The International Commission for Labor Rights, ICLR, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is based in New York, and coordinates the pro bono work of a global network of lawyers committed to advancing workers’ rights through legal research, advocacy, cross-border collaboration, and the cutting-edge use of international and domestic legal mechanisms.

Our Principles

We believe that all working people have certain core rights, which we are committed to defending:

* to form and join unions, and to bargain collectively for better conditions at work
* to earn enough to support themselves and their families, so that children do not have to work
* to work freely, without force or coercion
* to be free from discrimination in the workplace

History of the ICLR

The International Commission for Labor Rights (ICLR) was started in 2002 by a group of lawyers from around the world, dedicated to supporting workers’ and trade union rights. Confronted with the increasing difficulty of defending these rights in isolation in their own countries – as corporations, supply chains, investment, and workers themselves crossed international borders more and more – the lawyers resolved to create a network to enable them to share information and strategies.

Today, there are more than 300 lawyers around the world who are part of the ICLR network. These lawyers are able to respond rapidly to requests for facts related to particular violations, legal advice, expert opinions, information on political realities country-by-country, concrete experiences with different legal and political fora. In addition, ICLR has convened delegations of lawyers, at the request of individual unions and global federations, to investigate allegations of labor rights violations in specific countries and contexts, writing reports that have formed the basis of domestic litigation and international complaints.

The work of the ICLR network is coordinated through a small non-profit based in New York, which also engages in substantial outreach, both to legal experts to expand the network, and to small unions and grassroots workers’ organizations to ensure that they have access to ICLR’s experts for research, advice, and complaints to domestic and international bodies.

How can a lawyers’ network support workers’ rights?

Unions, grassroots workers’ organizations and the lawyers who support them are all too aware that basic guarantees for workers are in a state of crisis, worldwide:

* Constantly shifting sites of production and employment relationships, placing jobs in perpetual uncertainty
* Labor law “reforms” and reduced enforcement of existing laws
* The erosion of social security
* Weakened protections for the right to form and join unions
* The continuing epidemic of forced labor


ICLR believes that interventions that are informed by comparative and international law expertise can make a difference. For example:

– At the request of UE, which is campaigning for repeal of a North Carolina law barring collective bargaining for public employees, ICLR brought together a group of lawyers with expertise in public sector unionism. The lawyers analyzed the problem through the lens of seven national jurisdictions that permit and enable public sector workers to organize and bargain collectively, developing arguments based not only on rights, but also on efficiency and governance.

– ICLR was approached by three union federations in Colombia to report on impunity with respect to the murders of trade unionists. The report was successfully used by Colombian unionists and their allies to lobby the International Labour Organization (ILO) to send a mission of inquiry, which has led to the ILO having a permanent monitoring presence in the country.

– Lawyers from ICLR’s network analyzed compensation schemes for workplace-related deaths and injuries from six different countries, at the request of the Clean Clothes Campaign in the Netherlands. The research was successfully used in negotiations for compensation with prominent European retailers sourcing from a garment factory in Bangladesh that had collapsed – under Bangladeshi law, the injured workers and the families of those killed would have had nowhere to turn except to a bankrupt employer and a Workers Compensation law unaltered since 1923.

Our Constitution

IN THE INTERESTS OF PROMOTING the human rights and dignity of workers and the principles of fairness, equality, justice and accountability it is determined that there shall be established a body to be known as the International Commission for Labor Rights, ICLR. The body shall be so constituted in the following document, on the joint initiative of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the International Centre for Trade Union Rights;

WHEREAS the pursuit of a just and fair society is possible only in so far as the working people of that society enjoy the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms at work;

WHEREAS the fundamental rights and freedoms of working people are best protected by trade union organising and free collective bargaining underpinned by the enshrinement of these rights and freedoms in national law;

WHEREAS the human rights of working people in every country are a fundamental pre-requisite of decent societies and of social and economic progress;

WHEREAS the rights and freedoms of working people and their trade unions deemed fundamental by the international community are set down in international law and standards;

WHEREAS these same standards provide the primary point of reference, among others, by which social progress can be determined;

WHEREAS the failure to implement and enforce fundamental rights and freedoms of working people threatens the health, security and integrity of people the world over;

WHEREAS the achievements and possibilities for progress enshrined in national labor law systems must be visible and available to the working people of that country;

CONSIDERING that the aim of the International Commission for Labor Rights is the achievement of fundamental rights and freedoms for working people;

WHEREAS the Commission will recognise the sovereign rule of fundamental labor rights and freedoms, which are fundamental rights;

RECOGNISING that the Conventions of the International Labor Organisation inspire the concept of fundamental labor rights which the international community respects and that the work of the International Labor Organisation is fundamental;

WHEREAS labor rights violations occurring throughout the world will require the proactive and reactive intervention of the Commission;

HAVING determined that the Commission will be constituted of members of the legal profession;

HAVING determined that the proposals so documented in the joint resolution of IADL and ICTUR must be carried forward with due haste;

THE International Commission for Labor Rights is hereby CONSTITUTED;

read full Constitution»


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