Dems push for worker safety ahead of 2022 World Cup

Though eight years away, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is already on the radar of House Democrats, who are pushing to ensure the safety of the migrant workers who will ready the event.

Rep. George Miller (Calif.), senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, introduced a resolution Thursday designed to protect the foreign laborers who will build the stadiums and other infrastructure leading up to the global spectacle.

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Citing "unacceptable" conditions facing Qatar's current workforce, Miller warned that thousands of laborers could die preparing for the World Cup without the additional safeguards.

"After America's exciting showing in the 2014 World Cup and as soccer fans around the world look forward to future World Cups, we must ensure that the workers who make these events possible have safe working conditions," Miller said in a statement. "The current conditions Qatar's migrant workforce face are simply unacceptable." 

A recent report from Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy group, adds legitimacy to the Democrats' concerns. 

The researchers reported widespread abuses, including punishing hours, unpaid wages, unsanitary work camps and dangerous working conditions. Qatar bars migrant workers from forming unions or going on strike, the group noted, while maintaining "one of the most restrictive sponsorship laws in the Gulf region," prohibiting workers from changing jobs or leaving the country without the permission of their employer.  

Miller's resolution calls on the Qatari government, the U.S. government, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the American corporate sponsors to take steps to ensure that workers rights are prioritized as Qatar implements its plan for tens of billions of dollars in new infrastructure ahead of the event. 

Specifically, the Democrats want the Qatari government to toughen its worker protection laws; they want the United States government to put workers rights above all other considerations in dealing with Qatar surrounding the Cup; and they want the U.S. businesses sponsoring the event to adopt international human rights standards and insist that their contractors do the same. 

The resolution is nonbinding, but the Democrats hope it will help to shine a spotlight on an often-overlooked element of the glitzy and highly profitable quadrennial exhibition.

"The Qatari government, FIFA, the United Nations, and the International Labour Organization have all recognized that conditions need to improve but have taken no meaningful action," Miller said. "We've introduced this resolution in hopes of ending the abuse of migrant labor in Qatar."

Miller's resolution has been endorsed by 17 other Democrats, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), James McGovern (Mass.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.). 

Miller and Van Hollen are co-chairmen of the Congressional Soccer Caucus.

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