Center collaborates to pursue question of labor rights in Bangladesh

October 28, 2022

In mid-October the center sponsored a global convening of academics, practitioners, and activists to consider questions of labor justice in Bangladesh––the second largest exporter of ready-made garments. Hosted by the Congregation of Holy Cross and Notre Dame University Bangladesh, the gathering brought together not only participants from the United States and Bangladesh but also India, Ireland, and Austria to consider the efficacy of the Just Wage Framework and Online Tool

The Just Wage Tool is designed for use by multiple stakeholders––employees, supervisors, union members, policymakers, and more. It gives a means to assess actual workplaces, encourage conversation on what makes an ideal workplace, and consider different priorities. This gathering in Bangladesh was the first opportunity to share the tool with an international audience and gauge its applicability outside of an American context. 

Dan Graff, director of the center’s Higgins Labor Program, thought the framework which is rooted in Catholic social teaching’s commitments to the dignity of work and the common good resonated well with Bangladeshi practitioners and scholars pursuing economic opportunity and inclusion. In return, local trade unionists, farmers, legal advocates, academic researchers, and faith leaders discussed the ideas animating and challenges confronting those seeking labor justice in Dhaka and global supply chains more generally.

Graff noted  “This represented a wonderful opportunity to connect with those in Bangladesh and beyond researching and promoting labor rights and economic justice. Despite the obvious geographical and cultural distances separating us, it was heartening to explore our common humanity and see the mutual interest in applying a moral lens to our economic structures and processes. Though our meetings were brief, I believe we forged bonds of solidarity that will endure for years to come.” Next steps for collaborative research and advocacy are in development.

The convening was part of SPIRE: The Catholic Social Tradition Global Network which brings together scholars and practitioners to understand and address ways to apply the Church’s social teaching to concrete social problems that communities face around the world. Then it shares that teaching with practitioners who can implement it. This project is led by Bill Purcell , senior associate director at the center,  and Clemens Sedmak, director and professor of social ethics at the Nanovic Institute.

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