Celebrating International Workers' Day

On this International Workers’ Day, we celebrate the power and dignity of more than 150 million migrant workers around the world. More than that, we commit to recognizing that migrant worker voices and perspectives need to be a central part of conversations about global supply chains.

Migrant workers’ contributions build global supply chains, fuel local economies where they live, and power communities at home through their remittances. But migrant workers are also vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, conditions highlighted by committed activists and brave journalists around the world.

Accounts of abuse, exploitation and trafficking in global supply chains–and subsequent public pressure—have spurred governments, global brands and multinational companies to address labor practices. As they move towards new public commitments, high-profile convenings, and company codes of conduct, success should be measured in real changes in workers’ lives. And in order to make real progress, it cannot just be governments, companies, donors, and civil society groups at the table.

As donors, we seek to mobilize the powerful to better protect migrant workers around the world and here at home. But we cannot see their stories as only ones of heartbreak and misery in which they are passive players. Migrant workers are also courageous leaders within their communities, role models securing better futures for their loved ones by making personal sacrifices. Right now, Nepali migrant workers around the world are organizing themselves to advocate for stronger laws, demanding higher capacity in their embassies, and spreading the word amongst themselves to end worker-paid recruitment fees. Too often, we shortcut the process of truly seeing migrant workers and listening to their wants and needs even though, without them, there would not be a global supply chain.

Because donors have the unique ability to galvanize those with power and influence, we have an equal obligation to ensure that migrant workers are included in international debates about ethical recruitment, immigration, worker rights, migrant protection, and policies that affect them. And we have an obligation to adjust the language or framing of those debates to meet the understanding of workers so that they can bring their lived experiences and perspectives into the conversation.

Today and every day, we need to recognize migrant workers’ vital contributions and the right they have to be part of the conversations that determine their futures. We should hold ourselves accountable not only for what changes are made, but for who decides what the changes must be.