UAW President Dennis Williams Delivers Remarks Ahead of Human Rights Award Presentation to Jailed South Korean Labor Leader


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(ST. LOUIS, Missouri) – Standing before U.S. and international labor leaders at the AFL-CIO national convention Tuesday, UAW President Dennis Williams delivered remarks before AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka presented the storied George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to the jailed Korean labor leader Han Sang-gyun (pronounced HAHN SAHNG-GUHN).

Since December 2015, Sang-gyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), has been incarcerated and KCTU General Secretary Lee Young-joo has been under house arrest.  The charges against both unionists relate to organizing a public protest against regressive labor law reforms put forth by the government of former South Korean President Park Gyun-hye.  For nearly two years, Han has been denied the right to sit down at the dinner table with his family.  He is permitted only five visits per month.  For Secretary Lee, her movements have been restricted to the KCTU headquarters.  Several other South Korean trade union leaders remain incarcerated as well.

“It is now more important than ever that the global labor movement shine a harsh light on these injustices and that we redouble our effort to fight the criminalization of simply exercising the right to bargain as a union,” said the UAW’s Williams whose union’s International Executive Board passed a resolution calling for Han’s release.

Williams read to the assembled leaders the words of Han from jail before the presentation of the award: “It is common sense that workers form unions, collectively bargain and use the sole weapon of the strike to win their rights against unfair treatment by companies. It’s a reality that if you form a union in South Korea or exercise your right to strike, not only can it lead to you being fined, imprisoned, or having your family torn apart, you may even put your life at risk.”

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