Labor Rights Now's Victories
The hard work of many rank-and-file American trade unionists has helped Labor Rights Now play a key role in winning
the releases of numerous imprisoned worker activists throughout the world.
Most recently, we learned that a top union leader in Burma who had been imprisoned since 1997, Khin Kyaw, has been freed. Labor Rights
Now had campaigned on his behalf for more than five years.
And Xiao Yunliang, a worker activist from Liaoyang in China, now is home with his family after four long years in prison for helping
to lead protests over unpaid wages and benefits in 2002.
Another good example of our work is Dita Sari. A young woman labor lawyer in Indonesia, she was jailed by the Suharto regime in 1996.
Her crime: fighting for a better life for Indonesian workers by leading a strike of more than 20,000 workers from 11 different factories.
Labor Rights Now launched a campaign to free Dita from prison where she was jailed in horrible conditions and was repeatedly beaten in
her cell. The effort to free her succeeded in 1998 after Suharto was forced to resign from power.
Upon her release after months of international solidarity pressure, Dita credited the Labor Rights Now campaign as crucial to gaining
her freedom. "Without the skillful effort of Labor Rights Now and Don Stillman in America, I fear I would still be in my cell today," she said on a
visit to the U.S. a year after her release.
In Nigeria, two leaders of the oil and gas unions there suffered torture and deprivation after the government of General Abacha
launched a harsh crackdown on unions in the mid-1990s.
Frank Kokori, general secretary of Nigeria's 60,000-member National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, and Milton Dabibi,
leader of the Petroleum Natural Gas union, both were arrested and imprisoned without charge.
Labor Rights Now ran a major campaign on their behalf that resulted in their releases.
"My family had told me that Labor Rights Now was campaigning for my freedom," Korkori said later. "Knowing that gave me the strength
to survive the torture and the beatings. I believed that some day I would be free."
In South Korea, the government had jailed Dan Byung-ho, the president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and scores of other
trade unionists. They had conducted massive strikes to protest restructuring programs imposed under criteria set down by the International
Labor Rights Now worked vigorously to demand Dan's freedom. A postcard campaign resulted in thousands of protests to South Korean
President Kim Dae-jung urging Dan's release.
After a year-long LRN campaign, Dan won his freedom, as did a number of other Korean unionists.
Labor Rights Now continues to work tirelessly on behalf of worker activists and unionists all over the world who tonight go to bed in
horrible conditions in prison cells. Those of us who are free must redouble our efforts on their behalf.