Yesterday the AFL-CIO applauded the U.S. Department of Labor's decision to accept our complaint regarding the government of Bahrain's failure to live up to its trade agreement commitments with respect to workers' rights.
The U.S. Labor Department's Office of Trade and Labor Affairs yesterday announced that it had accepted the complaint, filed April 21st, under the labor chapter of the trade agreement with Bahrain for violations of the agreement. Specifically, the petition highlights well-documented, widespread and serious violations of human rights, including labor rights.
For two months, the union movement around the world and in the United States has called on the government of Bahrain to halt its all-out attack against workers. In retaliation for peaceful protests and as part of the Bahraini government's overall crackdown on dissent, more than 1,700 workers have been summarily dismissed from their jobs, frequently in contravention of Bahrain's labor laws.
State-owned press and social media have been used to identify and threaten people who joined the demonstrations. Union leaders have been threatened by Members of Parliament and pro-reform activists have been arbitrarily detained, often in pre-dawn raids. Some have died in custody. Others are being tried by military courts. In an attempt to destroy unions and the voice they give to workers, employers are threatening lawsuits against the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions if the entire elected leadership does not resign.
The government's failure to act against these efforts to destroy unions is emblematic of its general hostility toward respecting the human rights of its citizens.
"The egregious attacks on workers must end, and the Bahraini government's systematic discrimination against and dismantling of unions must be reversed. These actions directly violate the letter and the spirit of the trade agreement," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "Workers must be reinstated to their jobs and the elected union leadership must be allowed to function without fear of reprisals. Failure by the United States to intervene to support workers and their democratic institutions would make a mockery of the labor protections included in the free trade agreement."
In addition, this extraordinary repression is taking place at the doorstep of one of America's largest military installations, the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.
"The trade union movement in Bahrain is critical to democratic and peaceful coexistence in a pluralistic society and should be part of a national dialogue to solve Bahrain's crisis," Trumka continued. "Yet instead of working toward dialogue with labor and civil society, the Bahraini government's actions deal a dramatic setback to civil liberties and freedom of association. The United States' agreements with other nations—including Bahrain—must respect and uphold these fundamental rights."