September 27, 2023


FIFA’s choice of Houston to host games follows local officials’ meaningful commitments to labor and community groups

Houston – Today, Gulf Coast worker rights organizations celebrated the selection of Houston to host games for the upcoming 2026 World Cup. With the games set to take place in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the local leaders allied with Dignity 2026 – Workers & Communities United for Rights at the World Cup commended the Houston 2026 World Cup Committee on their stakeholder engagement, strong commitments to protect workers and human rights, and plans to work with worker organizations to implement those commitments to work with worker organizations to implement those commitments for 2026.

All 17 cities bidding for 10 slots in the United States were asked by FIFA to submit public human rights plans detailing how each city would minimize negative impacts and maximize opportunities from the games in 2026, including by protecting workers and human rights. After nine months of discussions with the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council, Workers Defense Project, SEIU Texas, Fe y Justicia, and other organizations, Houston submitted a detailed human rights plan to FIFA outlining their intention for fair wages, targeted local hiring, strong health and safety protections and more.

“We’re proud to host one of the world’s greatest sporting events, and we’re even more excited to see what the World Cup will do for our community with strong labor and human rights standards in place,” said Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. “We in Houston followed FIFA’s direction and made human rights a real priority, and we are thrilled that our strong human rights plan played a significant role in bringing the World Cup to Houston. We look forward to working closely with Houston’s host committee to implement its workers rights commitments to ensure that these games are an economic boon for Houston residents.”

“The Houston bid committee’s process provided meaningful opportunities for labor organizations to identify and prioritize risks for how workers’ rights could be violated during the World Cup and propose mechanisms not just to mitigate these risks but to go beyond and proactively raise workplace standards for future mega-events in Houston,” said Emily Timm, Co-Executive Director of the Workers Defense Action Fund. “We know from our labor partners in other US bid cities that the depth and quality of the Houston bid committee’s engagement on human rights greatly surpassed what our peers saw in those other cities. Our hope is that we serve as a model for other cities who won their bids, especially cities which have not yet prioritized labor protections and benefits for workers and local communities.”

“The great news that Houston will host games in the upcoming World Cup competition is made only better by a strong plan asking FIFA to ensure labor and human rights standards are met during the tournament,” said Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy. “Houston has done this right. We are proud that unions and community allies have played a key role in seeking to make the economic bounty of the World Cup accessible to all communities.”

Houston worker rights groups are local allies of the international coalition Dignity 2026. The coalition of groups has been in contact with FIFA for months regarding the expectation for minimum standards. In December, the groups released an open letter to FIFA demanding the governing body commit to a series of minimum labor and human rights standards and agree to negotiate with national human rights stakeholders. After a breakthrough in stalled talks as reported in The Guardian, Dignity 2026 sat down with FIFA beginning in April. Though talks were promising, FIFA has not set minimum standards, leaving Houston responsible for making up the gaps.

“FIFA has key responsibilities to uphold human rights and lift labor standards, as one of the richest and most powerful non-governmental organizations on the planet,” said Cathy Feingold, Director of the International Department at the AFL-CIO. “We’re glad that FIFA is now in regular talks with our coalition. But FIFA is still far from acknowledging the full extent of its obligation to consult and partner with our national movements, and has not yet committed to respect and support the local communities and workers who will make these games possible. FIFA should require ALL host cities to meet a common set of standards to protect workers and communities in 2026.”

Demands of FIFA have been consistent over the course of the coalition’s correspondence. Groups have repeatedly called 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

  • Responsible contractor bid requirements

  • Agreements which give workers a voice & reduce labor conflict

  • Strong investigation and enforcement mechanisms, among other things.

Concerns about FIFA’s approach to labor and human rights issues at 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.

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