Judy Gearhart, International Labor Rights Forum
Labor rights defenders are frontline human rights advocates, fighting for economic justice and human dignity. Labor rights defenders like Tola Moeun and the staff at the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), work tirelessly to improve local labor laws, run worker support centers, and report on abusive employers. They play an essential role in holding governments and global corporations accountable.
CENTRAL, and groups like them, are vulnerable because winning the fight for workers’ rights will necessarily come with a cost to global brands and the anti-democratic governments that prioritize the brands’ needs over workers’ rights and dignity. This year, ILRF is thrilled to honor the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) with a 2018 Labor Rights Defender Award.
CENTRAL works to advance better working conditions, collective bargaining for increased wages, and policies that benefit hundreds of thousands of Cambodian workers. The organization has provided training and legal support to thousands of workers, mostly women in the garment industry who are supplying US and European consumers.
Cambodian civil society organizations, unions, human rights defenders, opposition political parties and media outlets have been experiencing an alarming escalation of repression over the past year. CENTRAL is a powerful force leading Cambodian working people to demand transparent and accountable governance for human rights and labor rights – and that power has made them a target. Tola Moeun, CENTRAL’s Director, is now facing falsified and politically motivated charges in an attempt to undermine the work of this grassroots organization and the country’s human rights and labor movement more broadly. If convicted, Tola could face imprisonment for up to 3 years. ILRF strongly condemns these accusations and actions against Tola.
CENTRAL is a strong advocate for Cambodian workers and it’s an honor to give them a 2018 Labor Rights Defender Award. Please support CENTRAL ahead of the ceremony, which will be held this spring in Washington D.C., by signing our petition urging the dismissal of the charges against Tola.
P.S. See below for some of the congratulations for CENTRAL and Tola that are already pouring in. Tweet your own congratulations to @centralcambodia and @Tolamoeun , or post it on Facebook tagging https://www.facebook.com/CentralCambodiaOrg/.
“I am very pleased that Tola Mouen and the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) will receive the 2018 Labor Rights Defender Award. It is an honor extremely well deserved. CENTRAL strives every day to protect and empower vulnerable workers in Cambodia – advocating for their rights and providing direct assistance to abused, trafficked and exploited workers.” – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
„It’s wonderful that ILRF has decided to honor Tola Moeun, who is one of Cambodia’s most dedicated and courageous defenders of workers‘ rights, and CENTRAL, the organization he directs which is making such an important difference helping thousands of women garment workers. Cambodian workers know they can depend on Tola and his team for support when facing rights abusing employers and conniving government officials. Whether it’s fighting for reinstatement, protesting against labor law violations, demanding factory supervisors stop sexual harassment, or pressing for better wages and working conditions, Tola and CENTRAL are always in the workers’ corner, ready to help.“ – Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch
„Tola and CENTRAL deserve a hearty congratulations for receiving this award, but more importantly they deserve our support. Tola’s work bridging the gap between the labor rights movement and the broader human rights community has had a profound impact in Cambodia – so profound that the government is now after him with trumped up, politically-motivated charges. Tola scares power, and for me that’s an indicator of a job well done.“ – Maina Kai, United Nations Special Rapporteur 2011-2017