Collective Bargaining is a Human Right

Article 23 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration adopted by the United Nations in 1948 reads:

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable 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 favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, 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.

What we are seeing in Wisconsin and in Indiana is the attempt not to balance a budget but rather the attempt of elected officials to do the bidding of the corporations to strip the fundamental right of workers to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests.  This is a violation of their human rights under the UN’s declaration of Human Rights.

In June of 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada  ruled:

“The right to bargain collectively with an employer enhances the human dignity, liberty and autonomy of workers by giving them the opportunity to influence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, namely their work… Collective bargaining is not simply an instrument for pursuing external ends…rather [it] is intrinsically valuable as an experience in self-government… Collective bargaining permits workers to achieve a form of workplace democracy and to ensure the rule of law in the workplace. Workers gain a voice to influence the establishment of rules that control a major aspect of their lives.”

While Canada’s Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over the US, what its ruling does do is affirm  emphatically that the right to unionize and to have collective bargaining is indeed a fundamental right as declared in the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights.  It is part of what a democracy looks like for its people.

Wisconsin and Indiana are not the first states to attempt to rid collective bargaining nor would they be the first states to not have collective bargaining for their public workers, including teachers.  There are five states that explicitly make collective bargaining illegal in their state for their public sector employees.  There are additional states where restrictions apply to the bargaining process.   Many more states prohibit teachers and other public employees from striking should collective bargaining efforts fail.  Again, all of these violate the fundamental right of workers to have unions to protect their best interests.  If a union is unable to negotiate with an employer on basic work conditions or to use non-violent strategies such as a strike to bring resolution to the issues at hand, their rights are being violated.

In my state of Alabama, which does not allow public employees to have collective bargaining, David Stout the president of the Alabama Education Association which is not union, recently stated, “I don’t think people in Alabama are ready for collecting bargaining laws.”   This attitude that people need to be ready is a slap in the face of workers dignity.  Similar statements have been made before regarding groups of people needing to be ready to have the vote, needing to be ready to have democracy, needing to be ready to have equality.  The fact that it comes from the organization that is supposedly best equipped to support the interests of teachers reveals just how far the AEA is from representing their constituents.  Instead comments like these represents the state’s and corporate  interests  just like the false trade unions in corrupt corporations in Mexico.

The essential right for the workers in Indiana and in Wisconsin to be able to sit down in negotiation with their employers is about reclaiming and resurrecting our most treasured American values of democracy.  We have seen in the last 40 years such a deterioration of democracy in this nation while we pandered to the wishes of corporations as if they are people under the law with rights and privileges inherent in their being.   Our nation has stripped away through this pandering all avenues of upward mobility for the poorest of the poor in this country and for the middle class.  The divide between 90 % of the people and the top 1% has never been greater.  The average income for the bottom 90 % is $31, 244.  The average income for the top 1 % is 1, 137, 684.  The average income for the top 1/100th percent is $27, 342, 212.   Further the income of the bottom 90% has decreased significantly per year over the last decade while the top ten percent have seen astronomical gains in income.   Stripping the right to collective bargaining from employees will ensure this trend not only continues but accelerates at an alarming speed because unlike a democracy, it places an imbalance of power into the hands of the government and corporations.

The Corporations are not people.  They are only a vehicle towards sustaining our lives in what hopefully will be one with a certain level of quality of life.  If they no longer serve the people towards the advancement of a quality life for all who work for them, then corporations and governments should be held accountable for their actions against human rights.  Our elected officials must represent the people and not the corporations who line their pockets.  If they do not then they must be removed from office and replaced with elected officials that will represent the best interests of the people.

This is one of many moral issues facing our nation today.  It is essential that we stand with our workers in this fight because the survival of our democracy depends on it.

Will the Real America, Please Stand Up?

Many years ago there was a tv game show where a celebrity panel had to try to discern which of the three contestants was the person being described.  After each of the contestants gave their answers to a variety of questions, and the panel made their decisions public, the host of the game show would announce, “Will the Real John Doe, please stand up.”  The three would look at each other and one would always pretend to begin to stand and then the Real John Doe or Jane Doe would stand up.  It was a fun show of light hearted deception. 

In recent weeks, the election campaigns have turned mean.  Perhaps it is normal for the alleged candidate who is perceived as loosing to turn up the heat in the final weeks of the campaign.  I was too young to recall the time when patriotism  of Americans were called into question in such a mean spirited way.  I am referring to the McCarthy Era when all of America seemed to be looking for a Communist under every rock.  Thousands of people across America were blacklisted and lost their ability to earn a living in their chosen profession.  In many cases when that nightmare of facist-like history in America was over, many were left spiritually broken unable to return to the passion of their first career. 

The present day situation is sounding very similar.  We have a congresswoman in Minnesota who wants to call for an investigation of all elected officials in Washington to find out if any are Anti-Americans. She defines Anti-Americans as being Leftist Liberals.   Among her top picks are Senators Obama and Biden and Speaker of the House Pelosi.    We have a public figure in Virginia distinguishing between the area of Virginia just outside of DC and the rest of Virginia which she calls the Real Virginia.  Real Virginia by the way is conservative and Republican.  And we have a Vice Presidential candidate declaring that the Real America is found in those Pro-American pockets of small towns.   She states, it is these Americans who have fought bravely in our wars and are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

John Stewart of The Daily Show stated that Osama Bin Laden must be very embarrassed to discover that he attacked Fake America when he attacked NYC and Washington, DC because these places are not part of the Real America. 

And what are those brave men and women from these large cities fighting in Iraq feeling; now that they have been called False Americans?  Do they get to come home since they are not really Americans and therefore have no claim to fighting in our wars? 

This talk of who is a Real American versus who is Anti-American, is not an innocent tv game show of light hearted deception.  This is blatant diviseness. It is a tactic used to instill fear into the hearts of the citizenry.  It is a tactic that Joe McCarthy used to engender the Red Scare.  It is a tactic that will undermine the very freedom that Americans, all Americans, cherish.  The McCarthy Era was not a proud moment in America’s history.  It was a time when the freedoms we take for granted were underseige.  If McCarthy had won in his campaign to route out every suspected Communist, and many were never to have been found to be a communist, only alleged; the democracy experiment begun in 1776 would have been over 50 plus years ago. 

If we allow our public elected officials to instill fear that there lurks within America two America’s, one real and one false; one good and one evil; one standing firm in the will of God and one opposed to the will of God; then our nation of democracy with all its freedoms will cease to be.   We have chosen the motto  “E Pluribus Unim” for a reason.  Out of many, One. 

It is our diversity of thought, our capacity to hear many opinions, that adds to our greatness as a nation.  It is because of our diversity that America has become that “beacon on the hill”. Strike any voice from being heard and America’s greatness as a nation is diminished.

In our current economic crisis, in our attempts to dis-entangle ourselves from Iraq, in our attempts to improve the domestic well being of all of America; it is time for us to honor our commitment of E Pluribus Unim.  Attempts to instill fear and mistrust in each other is not the answer to our problems.    

When the events of 9/11 reached the far corners of the world… World Leaders stated, “We are All Americans now.”  Such was the pain felt by the world in those events.  It is a message that needs to ring loud and clear within our own citizens as well.  “We are All Americans” 

Everyone of us should stand to answer the question asked, “Will the Real America, Please stand up?”  By doing so does not mean that we are in agreement with the how-tos in fixing the problems that face this country.   What it does mean is that we want what is best for her to maintain the democracy that was established so that we are a free people. 

When Election day comes, vote not because you are a Republican or a Democrat.  Vote because you are an American who has the freedom to vote for the best of America.

Published in: on October 21, 2008 at 11:23 am  Comments (1)  
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