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Coalition Led by AFL-CIO Demands FIFA Commit to Human and Labor Rights Standards Ahead of 2026 World Cup

Leading labor and human rights groups launch campaign with letter outlining demands for soccer federation as it selects U.S. cities to host 2026 games.
WASHINGTON -

Today, the AFL-CIO launched a new campaign in partnership with other leading labor and human rights organizations to push FIFA to prioritize labor and human rights during the city selection process for the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by cities across the United States, Canada and Mexico. The coalition of groups released an open letter to FIFA on Monday demanding the governing body commit to a series of minimum labor and human rights standards and agree to negotiate with national human rights stakeholders prior to December 31, which is the deadline FIFA has set for prospective host cities to finalize and publicize their human rights plans.

Given the lack of substantive progress on these issues in meetings with FIFA officials, the coalition has taken this public step to make its demands known and intends to continue to hold FIFA accountable for its failure to prioritize labor and human rights in the lead up to the 2026 World Cup.

“Despite FIFA’s dismal track record on human and workers' rights, we have approached them and their bidding cities in good faith, calling on them to ensure worker health and safety protections, provide fair wages and give workers a voice,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “However, FIFA has made no clear commitments on how it will meet its obligation to protect workers and communities in the planning and execution of the 2026 World Cup.”

While the 2026 World Cup is almost five years away, host city human rights commitments are being framed and finalized now. FIFA has required that the bid committees for each of the 17 prospective host cities submit a human rights plan, and while some have taken steps to engage labor and human rights stakeholders and integrate feedback, many others have neglected or outright refused to do so. This inconsistency and inadequate consideration of stakeholders is the result of FIFA’s failure to set clear standards and expectations around labor and human rights. Moreover, although the human rights plans will presumably be a factor in FIFA's host city selection process, the governing body has refused to disclose how much they really matter.

The selection process has been opaque from the outside, with limited input and consultation from key stakeholders. As the AFL-CIO states in their letter, given where things stand, “[...] FIFA essentially stands to profit from low wages, unsafe working conditions, racial discrimination in hiring and promotion, gentrification, and other forms of skewed development.”

“Soccer fans across the United States, Canada and Mexico are excited for the World Cup to come to North America in 2026, but in order for the tournament to be a success FIFA needs to demonstrate a greater commitment to human and workers' rights than is currently," said Independent Supporters Council President Bailey Brown. “As fans of the beautiful game, we recognize the checkered history of neglect, mistreatment and exploitation of the workers and local communities who help make the World Cup possible. That's why we are calling on FIFA to do the right thing and take immediate steps to ensure all stakeholders in the 2026 World Cup are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve."

Demands of FIFA have been consistent over the course of AFL-CIO’s correspondence. The letter calls for FIFA to commit “to be bound by a detailed set of minimum standards,” including:

  • Fair living wages
  • Strong workplace health and safety protections
  • Targeted local hiring
  • Limitations on temporary work
  • Strong investigation and enforcement mechanisms
  • Responsible contractor bid requirements
  • Ongoing meaningful stakeholder engagement
  • Requirements to reduce labor conflict
  • Agreements to give workers a voice

Signers of the open letter represent a diverse coalition, including national and international labor and human rights groups, North American soccer fan associations, legal experts and immigrant and urban policy advocates. Please find the full list of signers below:

  • Cathy Feingold, Director of International Affairs, AFL-CIO
  • Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
  • Rachel Micah-Jones, Executive Director, Centro de los derechos del migrante
  • Erica Smiley, Executive Director, National Jobs with Justice
  • Lauren Jacobs, Executive Director, PowerSwitch Action
  • Robert Stumberg (Professor of Law) and Jennifer Li (Staff Attorney), Harrison Institute for Public Law, Georgetown Law School
  • Bailey Brown (President) and Andrew Picard (Vice President), Independent Supporters Council
  • Jennifer Rosenbaum, Executive Director, Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum

Concerns about FIFA’s approach to labor and human rights issues a the 2026 World Cup are in part based on the track record of human and labor rights abuses alleged at past World Cup events, including but not limited to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Given this history, it is incumbent upon FIFA to establish new standards that demonstrate its intention to correct course and put greater emphasis on human and labor rights at the 2026 World Cup. 

“FIFA has been forced to engage with the global labor movement and major human rights groups in the wake of public outrage related to its operations around the world,” said Tim Noonan, Director of Campaigns and Communication at the International Trade Union Confederation. “We required FIFA to confront and remedy child labor in the production of its soccer balls in India and Pakistan, and mass displacement of populations in the construction of World Cup facilities in Brazil. Most recently, FIFA had to negotiate and commit to protections for migrant workers facing dangerous and abusive conditions while constructing the stadiums for Qatar 2022.”

For members of the new AFL-CIO led coalition, it is imperative that the 2026 World Cup not come at the expense of labor and human rights, and that local communities actually benefit from the tournament. Tuesday’s open letter marks the first step in a campaign committed to ensuring the 2026 World Cup is the most human rights and worker-friendly tournament FIFA has ever organized. 

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The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) works tirelessly to improve the lives of working people. We are the democratic, voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working men and women.

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