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USDOL’s Polaski Lauds Liberian Union for Work on Child Labor

Liberian Union Receives Child Labor Award

by SANDRA POLASKI on FEBRUARY 23, 2011 · 0 COMMENTS

The Liberian countryside

I want to tell you about the remote town of Harbel, Liberia and the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL), which has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers and their children. The union just won the Department of Labor’s 2010 Iqbal Masih Award, an award that Congress established to recognize extraordinary efforts to end the worst forms of child labor.  This award is given in remembrance of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani child carpet weaver who was sold into slavery at the age of four.  He escaped his servitude to become an outspoken advocate against child labor before losing his life at the age of 13.

FAWUL won the award for their efforts on behalf of children on the Firestone rubber plantation in Harbel. For years, children had labored on the plantation alongside their parents to meet the quotas for tapping rubber trees.  FAWUL was established in 2007, and by 2008 it had negotiated a landmark collective bargaining agreement that reduced the quotas by 25% and banned child labor on the plantation.  In 2010, FAWUL negotiated a second contract with Firestone that went further.  Under it, the company agreed to provide children living on the plantation with better schools. I imagine the children of Harbel no longer laboring in hot fields, but instead eagerly going to school with the same bright hopes for the future as our children have.

FAWUL’s success shows how unions can transform the lives not only of workers but of children and how dedication and perseverance can make a real difference in the fight against child labor. … Read the rest