Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining Rights are Essential to Codes of Conduct

Photo Credit: Dinodia Photos RM_Alamy

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is a UN specialized agency that brings together representatives of governments, trade unions, and employers’ associations to promote social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights by setting and supervising the application of conventions and recommendations, as well as promoting decent work and providing technical support to governments, trade unions, and employers. The Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work are considered the minimum enabling rights people need to defend and improve their rights and conditions at work:  

The ILO has a Helpdesk for Business on International Labor Standards, a free and confidential service providing expert technical advice to users on international labor standards and the Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.

At a minimum, every company’s code of conduct and audit tools should include the internationally recognized standards on child labor, hazardous work for children, forced labor, human trafficking, freedom of association (FOA) and collective bargaining (CB), occupational safety and health (OSH), discrimination, and other decent work standards set forth in ILO conventions. Some codes of conduct go even further by accounting for national labor laws or protections specific to short- or fixed-term employment.

in Action

Fair Food Program (FFP)

The Fair Food Program (FFP) emerged from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) successful Campaign for Fair Food, a worker-led organizing campaign to affirm the human rights of tomato workers and improve the conditions under which they labor.

The FFP is a unique farmworker- and consumer-driven initiative consisting of a wage increase supported by a price premium paid by corporate purchasers of Florida tomatoes, and a human-rights-based Code of Conduct, applicable throughout the Florida tomato industry. The price premium and the Code of Conduct, which were developed by tomato workers, growers, and corporate buyers in a groundbreaking collaboration, form the foundation of a worker-driven social compliance mechanism. The grievance mechanism component of the FFP is regarded as having successfully eradicated sexual harassment and coercion in Florida’s agricultural fields, one of the world’s toughest labor rights environments.

In 2023, ILAB awarded the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) $2.5 million over 2 years to assess and expand the successful Fair Food Program model by implementing a pilot project to promote human and labor rights on cut flower farms in Chile, Mexico, and South Africa.

The project aims to:

  1. Increase labor and human rights protections and compliance with labor laws on flower farms, and
  2. Increase understanding of factors affecting the scalability and replicability of the FFP model in pilot countries.
A farmworker resting next to tomato plants and talking to a woman in a pink shirt
Photo Credit: Shane Donglasan. An auditor (right) from the Fair Food Standards Council, the third-party monitoring body tasked with ensuring the enforcement of the CIW’s Fair Food Program, is shown interviewing workers on a tomato farm in Florida. 


The project will support an initial feasibility study and assessment of an international expansion of the FFP model to promote labor rights and worker-driven social responsibility—a model that has been implemented in U.S. agriculture since 2011. The project will evaluate implementation of the FFP model in the three countries using a comparative assessment to determine which factors promoted or hindered the implementation.

For more information, visit: Coalition of Immokalee Workers' (CIW) Fair Food Program: Frequently Asked Questions and Project to Expand and Assess the Fair Food Program (FFP) Model for Promotion of Human Rights and Labor Rights Protections in International Agricultural Supply Chains

Woman with dark hair, black t-shirt and gray pants works in a garment factory
Photo Credit: Pexels

The International Accord Tackles Hazardous Work Risks in Bangladesh and Pakistan

The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry (International Accord), which took effect in September 2021, is a legally binding agreement between brands and the global trade unions IndustriALL and UNI Global Union. International Accord is governed by a steering committee of brand and union representatives. It evolved from the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, negotiated after the tragic Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen factory fire in 2013. This International Accord contains the key elements of the original Bangladesh Accord, including: independent, rigorous garment factory inspections based on building safety standards and conducted by qualified industrial engineers, the requirement that signatory global companies ensure their supplier factories remediate all safety hazards identified through Accord inspections, shared and equal governance by trade unions and brands, covered workers' access to a credible safety and health complaints mechanism with protection from reprisal and the right to refuse dangerous work, and a functioning labor-management safety and health committee at each Accord-covered factory. The International Accord aspires to be introduced to the textile and apparel sectors in countries beyond Bangladesh. Currently, 200 global apparel and retail companies have signed onto the International Accord, including many of the world's largest apparel companies. 

With the signing the Pakistan Textile and Apparel Health and Safety Accord in December of 2022, Pakistan became the second country with a legally binding agreement between global apparel companies and IndustriALL and UNI Global Union. The duration of the Pakistan Accord is for an initial term of three years starting in January 2023. The Pakistan Accord intends to apply the provisions of the International Accord to signatory global companies’ supplier factories in Pakistan. As of early May 2023, 54 brands have signed the Pakistan Accord. The implementation of the Pakistan Accord is in its early stages. For more information, visit:

Lesotho Agreement to End Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH)

In August 2019, labor unions and women’s rights advocates negotiated landmark agreements to combat gender-based violence and harassment with Levi Strauss, The Children’s Place, Kontoor Brands (known for Wrangler and Lee jeans), and apparel supplier Nien Hsing Textile. These enforceable agreements condition doing business with the supplier on the brands’ acceptance of a worker-led program to eliminate sexual harassment and abuse. The program features an independent complaint investigation body with the power to discipline abusive managers, supervisors, workers, and third parties.

These agreements arose from an investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium, which exposed severe and extensive sexual harassment and coercion at the supplier.

The unions and women’s rights organizations involved in negotiating these agreements included the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), United Textile Employees (UNITE), the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), the Federation of Women Lawyers in Lesotho (FIDA), and Women and Law in Southern African Research and Education Trust-Lesotho (WLSA). Each brand agreement operates in tandem with a separate agreement among Nien Hsing Textile and the trade unions and women’s rights organizations to establish an independent investigative organization to receive complaints of GBVH from workers, carry out investigations and assessments, identify violations of a jointly developed code of conduct, and direct and enforce remedies in accordance with Lesotho law. The program involves extensive worker-to-worker and management training, education, and related activities.

The Solidarity Center and the Worker Rights Consortium provide technical and administrative assistance and support for the program.

The program's model for employer accountability is partially modeled after the Fair Food Program and the International Accord.

For more information, please visit: https:/ and 

Women wearing white headband, brown shirt and tan vest using a sewing machine
Photo Credit: AnnaStills / Alamy Stock Photo 
Women working at white tables working with blue fabric to make garments
Photo Credit: Gautam Singh_Alamy

Dindigul Agreement Addresses Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Risks Related to WRO

On April 1, 2022, fashion brands, labor-rights NGOs, a manufacturer, and a union signed the Dindigul Agreement to address SGBV-related risks in supplier factories. The Dindigul Agreement incorporates the definition of violence and harassment from the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (ILO C190), which refers to a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices, including threats, that are intended to or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, including GBVH. GBVH is violence and harassment directed at persons because of their sex or gender, or affecting persons of a particular sex or gender disproportionately, and includes sexual harassment.


Stakeholders to the agreement include:

  • Union


    Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), a union of Dalit women workers

  • Supplier


    Eastman Exports Global Clothing Pvt. Ltd. (Eastman Exports)

  • Fashion companies

    Fashion companies

    H&M Group (H&M), Gap Inc., and PVH (including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger)

  • U.S. and regional allies

    U.S. and regional allies

    Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF)

The agreement honors the loss of a young garment worker, TTCU member and Eastman employee, Jeyasre Kathrivel, who was sexually assaulted and murdered by an Eastman supervisor, following months of gender-based harassment at work. The agreement includes an innovative program known as “Safe Circles,” with regular training for all workers, supervisors, and managers; a peer education program; and worker shop floor monitors to detect and report GBVH. As a part of the agreement, Eastman Exports amended its internal policies and procedures, including reconstituting its Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) with worker representation and establishing an independent grievance mechanism overseen by a roster of independent expert assessors  with business consequences.

The Dindigul Agreement played a crucial role in modifying the Withhold Release Order, or WRO against Natchi Apparel, a garment maker owned by Eastman Exports with a record of systemic physical and sexual violence in the workplace, an indicator of forced labor. CBP cited the Dindigul Agreement and related stakeholder collaboration in this case as critical to the modification of the WRO. 

For more information, visit: Landmark Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment at Eastman Exports Natchi Apparels with the Support of Global Allies