New ITUC Global Rights Index – The world’s worst countries for workers

ITUCglobalrightindexA global leader-board in the race to protect workers’ rights was released on May 19 at the ITUC World Congress in Berlin. The ITUC Global Rights Index ranks 139 countries against 97 internationally recognized indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice.

“Countries such as Denmark and Uruguay led the way through their strong labor laws, but perhaps surprisingly, the likes of Greece, the United States and Hong Kong, lagged behind,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. “A country’s level of development proved to be a poor indicator of whether it respected basic rights to bargain collectively, strike for decent conditions, or simply join a union at all.”

The International Trade Union Confederation has been collecting data on the abuse of trade union rights around the world for the past 30 years. Now for the first time the ITUC Global Rights Index presents carefully verified information from the last 12 months in an easy-to-use format so that every government and business can see how their laws and supply chains stack up. Continue reading

Good Trade Policy: Three ‘Thought Experiments’

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

The U.S. and 10 other countries are negotiating our next big trade agreement, called TPP. It’s time to re-examine what works and what doesn’t work.

Imagine a thought experiment, where we put environmentalists in each country in charge of negotiating the next trade agreement. Preposterous! I know. Stick with me. This is a thought experiment.

So, in this thought experiment our environmental negotiators would prioritize their interests — CO2 in the atmosphere, deforestation, endangered species, renewable energy, safe food, clean air and clean water.

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New “Unity Unions” Self-Organize to Confront Workplace Abuses

by Amy Dean

Amy B. Dean

The last five years have been grim and isolating ones for immigrants and working people, right? Overall, this may be the case, but if you talk with organizers at Fuerza Laboral, an independent workers’ center in Rhode Island founded in 2006, you might get a different impression. Despite difficult times, the group has taken on some bold and determined organizing. And they have some important victories to show for their efforts.

“Fuerza’s roots are really and truly the essence of what the labor movement is: workers organizing themselves and getting together with their communities to identify some real injustices that are systemic throughout the country,” says Josie Shagwert, the group’s executive director. “They got together to say, ‘How can we put a stop to this? Because the system is failing us.'”

Not long ago, workers’ centers were seen as service providers, staff-driven organizations where individuals could go to have caseworkers help with their problems. That has changed over the past decade, and the Rhode Island group is part of the transformation. “Fuerza Laboral builds worker power,” the organization’s web site explains. “[We] organize to end exploitation in the workplace. We train workers in their rights, develop new community leaders, and take direct action against injustice to achieve real victories.”

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May Day Rallies around the nation

May Day in New York City

Thousands of people rallied in New York City last year on May Day.

This May Day, working people are rallying across the country to oppose attacks on workers’ rights and immigrant rights. Just as we did on April 4, working people will declare: “Somos Unos—Respeten Nuestros Derechos” or “We Are One—Respect Our Rights.”

Workers’ rights and immigrant rights are connected.  CEO-backed politicians are targeting all working people—including immigrants—with their corporate-sponsored political agenda and continuing power grab. In addition to demanding protection for collective bargaining and other workers’ rights, ralliers will call for comprehensive immigration reform and passage of the DREAM Act, which would provide undocumented young people a pathway to legal residency through higher education or service in the military.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says:

These [May Day] marches are driven by the same spirit of activism and commitment that drives our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin and every other community that is now fighting back against the attacks on working people. Continue reading

Latino Organizations unite to defend workers’ rights



WASHINGTON, DC-  As working families struggle to stay afloat in this economic downturn, a wave of state-led attacks are threatening workers and the basic structure that protects their rights on the job. Attempts to destroy the right of workers to bargain collectively raise grave concerns about job quality and economic security for working families and vulnerable segments of our populations including Latinos and low-income families. Poor quality jobs, limited access to health care, pensions combined with high rates of wage violations, injuries and fatalities in the workplace are grave issues that disproportionately affect the Latino community.  In the absence of unions, attacks on workers’ rights and declining job quality will go unabated for all workers; exacerbating these risks among vulnerable populations.

Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Iowa and Florida are among a growing number of states with legislatures proposing bills to destroy workers’ right to bargain collectively in the workplace.  In light of these attacks on workers and labor unions, nineteen leading national Latino organizations united to call on lawmakers to oppose legislation that limits the power of workers to negotiate for quality jobs, good wages, benefits, safe working conditions and job security.

Across the country, tens of thousands of workers and their supporters are gathering to oppose legislative measures targeting the rights and pockets of public sector workers as the means to address budget shortfalls. Continue reading

Thousands Take Stand in Sacramento for Workers’ Rights in Wisconsin

By Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

When Wisconsin’s new right-wing Governor decided to make it his personal mission to eliminate the rights of teachers, nurses, bus drivers and other public servants, he probably thought it would be a cakewalk. After all, Gov. Scott Walker has a Republican-controlled legislature that is on board with his radical plan to eliminate collective bargaining for public sector workers. What he didn’t count on was the extraordinary resolve of working people to stop his assault on our values. For more than a week, tens of thousands have protested at the Wisconsin Capitol. The fight back spread to Ohio, Indiana and other states where politicians are attempting to strip workers of their voice. And it didn’t stop there. All over the country, workers are standing in solidarity to beat back these attacks.

Last night, the spirit of solidarity was tangible in Sacramento, as more than 3,000 workers – teachers, Teamsters, nurses, ironworkers, janitors and many others – descended on the State Capitol to send a message loud and clear across California and the country: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.

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If Only Employees Enjoyed the Same Rights as Criminals

by Ellen Dannin

If Only Employees Enjoyed the Same Rights as Criminals

(Photo: night86mare)

Imagine being accused of a crime you did not commit, a crime so serious that the penalty was capital punishment. Naturally, with your life at stake, you would want the best attorney possible, someone who would stand with you and fight for justice. Among other things, your attorney would tell you that our criminal justice system required the prosecutor to prove you had committed the crime.

Now, imagine a system where no one had to prove you were guilty and where no proof you could offer could save you. Millions of Americans enter that system just by being an employee. In the United States, employers can legally fire employees without cause, and no amount of evidence can save that employee’s job. This is “employment at will,” a system created by judges in the 19th century, a system that lets employees be fired for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason.
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