Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., June 26, 27 or 28
ITUC’s appraisal of labor-related criteria – based on 97 indicators of fundamental human rights and workers’ rights, as defined by International Labor Organization conventions – ranks the United States as bad as Argentina, Botswana and Indonesia when it comes to workers’ rights.
What company do U.S. workers find ourselves in? El Salvador, Hong Kong, Iraq, Pakistan, Thailand and Yemen are some of the 30 nations that were given a grade of 4 on a scale of 1-to-5, with 5 being worst.
The study considered factors such as workers’ ability to protest or strike, to engage in collective bargaining, and to enjoy basic civil liberties.
Issued at ITUC’s recent congress in Berlin, the report shows that only 200 million of Earth’s workers – 7 percent – are members of non-government-controlled unions.
“The guarantee of the free exercise of workers’ rights is a guarantee of a more equal and prosperous society,” the report says. “When workers enjoy the freedom of a collective voice, can bargain for safe workplaces and fair wages, and are free from discrimination, productivity and economic growth can flourish.
“Workers are struggling everywhere for their right to collective representation, and deficits exist in degrees in most countries,” it continues. “Abuses of rights are getting worse, not better, and too many countries take no responsibility for protecting workers rights in a national context or through corporate supply chains.”
In at least 53 nations, workers are disciplined or discharged for attempting to negotiate better working conditions, ITUC says. In most of those places, they got little or no legal protection.
“Employers and governments are complicit in silencing workers’ voices against exploitation,” it said.
The situation didn’t happen accidentally. Over the last few decades, corporate America and the 1% have waged an all-out economic war on workers and their unions. In fact, in the last few years, more than a dozen corporate-friendly and Republican-controlled states limited collective bargaining for public employees, and 19 other states have pushed for Right To Work laws that hurt the financial stability of workers’ unions.
There have been unintended consequences in this war on workers. The corporate juggernaut’s advances didn’t just cause the labor movement to retreat. The whole U.S. middle-class became “collateral damage.”
Either corporate America and its GOP cronies in Washington don’t understand that America’s economy is strongest when the middle-class is thriving, or they don’t care.
“Unions in countries with the rating of 4 reported systematic violations against workers,” the ITUC says. “The government and/or companies are engaged in a serious effort to crush the collective voice of workers, putting fundamental rights under continuous threat.”
The ITUC rates almost all the planet’s nations. Judgments were based in factors such as the right to organize, threats against workers, murders of union activists, exclusion from collective bargaining or the right to strike, and whether there are “effective legal guarantees against anti-union discriminatory measures.”
The organization could not rate Cuba, Laos, Vietnam and some republics in the South Asian region of the former Soviet Union.
ITUC gave its lowest rating of 5 to 24 nations, including China, Colombia, Guatemala and Korea. Another eight nations are “failed states,” ITUC says, countries that are so disrupted by revolution (such as Syria), war (both Sudans, Ukraine) or occupation (Palestine), that ITUC gave them a 5+ mark, explaining that workers have “no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the rule of law.”
Besides China and Korea, other major U.S. trading partners received marks of 3 or better. Countries with marks of 3 include Britain, Canada, Israel and even Venezuela. The 29 nations with a 2 rating included Japan and Russia. At the top, the 18 countries given a rating of 1 are France, Germany and 12 other European nations, plus South Africa, Togo and Uruguay.
[PICTURED: ITUC report cover art.]