ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two union federations that have been leaders in the "Arab Spring," in Tunisia and Bahrain, received the AFL-CIO's top human rights award.
They received the award during the federation's executive council meeting in Orlando, Fla. "Worker issues such as high unemployment, lack of opportunity, declining living standards, and arrogant abuse of economic and political power by the corrupt few" spurred the pro-democracy revolts which started in Tunisia and have swept through the Middle East and North Africa," the citation said.
The AFL-CIO praised the Tunisian union federation for "being in the forefront" of the demand for change that led to the ouster of 23-year dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. It said the Bahrain federation is still demanding democracy in the Persian Gulf sheikdom "in spite of an ongoing campaign of repression" against unionists, teachers, and others.
"The courage of these two federations represents the broader movement for justice in the region," said the labor federation, which named its award for former AFL-CIO Presidents George Meany and Lane Kirkland. It also cited Egyptian workers and independent unions for "unprecedented strikes and job actions, which gave strength and power to the protests in Tahrir Square that successfully brought down the dictator, Hosni Mubarak." Left unsaid is the interim military government that succeeded Mubarak, which has cracked down several times on Egyptian workers and unions.
The statement concluded by praising other pro-democracy efforts by unions in Algeria and Morocco, and pledging the fed's continued support for all the causes.
Photo: Hundreds march to Cairo's central Tahrir Square on International Women's Day. File/AP