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Philanthropic Leaders Join Biden Administration Initiative to Advance Global Democracy by Investing in Worker Rights

NEW YORK—The Ford Foundation, Fundación Avina, Humanity United, and the Open Society Foundations announced today that they have joined the Biden administration’s Multilateral Partnership for Organizing, Worker Empowerment, and Rights (M-POWER) initiative, a historic effort to catalyze and align governments, philanthropy, worker organizations, and civil society to strengthen freedom of association and collective bargaining across the globe to prioritize workers rights as core to democracy. The U.S. government has committed approximately $130 million to M-POWER, the largest commitment it’s ever made to advance workers’ rights globally. The governments of Argentina, Canada, Germany, South Africa, and Spain have joined the United States in this initiative to promote worker rights worldwide.

Funders participating in M-POWER are members of Funders Organized for Rights in the Global Economy (FORGE), a collaborative of philanthropic donors pooling expertise and resources to strengthen community and worker-led movements that catalyze change for people and the planet. These funding partners have collectively invested over $90 million in building the power of workers in 2022.

However, as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, labor and social protections continue to erode or remain nonexistent for billions of working people. Bold investments by governments through M-POWER are critical to address these challenges at scale.

“The strength of any democracy depends on listening to, uplifting, and investing in the voices of workers and labor rights defenders who are calling for improved wages and working conditions and equitable economic growth for all. Across the globe, workers are facing debilitating levels of economic insecurity and inequality. At Ford we have long believed that strengthening freedom of association and collective bargaining are key to eradicating gender-based violence and harassment and building more inclusive, just societies. We’re proud to join the M-POWER initiative, a critical new vehicle for global action on worker rights and empowerment, and to leverage unprecedented government investments to advance economic justice, social inclusion, and more vibrant and resilient democracies at scale,” said Sarita Gupta, vice president of U.S. Programs at the Ford Foundation.

“At Fundación Avina we are committed to advancing the rights of workers, especially those in the most vulnerable conditions, across sectors and supply chains. Transformations within our system require building partnerships rooted in trust, understanding, power sharing, and daring innovations. Voices from the Global South are vital to secure an inclusive, just, and resilient economy. M-POWER represents the possibility of achieving those systemic changes,” said Valeria Scorza, director of Strategic Partnerships at Fundación Avina.

“We believe that workers, particularly migrant workers and those most impacted by issues of labor exploitation, should always be centered in the search for solutions to the problems they face, and should lead the implementation of those solutions. Strengthening access to collective bargaining and freedom of association is a critical part of the work to ensure the most vulnerable workers always have a strong voice in the discussion and a seat at the table. M-POWER provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to center the expertise of workers, leverage the resources and networks of philanthropies, and draw upon the funding and reach of governments to scale innovative and inclusive solutions,” said Philippe Sion, managing director at Humanity United.

“The need for a strong labor movement rooted in racial, gender, and climate justice has never been more urgent. At the Open Society Foundations, we believe democracy must extend beyond the ballot box if we are to restore trust in democratic institutions. We’re proud to join M-POWER in efforts to lead with workers, their unions and communities to build more inclusive economic models that ensure living wages and collective bargaining, gender and racial equity, universal social protection, and social dialogue to support a just transition,” said Elizabeth Frantz, deputy director of Equity at the Open Society Foundations. 

The M-POWER initiative is a product of the Global Year of Action on Democracy, bringing together like-minded governments, philanthropic organizations, worker groups and labor stakeholders to:

  • strengthen free and independent trade unions;
  • support labor law reform and enforcement;
  • promote worker organizing and the innovative use of collective bargaining to improve livelihoods; and
  • extend labor law coverage to protect workers in vulnerable, low-wage employment and those sectors excluded from labor law protection, particularly in the informal economy.

M-POWER will fuse research, targeted country-level and regional technical assistance, and cooperation interventions and strategic communications. The initiative seeks additional donors, including philanthropic organizations, governments, and international organizations, and will convene a range of partners to coordinate efforts, review progress on commitments, and drive action. Trade union organizations and labor stakeholders—including the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Domestic Worker Federation, the AFL-CIO, and the Solidarity Center—will help guide and shape the initiative.

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