The human right to organize

Today is the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most important documents of the 20th century. Written after the genocide and horrors of World War II, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that everyone on earth is equal and has the right to live with dignity.

But there’s at least one part of the Declaration that seems to get overlooked in this country: human rights extend to the workplace.

Millions of employees in the United States, including taxi drivers, restaurant workers, day laborers, domestic workers, and guestworkers, are excluded from the one of most basic human rights—the right to organize.

Farm workers and domestic workers are named as exceptions to the right to organize, while restaurant workers are considered to be “tipped employees” and are excluded from minimum wage laws. But as we discussed a few weeks ago, restaurant tips can hardly support a family. For their part, guestworkers have almost zero rights. Often lured here by false promises of a living wage and the chance to become legal citizens, unscrupulous corporations treat them as little more than legal slaves.

But these workers are not letting the 62nd Human Rights Day go by without shedding some light on the challenges they face. In June 2010, they came together to form the Excluded Workers Congress, which fights on the grassroots level to win equal rights for all workers in the United States.

The workers described their reasons for joining forces best:

These workers are subjected to humiliating conditions, severe labor exploitation and coercion that, in the worst cases, have manifested in literal modern-day slavery. The Excluded Workers Congress was formed to develop a common agenda for federal labor-law reform in order to end the exclusion of these workers from their human rights to organize and exercise their collective power.

Today, the group released its first major report about the lack of rights for specific careers in the United States. It explores why these specific jobs tend to be left out of labor law legislation (race and economic status play a big part), and tells the stories of specific workers to humanize their message.

The report isn’t just a compendium of workers’ rights problems in America. It also highlights recent successes, and offers hope in the form plausible solutions to give all working people in the country the dignity and respect they deserve. Check it out.

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 10th, 2010 at 5:18 pm and is filed under Jobs, Labor Law Reform. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “The human right to organize”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmericanRightsAtWork and Mikael Johansson, Briana Kerensky. Briana Kerensky said: New blog post! It's #HumanRights Day, and we need to remember that human rights extend to the workplace [...]

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