Headquarters. Pittsburgh, PA, United States
Charles Kernaghan, director
Charles Kernaghan is director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (the Institute). Kernaghan first became involved in the protection of worker rights while on an international religious peace march through Central America in the mid-80s, when scores of union leaders were being assassinated.
Kernaghan joined the Institute (then National Labor Committee) in 1988 and became its director in 1991. He is perhaps best known as "the man who made Kathie Lee cry" after exposing that 13-year-old children were working in a brutal Honduran sweatshop earning just pennies an hour sewing Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line for Wal-Mart. Kernaghan's work is widely recognized as having launched the anti-sweatshop movement in the U.S.
Kernaghan has testified frequently in the U.S. Congress, documenting gross worker rights violations in China, Bangladesh, Central America and Jordan, where the Institute exposed the descent of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement into the human trafficking of tens of thousands of young foreign guest workers, who were stripped of their passports and forced to work 15 hours a day, cheated on their wages, often beaten and half-starved.
Kernaghan has spoken at over 200 universities and has been featured in better than a dozen documentary films.
Barbara Briggs, assistant director
Barbara Briggs joined the Institute (then National Labor Committee) in 1989 after two years in Central America, where she worked as a researcher and translator with Salvadoran and Guatemalan unions. Briggs helped build the contacts with Central American unions and human rights organizations necessary for the Institute's early exposés on child labor, worker abuses and the use of U.S. tax dollars to encourage U.S. companies to move offshore. Briggs serves as liaison with the Institute's partners in Central America and Bangladesh.
Together with Charles Kernaghan, Briggs has co-led many research trips and delegations to Central America, Bangladesh, India and Jordan. She has also played a key role in organizing the Institute's U.S. tours of young factory workers. In dozens of cities across the U.S., the workers met with trade unionists, the religious community, university and high school students—often the workers' same age—to talk about what it is like working in factories producing for Disney, Wal-Mart, university logo and popular U.S.-name brands, the long hours, forced overtime, below-subsistence wages—and their struggle to learn and win their fundamental rights.
Bangladesh/Middle East Office. Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh
Rafiqul Alam has been the Institute's field director for Bangladesh and Middle East since 2001. Prior to his work with the Institute, Alam worked with various multi-sectoral children's, women's human and labor rights and development programs, including CARE International and the Institute for Integrated Rural Development. He has a Master's degree from Bangladesh's National University and a diploma in Development Management from the University of Antwerp. The Institute's work in Bangladesh focuses on research and supporting worker rights in the garment and shipbreaking industries. In the Middle East—principally Jordan—the Institute collaborates with guest workers, who sign contracts to work in the countries' export factories on the promise of high-paying jobs, often to find themselves the victims of human trafficking.
The Institute now has offices in Dhaka and Chittagong and a team, headed by Alam, of five researcher/organizers, most of whom honed their skills doing underground organizing and research in collaboration with the Institute while they were themselves guest workers in Jordan.
Central America Office. San Salvador, El Salvador
Sergio Chavez has worked as the Institute's Central America director since 1998, coordinating research and advocacy efforts in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Chavez was a founding organizer of the Salvadoran Telecommunications Workers Association (ASTTEL) from 1981 to 1985 during the Salvadoran civil war, when thousands of unionists, including 8 from ASTTEL, were assassinated or disappeared by the U.S-backed military. From 1985 to 1993 he lived in exile in Denmark where he served as the European representative of ASTTEL and other Salvadoran unions, building solidarity with trade unions of a dozen European countries. Chavez returned to El Salvador in 1993 and worked with a popular education organization, CIDEP, before joining the Institute.
Sonia Lara is the Institute's factory research coordinator in El Salvador. Lara had worked as a sewing operator in the Doall garment factory before she was fired in 1999 for organizing and for speaking with a delegation of U.S. students about abusive conditions in the plant. Later that year she travelled to the U.S. to speak about human and worker rights violations in "maquila" export factories in a series of university events to support the growing student movement to end sweatshops. On return Lara joined the the Institute's Central America team, where her on-the-ground research, interview and growing tech skills make her a valuable addition to the Institute's Central America team.