"When I arrived in Thailand, I was an illegal migrant worker. But even though I work in a factory, I read the news every day. I read about the minimum wage. I read about eight hour working hours and how much workers should get paid for overtime."
Aung Kyaw is one of the founders and longtime lead organizers of the Migrant Worker Rights Network, a membership-based organization for migrant workers from Myanmar residing and working mainly in Thailand. Having fled Myanmar in 1988 after the military coup, Aung Kyaw worked in shrimp peeling sheds, studied the Thai labor law, and soon began organizing fellow migrant workers to demand better treatment.
Founded in 2009, MWRN has pioneered a power-building approach to combatting human trafficking and forced labor, working closely with the Thai trade union movement to advocate for better legal protections for worker organizing and collective bargaining rights in Thailand. Thai labor law does not allow migrant workers to form and lead their own trade unions, but MWRN has persisted by engaging seafood processing companies to gain access to migrant workers, establish welfare committees, and negotiate agreements.
Follow MWRN on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mwrnorg/
About The Labor Link Podcast
The Labor Link Podcast supports workers' rights in global supply chains by sharing personal stories and perspectives of the men and women organizing the workers who make our stuff. The Labor Link Podcast is hosted by Judy Gearhart of American University’s Accountability Research Center and produced by Empathy Media Lab of the Labor Radio Podcast Network. Contact Judy Gearhart for media inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Host of The Labor Link Podcast
Judy Gearhart is a senior researcher at the Accountability Research Center and an adjunct professor at Columbia University. Previously she served as the executive director at the International Labor Rights Forum and programs director at Social Accountability International. She also worked in Mexico and Honduras on trade, labor rights, and democratic participation.
About the Accountability Research Center
The Accountability Research Center (ARC) is based in American University’s School of International Service. ARC bridges research and frontline perspectives to learn from ideas, institutions, and actors that advance strategies to improve public accountability.
Through extensive dialogue with partners and collaborators, ARC co-designs exploratory research that is relevant for their strategies and can contribute to international thinking about how change happens.