Labor rights are human rights. Too often labor is discussed as if it were a commodity, said Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Robert Destro. “In reality it is individual men and women who are working to make a living. And they are entitled to certain rights as human beings,” said Assistant Secretary Destro:
“What we want is for our workers to be treated with dignity that they’re entitled to as human beings.”
Two important labor rights that ensure workers are treated fairly are freedom of association and collective bargaining. These allow employees to negotiate agreements with their employers regarding salaries, working conditions, and other benefits. This is a win for not only workers but also their employers. Indeed, companies that respect the rights of their workers to bargain collectively turn out to be more profitable, said Assistant Secretary Destro.
Some of the most concerning labor rights violations in the world today include hereditary slavery in Mauritania and forced labor in China. Of particular concern are Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region, who have been forced into so-called re-education camps and coerced labor facilities by the millions.
The United States takes the issue of forced labor very seriously. If U.S. authorities catch anyone knowingly bringing goods that are produced by forced labor into the United States, there could be serious consequences, said Assistant Secretary Destro.
The U.S. government works closely with partners abroad to monitor labor standards at home and overseas. In addition, there are civil society groups that publicize labor abuses, holding companies and industries to account for how they treat their employees.
The United States believes that labor rights are a fundamental part of human rights. As individuals engage in meaningful work around the globe, they deserve to do so in safety and with dignity.