Labor rights

Labor rights

Overview
Labor rights or workers' rights are a group of legal rights and claimed human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 having to do with labor relations
Labor relations
Industrial relations is a multidisciplinary field that studies the employment relationship. Industrial relations is increasingly being called employment relations because of the importance of non-industrial employment relationships. Many outsiders also equate industrial relations to labour relations...

 between workers and their employers, usually obtained under labor and employment law. In general, these rights' debates have to do with negotiating workers' pay, benefits, and safe working conditions
Occupational safety and health
Occupational safety and health is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goal of all occupational safety and health programs is to foster a safe work environment...

. One of the most central of these "rights" is the right to unionize
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

. Unions take advantage of collective bargaining
Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and the representatives of a unit of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions...

 and industrial action
Industrial action
Industrial action or job action refers collectively to any measure taken by trade unions or other organised labour meant to reduce productivity in a workplace. Quite often it is used and interpreted as a euphemism for strike, but the scope is much wider...

 to increase their members' wages and otherwise change their working situation.
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Encyclopedia
Labor rights or workers' rights are a group of legal rights and claimed human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 having to do with labor relations
Labor relations
Industrial relations is a multidisciplinary field that studies the employment relationship. Industrial relations is increasingly being called employment relations because of the importance of non-industrial employment relationships. Many outsiders also equate industrial relations to labour relations...

 between workers and their employers, usually obtained under labor and employment law. In general, these rights' debates have to do with negotiating workers' pay, benefits, and safe working conditions
Occupational safety and health
Occupational safety and health is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goal of all occupational safety and health programs is to foster a safe work environment...

. One of the most central of these "rights" is the right to unionize
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

. Unions take advantage of collective bargaining
Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and the representatives of a unit of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions...

 and industrial action
Industrial action
Industrial action or job action refers collectively to any measure taken by trade unions or other organised labour meant to reduce productivity in a workplace. Quite often it is used and interpreted as a euphemism for strike, but the scope is much wider...

 to increase their members' wages and otherwise change their working situation. The labor movement initially focused on this "right to unionize", but attention has shifted elsewhere.

Critics of the labor rights movement claim that regulation promoted by labor rights activists may limit opportunities for work. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, critics objected to unions establishing closed shop
Closed shop
A closed shop is a form of union security agreement under which the employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed....

s, situations where employers could only hire union members. The Taft-Hartley Act
Taft-Hartley Act
The Labor–Management Relations Act is a United States federal law that monitors the activities and power of labor unions. The act, still effective, was sponsored by Senator Robert Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr. and became law by overriding U.S. President Harry S...

 banned the closed shop but allowed the less restrictive union shop
Union shop
A union shop is a form of a union security clause under which the employer agrees to hire either labor union members or nonmembers but all non-union employees must become union members within a specified period of time or lose their jobs...

. Taft-Hartley also allowed states to pass right-to-work law
Right-to-work law
Right-to-work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states, mostly in the southern or western U.S., allowed under provisions of the federal Taft–Hartley Act, which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of...

s, which require an open shop
Open shop
An open shop is a place of employment at which one is not required to join or financially support a union as a condition of hiring or continued employment...

 where a worker's employment is not affected by his union membership. Labor counters that the open shop leads to a free rider problem
Free rider problem
In economics, collective bargaining, psychology, and political science, a free rider is someone who consumes a resource without paying for it, or pays less than the full cost. The free rider problem is the question of how to limit free riding...

.

Background


Throughout history, workers claiming some sort of right have attempted to pursue their interests. During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the Peasants' Revolt
Peasants' Revolt
The Peasants' Revolt, Wat Tyler's Rebellion, or the Great Rising of 1381 was one of a number of popular revolts in late medieval Europe and is a major event in the history of England. Tyler's Rebellion was not only the most extreme and widespread insurrection in English history but also the...

 in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 expressed demand for better wages and working conditions. One of the leaders of the revolt, John Ball
John Ball (priest)
John Ball was an English Lollard priest who took a prominent part in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. In that year, Ball gave a sermon in which he asked the rhetorical question, "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?".-Biography:Little is known of Ball's early years. He lived in...

 famously argued that people were born equal saying, "When Adam
Adam
Adam is a figure in the Book of Genesis. According to the creation myth of Abrahamic religions, he is the first human. In the Genesis creation narratives, he was created by Yahweh-Elohim , and the first woman, Eve was formed from his rib...

 delved and Eve
Eve
Eve is the first woman created by God in the Book of Genesis.Eve may also refer to:-People:*Eve , a common given name and surname*Eve , American recording artist and actress-Places:...

 span, who was then the gentleman?" Laborers often appealed to traditional rights. For instance, English peasants fought against the enclosure
Enclosure
Enclosure or inclosure is the process which ends traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be common land. In England and Wales the term is also used for the...

 movement, which took traditionally communal lands and made them private.

In England 1833, a law was passed that any child under the age of 9 cannot work, children age 9-13 can only work 8 hours a day, and children aged 14–18 can only work 12 hours a day.

Labor rights are a relatively new addition to the modern corpus of human rights. The modern concept of labor rights dates to the 19th century after the creation of labor unions following the industrialization processes. Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 stands out as one of the earliest and most prominent advocates for workers rights. His philosophy and economic theory focused on labor issues and advocates his economic system of socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

, a society which would be ruled by the workers. Many of the social movement
Social movement
Social movements are a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals or organizations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out, resisting or undoing a social change....

s for the rights of the workers were associated with groups influenced by Marx such as the socialists and communists. More moderate democratic socialists and social democrats supported worker's interests as well. More recent workers rights advocacy has focused on the particular role, exploitation, and needs of women workers, and of increasingly mobile global flows of casual, service, or guest workers.

The International Labour Organization
International Labour Organization
The International Labour Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues pertaining to international labour standards. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Its secretariat — the people who are employed by it throughout the world — is known as the...

 was formed in 1919 as part of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 to protect worker's rights. The ILO later became incorporated into the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. The UN itself backed workers rights by incorporating several into two articles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. These read:

Article 23

  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice
    Choice
    Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options , often a choice is made between real options, and followed by the corresponding action...

     of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity
    Dignity
    Dignity is a term used in moral, ethical, and political discussions to signify that a being has an innate right to respect and ethical treatment. It is an extension of the Enlightenment-era concepts of inherent, inalienable rights...

    , and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24

  1. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.


The ILO and several other groups have sought international labor standards to create legal rights for workers across the world. Recent movements have also been made to encourage countries to promote labor rights at the international level through fair trade
Fair trade
Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as higher social and environmental standards...

.

Core Labor Standards


Identified by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the ‘Declaration of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work’, core labor standards are “widely recognized to be of particular importance”. They are universally applicable, regardless of whether the relevant conventions have been ratified, the level of development of a country or cultural values. These standards are composed of qualitative, not quantitative standards and don’t establish a particular level of working conditions, wages or health and safety standards. They are not intended to undermine the comparative advantage that developing countries may hold. Core labor standards are important human rights and are recognized in widely ratified human rights instruments including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC), the most widely ratified human rights treaty with 193 parties, and the ICCPR with 160 parties. The core labor standards are:
  • Freedom of association : workers are able to join trade unions that are independent of government and employer influence;
  • The right to collective bargaining : workers may negotiate with employers collectively, as opposed to individually;
  • The prohibition of all forms of forced labor : includes security from prison labor and slavery, and prevents workers from being forced to work under duress ;
  • elimination of the worst forms of child labor: implementing a minimum working age and certain working condition requirements for children;
  • non-discrimination in employment : equal pay for equal work.


Very few ILO member countries have ratified all of these conventions due to domestic constraints yet as these rights are also recognised in the UDHR, and form a part of customary international law they are committed to respect these rights. For a discussion on the incorporation of these core labor rights into the mechanisms of the World Trade Organization, see The Recognition of Labour Standards within the World Trade Organisation
The Recognition of Labour Standards within the World Trade Organisation
Labour Standards in the World Trade Organization are binding rules, which form a part of the jurisprudence and principles applied within the rule making institutions of the World Trade Organization...


Labor rights issues



Aside from the right to organize, labor movements have campaigned on various other issues that may be said to relate to labor rights.

Many labor movement campaigns have to do with limiting hours in the work place. 19th century labor movements campaigned for an Eight-hour day
Eight-hour day
The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions...

. Worker advocacy groups have also sought to limit work hours, making a working week of 40 hours or less standard in many countries. A 35-hour workweek
35-hour workweek
The 35-hour working week is a measure adopted first in France, in February 2000, under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's Plural Left government; it was pushed by Minister of Labour Martine Aubry. The previous legal duration of the working week was 39 hours, which had been established by François...

 was established in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 2000, although this standard has been considerably weakened since then. Workers may agree with employers to work for longer, but the extra hours are payable overtime
Overtime
Overtime is the amount of time someone works beyond normal working hours. Normal hours may be determined in several ways:*by custom ,*by practices of a given trade or profession,*by legislation,...

. In the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 the working week is limited to a maximum of 48 hours including overtime (see also Working Time Directive
Working Time Directive
The Working Time Directive is a European Union Directive, which creates the right for EU workers to a minimum number of holidays each year, paid breaks, and rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours; restricts excessive night work; and makes a default right to work no more than 48 hours per week....

).

Labor rights advocates have also worked to combat child labor
Child labor
Child labour refers to the employment of children at regular and sustained labour. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organizations and is illegal in many countries...

. They see child labor as exploitative, cruel, and often economically damaging. Child labor opponents often argue that working children are deprived of an education.

Labor rights advocates have worked to improve workplace conditions which meet established standards. During the Progressive Era
Progressive Era
The Progressive Era in the United States was a period of social activism and political reform that flourished from the 1890s to the 1920s. One main goal of the Progressive movement was purification of government, as Progressives tried to eliminate corruption by exposing and undercutting political...

 the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 began workplace reforms, which received publicity boosts from Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

's The Jungle
The Jungle
The Jungle is a 1906 novel written by journalist Upton Sinclair. Sinclair wrote the novel with the intention of portraying the life of the immigrant in the United States, but readers were more concerned with the large portion of the book pertaining to the corruption of the American meatpacking...

 and events such as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history...

. Labor advocates and other groups often criticize production facilities with poor working conditions as sweatshops and occupational health hazards, and campaign for better labor practices and recognition of workers rights throughout the world.

The labor movement pushes for guaranteed minimum wage
Minimum wage
A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers. Equivalently, it is the lowest wage at which workers may sell their labour. Although minimum wage laws are in effect in a great many jurisdictions, there are differences of opinion about...

 laws, and there are continuing negotiations about increases to the minimum wage. However, opponents see minimum wage laws as limiting employment opportunities for unskilled and entry level workers.

Illegal immigrants cannot complain to the authorities about underpayment and mistreatment as they would be deported; and their willingness to work for low rates may depress rates of pay for others. Similarly, legal migrant workers are sometimes abused. For instance, migrants have faced a number of alleged abuses in the United Arab Emirates
Human rights in the United Arab Emirates
Human rights are legally protected by the Constitution of the United Arab Emirates, which confers equality, liberty, rule of law, presumption of innocence in legal procedures, inviolability of the home, freedom of movement, freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of communication, freedom of...

 (including Dubai). Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 lists several problems including "nonpayment of wages, extended working hours without overtime compensation, unsafe working environments resulting in death and injury, squalid living conditions in labor camps, and withholding of passports and travel documents by employers." Despite laws against the practice, employers confiscate migrant workers' passports. Without their passports, workers cannot switch jobs or return home.http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=16862
These workers have little recourse for labor abuses, but conditions have been improving. Labor and social welfare minister Ali bin Abdullah al-Kaabi has undertaken a number of reforms to help improve labor practices in his country.

The right to equal treatment, regardless of gender
Gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

, origin and appearance, religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, sexual orientation
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

, is also seen by many as a worker's right. Discrimination
Discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

 in the work place is illegal in many countries, but some see the wage gap between genders and other groups as a persistent problem.

See also


  • Journal of Individual Employment Rights
  • Labor and employment law
  • Occupational health
  • Union Organizer
    Union organizer
    A union organizer is a specific type of trade union member or an appointed union official. A majority of unions appoint rather than elect their organizers....

  • National Labor Committee
  • Workplace democracy
    Workplace democracy
    Workplace democracy is the application of democracy in all its forms to the workplace....

  • Social clause
    Social clause
    Within the context of international trade, a social clause is the integration of seven core ILO labour rights conventions into trade agreements.-Background:...


External links