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Auret van Heerden To Discuss Workers’ Right March 4

Auret van Heerden, president and CEO of the Fair Labor Association, will speak Tuesday, March 4, at Yale Law School. His talk, sponsored by the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights, is titled “Can Voluntary Private Initiatives Save Labor Law Enforcement? Multinational Enterprises’ Role in Protecting Workers’ Rights.” It begins at 6:10 p.m. in Room 129 and is free and open to the public.

Yale Law School professor Jim Silk ’89, the executive director of the Schell Center, said, “As a founding board member of the Fair Labor Association, I believe it is an innovative approach to improving respect for workers’ rights around the world. I think of it as an increasingly successful experiment, and its increasing effectiveness has been due in large part to Auret’s experience, vision, determination, gift for working with people with divergent backgrounds and interests, and, in particular, ability to improve the organization’s approach in light of learning. Given students’ long interest in combating sweatshops, this will be an important talk at Yale.”

Auret van Heerden has more than thirty years’ experience in international human and labor rights. He began campaigning for worker rights as a young student in apartheid South Africa and co-authored a book in 1976 that called for trade union rights for black workers. He served two terms as president of the National Union of South African Students. After graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, he founded an institute that provided research and training services to trade unions and civil society groups. He was forced into exile in May 1987 after long periods of solitary confinement and torture.

He joined the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1988 and worked on their Program of Action against Apartheid in Geneva until 1994, when the new democratic South African government appointed him Labor Attaché in the South African Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva. He returned to the ILO in 1996 to coordinate the Special Action Program on Social and Labor Issues in Export Processing Zones.