Workers First: The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition’s Covid Response in the Philippines

September 2022

Benjamin Velasco


The paper examined the demands, activities, tactics and alliances forged by the Nagkaisa (United) labor coalition as the authoritarian covid response of Duterte in the Philippines led to an unprecedented economic crisis. Nagkaisa is the most successful experiment in uniting organized labor in the last decade. It pushed for a response that prioritizes workers’ rights and a narrative that economic recovery is dependent on protection for labor. Nagkaisa’s advocacy met marginal success in terms of overturning government policies but its real test is in organizing the revival of workers activism. Nagkaisa’s experience shows the importance of forging working-class unity in order to fight for labor’s demands amidst exceedingly difficult circumstances. It also reveals the imperative for international solidarity in the fight against the global turn to authoritarianism.

This paper is part of our series “Lessons learned from Covid-19: Transforming a Global crisis to global Solidarity.” Download a PDF for the full series here.

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