. standards.

    And, maybe sumewhat ironically, due in part to tighter controls on border entry, there is a growing labor shortage problem here in the U.S. on the farms and places where the illegals usually go, or went.

  4. People shouldn’t jump quickly to treating this as a human rights case. This is not international pressure either. This is a simple matter of a trade agreement between two countries where one is being charged with violating that agreement, and the natural route to follow up on that is a law suit.

    Do Nepal and Thailand have an FTA with the US? And if so, do they sell the US prostitutes for their abuse of children to be counted as a violation of that FTA? I imagine the only reason this law suit against Jordan is happening is because the violations are happening in textile factories that export products to the US under the FTA.

    Also, why compare Mexican salary wages to the pay of the average Philippino maid in Jordan? Philippinos count for less than 10% of the maids in Jordan and get paid significantly more than Sri Lankians or Indians. That kind of renders the comparison unuseful.

    I think this is good, because this puts our country in the right direction in terms of doing things in a legitimate way. I really hope that this problem gets resolved the right way by making sure that if there are any violations that they stop.

  5. Want the money from uncle sam, do as uncle sam says. Which, come to think of it, is bad in one case only (such as being forced to shove our heads up israel’s butt) but on the positive side we are constantly being told to be good boys. After all, the US does not want to be seen as giving aid to countries that create more negative press for it.

    But here is the kicker. The US seems more concerned with non-Arab workers’s rights, since more abuses are suffered by Arab migrant workers than we really wish to admit. Heared of the egyptian worker who fell 4 floors on a construction site and was totally paralized. He was cited for safety violations and sent back on a stretcher without any compensations. I hear such story with alarming persistance. But no one will stand up to the poor Arab workers, espicially not their government. One reason migrant workers are prefered to local workers is the ease by which local employers can dodge their responsiblity.

    I don’t think Jordan is the worst offender or even close to being the worset, but I think this scrutinty will help us become a better country. 3asa an takrahoo…

  6. Weird i really can grasp this case
    1.”The AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the US, representing more than 10 million workers” the point of them raising the issue is inhope to reduce the outsourced jobs i believe but why pick jordan ?

    2. Jordan is not required to maintain the facilities the owners do, Jordan (As I recall) is required to provide the regulations, which it did.

    3. regardless of how much fuss it makes, lawsuits against countries are pointless since you can’t hold anyone accountable LOL.

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