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Pulitzer Center Update December 2, 2022

A Global Reckoning Around Labor Conditions

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English

Students examine how the 2022 World Cup has highlighted Qatar's history of labor exploitation and make connections between the sporting event and global issues of workers' rights and climate migration...

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November 30, 2022
An emotional worker is shown in The Guardian documentary The Great Abandonment. Nearly 200 million migrant laborers were stranded without wages, food, and housing after India Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced one of the harshest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world in 2020. Image from The Great Abandonment. India.

Grantees Expose Labor Abuses in Qatar, India, the U.S. 

“I didn’t have any choice but to go abroad to work,” said Surendra Tamang, a migrant worker from Nepal. After laboring through extreme heat and brutal working conditions building Qatar’s World Cup stadiums for six years, now at 31, he will likely be on dialysis for the rest of his life.

With eyes on the World Cup since matches began on November 20, flagrant labor abuses of migrant workers are once again in the global spotlight. The Pulitzer Center has long reported on the rights of workers, efforts to organize labor unions and worker advocacy groups, modern slavery, and other forms of worker exploitation.

For TIME, grantees Aryn Baker, Ed Kashi, and Tom Laffay traveled the route that half a million Nepali migrants have taken over the past decade to Middle Eastern countries like Qatar. In the documentary Too Hot To Work workers share their harrowing experiences during the 10-year, $200 billion preparation for the FIFA World Cup. Many were not able to talk freely about their working conditions, including extreme heat and long hours, which led to the death of thousands of migrant workers in the decade leading up to the games. Students can learn more about worker rights at the World Cup in our lesson plan.

For The Guardian, filmmakers Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya tell the stories of migrant communities in India’s megacities as they face the deadly consequences of one of the world's harshest lockdowns. In a matter of four hours after the outbreak of the pandemic, Prime Minister Modi declared a national lockdown. This displaced nearly 200 million people and led to a mass exodus of migrant laborers from cities to villages. In COVID-19's wake, we are only beginning to understand the dangers of consolidated power among global leaders.

In the U.S., grantee Alice Driver is investigating labor conditions at America’s largest meatpacking company, Tyson Foods. The company notoriously relies on immigrants and refugees to do the difficult labor of processing chicken. Driver’s reporting for CivilEats and in Spanish for Gatopardo uncovered that when factory workers—many of them Latin American immigrants—are injured at work, the company prevents them from accessing timely and quality medical care, only worsening their conditions. 

The Pulitzer Center’s global reporting on labor is making a real impact. Last week, citing findings from grantees Sandy Tolan, Michael Montgomery, and Euclides Cordero Nuel’s two-year investigation into Central Romana Corp.’s labor abuses of Haitian workers and likening the conditions to forced labor, the U.S. announced a ban on all sugar imports from the Dominican producer—sugar that reaches American consumers through large, multinational brands like Domino and Hershey.

You can read more about our impact on labor rights, criminal justice, surveillance, and more.

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Impact

In a groundbreaking investigation, Pulitzer Center AI Accountability Fellow Ari Sen and UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program journalist Derêka Bennett unveiled a lesser-known function of an AI tool known as Social Sentinel, recently named Navigate360. At colleges and universities across the U.S. campus police use Social Sentinel to monitor student protests. Just days after the story was released, the University of North Carolina announced that it would end its relationship with Navigate360. North Carolina state Legislator Graig Meyer has launched an inquiry into the use of surveillance technology in colleges throughout the state. Seven universities in North Carolina were on the list of those in a contract with Navigate360.
 
Many universities and student newspapers have since investigated their affiliations with Navigate360. Among them are Duke University, UCLA, UC Davis, University of Texas at Dallas, Arizona State University, University of North Texas, East Carolina University, University of Connecticut, and Virginia Commonwealth University. The school contracts made public by Sen's investigation were also published by school newspapers.


This message first appeared in the December 2, 2022, edition of the Pulitzer Center's weekly newsletter. Subscribe today.

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