UNIVERSAL WORKER'S RIGHTS
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Labor rights or workers' rights are both legal rights AND human rights. They relate to labor relations between workers and employers/owners. These rights are codified in national and international labor and employment law. They are also to be found in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Workers’ rights are a relatively new addition to the understanding of human rights. They arose from the 19th-century industrialization in Europe, that created industrial workers who recognized they were a group or class different from their owners and in need of certain protections on the job. They fought for and won labor unionization and the concept of worker’s rights.
The philosopher, economist, and revolutionary Karl Marx stands out as one of the earliest, most prominent and ardent advocates for workers’ rights. He envisioned a society run by the workers. His philosophy has informed, to a lesser or greater extent, most of the struggles by workers for their rights. In the US, workers’ rights are rooted in our Constitution and Bill of Rights: from the First Amendment’s freedoms of speech and association to the Fifth Amendment’s protection against unlawful takings to the Thirteenth Amendment’s freedom from servitude.
One of the major battles that US workers continue to have to wage is against the prevailing idea that owners’ interests and wellbeing were and are the interest of everyone. Therefore government support of their interest benefits everyone. In contrast to that idea, we see how the interests of big business, mega-industry, and corporations are not the same as those of their workers and the people at large.
Take for instance the fact that the tobacco, auto, petroleum, construction, garment, and agricultural industries have had to be taken to court for poisoning our air, water, the ground, and our bodies. The 8-hour workday, no child labor, paid sick leave, vacations, the right to organize, job safety including the formation of OSHA, are all achievements we take for granted today. These all saw tremendous opposition from the owners, including, sometimes violent opposition with the loss of many workers’ lives.
We must continue to fight against racial, sexual, and gender divisions, used to pit groups against one another while indoctrinating white workers with the poison of white superiority. Additionally, they have imported Mexican and Central American workers for agricultural work, who had to fight vicious opposition but finally won The United Farm Workers of America union in the 1960s. Additionally, they have brought in imported Phillipinos, Mexican and Central American workers for agricultural work, who had to fight vicious opposition but finally won the right to organize The United Farm Workers of America union in the 1960s.
US workers have struggled hard for every ‘right’ they gained. In the 1950s union membership was over 30% of the workforce. In 2019 that percentage decreased to 10.3%. That loss has resulted in significant income inequality, wage stagnation, loss of standard of living, and continued wage discrimination against women, Black and Brown workers LBGTQI, and immigrants.
Tens of millions of Americans are working for sub-poverty-level wages and/or are in the growing gig economy with a lack of basic health, retirement, and family leave benefits. Many, if not most, of today’s millennials and Genxers will have a lower standard of living than their parents and even their grandparents.
We, Sojourners for Truth and Justice, call for ALL workers, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, region, or religion, to have work that offers a living wage that allows them to live in dignity, supplemented if necessary by other means of social protection.
All workers are to receive equal pay for equal work.
All workers, including gig workers, are to be paid family, vacation and sick leave, to be covered by unemployment insurance, and be guaranteed safe, just and favorable working conditions, not only physical but also safe from verbal and sexual harassment or abuse.
Employers must take proactive steps under government guidelines to protect the workers and the workplace in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.
Every worker has the right to form or join a union and to be free from retribution for whistle-blowing and credible reports of dishonest conduct illegal practices, violation of laws, or of any policy governing business operations.
Migrant workers are to be paid a living wage with benefits, guaranteed proper living conditions for themselves and their families, protected working conditions with accessible sanitation and rest facilities, and appropriate education for their children.