This article uses framing theory to examine how activists and trade unions have framed labour’s political agenda in Malaysia. A polity grounded in ethnicity continues to hinder the formation of cross-ethnic collective worker identities and labour politics. However, inclusive popular democratising movements have strengthened in recent years, providing a favourable context for greater emphasis on non-ethnic political action by trade unions. The latter have shifted in this direction, adopting elements of the popular movement’s ‘human rights’ internationalism. Thus, the democratic movement’s frame has influenced that of the trade unions, with implications for framing theory.