International Workers’ Day

Dan Viederman, Rebecca Wong
May 1, 2024

Happy International Workers’ Day! This is a good time to reflect on how our Fund’s efforts reach workers, and what emerges as a result. On May 1, we join the global community in celebrating International Workers’ Day and honoring the contribution of workers across the world.

The Working Capital Fund invests in solutions that improve wages, safety, and respect for workers in global supply chains. For the most part, these interventions are utilized in workplaces that are not unionized, and where workers face obstacles to organizing. We are always mindful that Freedom of Association is a fundamental right and must be respected by employers and supported by buyers. The tools we support play a role in the ecosystem of human rights and supply chains, providing a practical way for buyers and employers to enhance workers’ rights. 

Dan Viederman reflects on his time at Verite when they would train a hundred workers at a time in southern Chinese apparel factories, at not-insignificant cost to the apparel brands who sponsored them. Compare that to today, when Quizrr reaches around a thousand workers a day, in diverse and far-flung locations and in a range of job classifications, delivering high-quality, wide-ranging, and thoughtfully-produced information through an app. Some of those workers would otherwise be at risk of forced labor during labor migration. Kenzen deploys sensors that cost a few dollars and protect construction, agricultural, and industrial workers from serious harm and even death. Ulula’s technology enables workers to express grievances and access remedies cost-efficiently at scale in places where auditors can’t go. In environments as challenging as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ulula’s deployment has led to the remediation of child labor.

We celebrate that our Fund’s portfolio companies have reached over 1 million workers directly since initial investment, with information and opportunities that can help these workers take steps to improve their livelihoods and achieve greater respect at work. 

One worker surveyed by Ulula said, “I feel good that someone from outside our factory is also concerned about our welfare.” By providing a platform for workers to amplify their voices, grievances can be addressed responsibly and promptly.

But there is of course still work to be done. The challenges that workers face are as urgent as ever. Climate change is introducing new threats to old professions like farmwork and construction. Conflict and war are driving migrants into unsafe work, in the US and elsewhere. There is more child labor now, in the US and internationally than in past years. Forced labor has increased as well, with 27 million people experiencing forced labor on any given day. The scale that these technological tools have collectively reached so far is necessary but far from sufficient. 

While the issues of labor and human rights are complex and vast, there are also scaled solutions working to reduce the impacts of these issues every day. Today on International Workers’ Day we stand with our colleagues in the labor rights movement, excited about the role that impact-focused capital can play to bring solutions to scale.


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