Human Rights are Union Rights
Are human rights related to trade union power? Do both march in tandem around the globe? For nearly two centuries the answer was almost always a resounding "Yes!" On every continent, the growth of organized labor seemed to herald the emancipation of common people and the demise of their oppressors.
Today we live in an era of global human rights. War criminals are put on trial in The Hague. Women's rights are on the social and political agenda in the Middle East. From Burma to Nigeria, the world pays close attention to the free speech rights of political dissidents. Thousands of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) expose human rights violations and promote social, economic, and legal standards aimed at benefiting those who toil in factories in poor countries.
Some 182 labor and human rights codes of conduct have been adopted by corporations and industry associations around the globe. Prodded by groups like the Workers Rights Consortium and the Ethical Trading Initiative, some corporations promise to pay living wages, open their factories to monitors, and even provide employees a voice in the workplace. Reebok, the multinational sportswear firm, advertises its corporate code as being "based on the core principles" of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The company markets its soccer balls and other goods with a "Guaranteed: Manufactured without Child Labor" label.
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one? Log in