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New Group Monitors Human Rights Abuses
Workers In America Are Under Attack Says American Rights at Work

August 26, 2004

Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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WASHINGTON, DC—Each year 20,000 workers in America are illegally discriminated against or fired for attempting to exercise a basic right guaranteed by U.S. law—the right to form a union and bargain over the terms and conditions of their employment.  Fifty years ago, workers who suffered reprisals for exercising their freedom of association only numbered in the hundreds each year.

Founded in August 2003 to address this crisis, American Rights at Work is a new nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to educating the American public about the barriers that workers face when they attempt to exercise their democratic rights in the workplace. “Workers in America are under attack,” says David Bonior, the former Democratic Whip and Michigan Congressman who championed the cause of working families for 26 years on Capitol Hill and now chairs the organization’s Board of Directors. “When workers’ lives are ruined for wanting to negotiate for better safety conditions, time off to spend with their families and fair compensation for their work, something has gone terribly wrong. The system designed to protect workers is broken and must be fixed.”

American Rights at Work serves as a clearinghouse for information and new research on the state of workers’ rights in the U.S. The organization’s current resources include:

  • Workers’ Rights Clearinghouse.  A repository of personal stories of workers across the country whose rights have been violated as they attempt to form a union or negotiate a first contract. Information on local cases by specific industry is available by contacting the organization at the number above.
  • Research reports on workers in various industries. In late June, the group released No Bargain: Comcast and the Future of Workers’ Rights in Telecommunications. Its inaugural report, Some of Them Are Brave, examines the struggle of nursing home workers in South Florida to form a union. Reports on Wal-Mart and workers in the laundry industry are currently in development.
  • Workers’ Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB. This monthly web publication showcases the inadequacies of the current legal system to ensure employees have the freedom to exercise their legal rights to organize and bargain. The feature uses the National Labor Relations Board’s own decisions and data in its analysis.
  • Online advocacy & resources.  American Rights at Work’s website is a source for the latest news, action alerts, case studies, issue briefs, and other helpful resources on workers’ rights issues.

Additionally, the organization promotes legislative and legal reforms which strengthen the right to organize, and coordinates special events to raise public awareness about the status of workers’ rights. “Efforts to undermine union organizing often violate the human rights of workers. It’s a tragedy that people don’t know that this is happening here in America,” says Bonior. Next summer, he will lead an international delegation of human rights defenders on a tour across America to expose and document workers’ rights abuses. 

The group is governed by a diverse Board of civil rights advocates, environmental leaders, elected officials, religious leaders and celebrities including: NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Congresswoman Hilda Solis and actor Bradley Whitford of NBC’s The West Wing.