Traditionally, the cotton harvest has relied heavily on children, but there have been some signs that Tashkent is caving under international pressure, including a boycott by top clothing brands, among them Swedish retailer H&M. In 2008, Uzbekistan finally adopted the ILO’s conventions on the minimum age of work and barring children from dan
gerous work. However, the scope of the conventions’ enforcement remains up for debate. In 2013 the government finally allowed ILO monitors into the country to observe the cotton harvest, where they documented 41 cases of minors working in the fields. The government now claims that no children under the age of 15 are being used in the harvest.
Workers benefited nominally from the reforms that did pass, but without real change, they turned to unionization or spontaneous strikes in order to obtain better wages and working conditions. But the unions of the American Federation of Labor persisted in excluding unskilled workers from their ranks. The government persecuted radical associations like the International Workers of the World. Between the elite unions of skilled workers and the splintering radical organizations, many industrial and agricultural employees struggled to find representation until the Great Depression . In the early 1880s, more than half of all strikes didn't involve a formal trade union organization. The proportion of work stoppages rose over the next 20 years, but by 1900, one-third of all strikes were still waged without union intervention. In the absence of effective legislation or union support, workers set out on their own to assert their collective power over the production process.
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