EILER’s 40th anniversary needs both context and history. A chronology of reminiscences of both achievements and mishaps would not suffice because, no matter how insignificant it might seem to the uninformed and unengaged regarding labor-related issues, EILER is, as a matter of fact, a part of a bigger reality that affects people’s lives and well-being, not only in this country, but all over the world. Specifically, the world of the working class – men, women and children who work – with its particular attention to child labor.
Modern Philippine labor history is attached at the navel with the American labor history. Thus, I am quoting from Noam Chomsky, an international authority in linguistics and a renowned analyst of American politics:
“It is very significant to bear in mind that the United States has an unusually violent and brutal labor history and a long history of repression of labor. It’s gotten much worse since the neo-liberals all began. Reagan and Thatcher, both of them, or whoever was behind them, recognized, right away, that if we’re going to hand everything over to the rich and the private sector, we’ve got to remove people’s ability to defend themselves, and the ability to defend themselves is primarily in the hands of labor unions. So the first moves they made were to impact and severely undermine the labor movement. That’s a brutal part of a long history.”
Need we be surprised that in The Philippines when the proponents of neo-liberalism came into power, a systematic decimation of the labor force was undertaken by the Machiavellian triad of government, military, and capitalist, forcing the labor sector to go into a permanent survival mode preventing members of the working-class from engaging in more creative and humanly-fulfilling pursuits. While many have been reduced to beggary, thousands more have been forced to work in sweatshops under sub-human conditions.
Through fact-finding missions EILER has contributed significantly to raising the public awareness of the sorry plight of child labor in the Philippines and by its meticulous research has exposed the repulsive ugliness of the phenomenon of child labor in the country.
I salute its Director, the staff and researchers of EILER for their unswerving devotion to the cause of what might seem quixotic to the eyes of the wealthy and comfortable – the restoration of the right to a wholesome childhood to every Filipino child.
From its early beginnings as a church labor center in 1970s, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research was formally established in 1981 as an ecumenical service institution for workers. Even in the darkest years of the Marcos dictatorship through the 1986 popular uprising, EILER has brought together labor groups, church people, professionals and the youth to serve the Filipino workers. EILER has led workers’ mass education with its banner course, Genuine Trade Unionism (GTU). It tirelessly worked towards expanding the GTU network to include new unions, and building the capability of workers’ organizations through training of instructors, leaders and education officers.
 Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with economic liberalism and free-market capitalism; a political approach that favors free-market capitalism, deregulation, and reduction in government spending.