$2M Labor Dept. Grant to Improve Labor Laws in Georgia...The Republic, Not the State

By Curtis Houck | August 1, 2013 | 2:04 PM EDT

Tbilisi, capital of the Georgian Republic

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking at least one partner for a $2 million federal grant intended to improve compliance with labor laws in Georgia...as in The Democratic Republic of Georgia, located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, not the U.S. state.

The grant announcement, released Monday, states that the aim of the project is to "improve government labor laws and respect for international labor standards while enhancing the effectiveness of worker organizations in representing workers' rights and interests." Applications for participation in the project will be accepted through October 2.

Originating from the Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), the four-and-a-half year project was prompted by a series of moves by the Georgian government. In 2006, it abolished the office of chief labor inspector and "scaled back legal protection of worker's rights."

In 2010, the AFL-CIO, the largest labor union in America, submitted a petition to the U.S. Trade Representative hoping to reverse the changes. The union proposed that the Democratic Republic of Georgia lose its access to the United States' Generalized System of Preference, which provides "duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products from one of 127 designated" countries and/or territories, according to the agency's website.

The Generalized System of Preference "is designed to promote economic growth in the developing world." Examples of eligible products for duty-free status include jewelry, minerals, and "certain agricultural and fishery products."

The press release mentions that the union petition is still being investigated, but points out that the current governing coalition in Georgia, referred as Georgia Dream, has "passed reforms to the labor code to bring the law more in line with international standards."

"The project(s) announced today are designed to support these efforts and contribute to more effective dialogue among workers, employers, and government representatives in Georgia," it stated.

The ILAB "leads the Department of Labor's efforts to ensure that workers around the world are treated fairly and are able to share in the benefits of the global economy.

"ILAB's mission is to use all available international channels to improve working conditions, raise living standards, protect workers' ability to exercise their rights, and address the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations."