The constitution provides for the right to form and join professional associations and unions, but the government has not yet passed a new labor law, meaning the 1987 law remains in place. It prohibits unionization in the public sector, and does not conform to International Labour Organization (ILO) guidelines. There are no guaranteed social benefits and few protections for unions. In the absence of a new labor law, it is unclear whether individual unions will ultimately be recognized or compelled to join a centralized labor federation.

While workers have generally been able to organize since 2003 and strikes have not been uncommon, unions face periodic obstacles. In 2005, the Iraqi Transitional Government promulgated Decree 8750, which gave authorities the power to seize all union funds and prevent their disbursal.

In March 2009, the Iraqi government attempted to take control of the Iraqi Teachers' Union (ITU) by demanding new leadership elections and asking union leaders to turn over their membership lists and the keys to their offices. An Iraqi court ruled in the ITU's favor in May.

Union leaders tried to stage a demonstration in 2009 on behalf of food workers in Baghdad, but the government denied them permission to demonstrate. Management threatened to fire employees participating in union activities.

Like other civil society actors, labor organizers have been targets of the violence and intimidation that has plagued Iraq since 2003. In November 2009, Majid Karim, a member of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers' executive committee, was killed in a car bombing.

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