Charles Kernaghan is the director of the National Labor Committee (NLC), an independent, non-profit human rights organization focused on the protection of worker rights—especially those of the young women in Central America, the Caribbean, China and other developing countries, who assemble garments, shoes, toys, and other products for export to the U.S. Kernaghan became involved in the struggle to defend international labor rights after participating in a peace march through Central America in December 1985. He became the director of the NLC in 1990. Pre-1985, Kernaghan taught at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and at SUNY’s Harry Van Arsdale Labor College in New York City. He has worked as a photographer, furniture mover, carpenter and shop steward (Carpenters Union Local 608), and as a cab driver.
Under Kernaghan’s directorship, the National Labor Committee has played the leading role in bringing the issue of sweatshop abuses and child labor before the American people, and placing it squarely on the national agenda. Kernaghan has led numerous fact-finding missions to Central America and the Caribbean—most recently bringing a delegation of U.S. university students to investigate working conditions in the free trade zones. He and the NLC have hosted U.S. tours of workers from Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti and China, made several videos, written numerous research reports, and run a number of highly successful international solidarity/corporate campaigns, which have gained enormous media attention and helped the NLC to develop one of the best social justice networks in the country. The NLC now works with over 10,000 religious, labor, student, women’s, human rights, solidarity, and community groups across the country.