Labour and Human Rights
1) Workers’ Rights to Organize & Bargain – is a workers ability to organize, bargain,
go on strike, and protest, legally protected rights? Are they human rights?
Historically = No Protection – no protection for workers to unionize –
especially in the USA. Unions gave up on the idea. Why did they do this?
• Individual vs. Collective Rights Courts say that human rights are
individual rights – unions are about collective action. Collective
actions are collective rights, not individual rights.
• Free Markets Courts were reluctant to get into workplace questions
courts wanted to leave this to the free market, to work them out for
themselves. Commercial matters are about contracts and civil law.
• Court Attitudes – courts see strikes as important. When issues come
up, courts always take the business side of things.
• Wagner Act = Part of Commercial Laws – basic model that gets
adapted for labour relations in the USA and Canada. Where the law if
set up – what part of the law if the Wagner Act added to? They put it as
part of the commercial law because that is how those issues are
framed. Some wanted to make this a part of the bill of rights. The
Wagner Act is protecting workers who are part of a union.
Human Rights Activism to 1980s – they do not look at labour issues at first.
The rights of workers were not considered human right issues.
Unions Attitudes to 1980s – unions do not frame their own activity as human
rights. Unions always support human right campaigns. Unions do not see this
as their fight – they support the fight but do not see it as their fight. Unions
hate the legal system. They would only deal with the legal system through the
police. They consistently saw courts as siding with employers. Courts would
often come down hard on human activists.
Injunctions – court orders. Very often used against unions activity in
devastating ways. Usually makes unions stop doing something. Supposed to
be temporary, and a part of a larger trial. Courts would ignore the rules.
Usually used when unions are on strike.
Since 1980s: Labour Rights and Human Rights? – Employers would spy on workers,
intimidate workers, and bully workers. The government is getting rids of workers rights
to strike. Unions don’t get public sympathy.
Focus on Employer Violations
• Unfair Advantage – human rights watched report. They turn their
attention to employers in America; they find many violations in human
rights. Employers use their power to get an unfair advantage.
Employers using raw power to push people out. Came out in 2000.
Complaints to Int’l labour organization (I.L.O.) – international labour body.
Designed to be an international body that would deal with labour issues.
Would set and monitor certain