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Labor Rights As Human Rights


Public doctors and nurses protest to demand higher wages for public medical workers as well as better hospital maintenance in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday June 16, 2011.

Workers, in countries as different from one another as one could imagine, are speaking up for decent wages, social justice and a political and economic voice in their daily lives.

U.S. Special Representative for International Labor Affairs Barbara Shailor, who is responsible for the impact of American foreign policy and programs on international labor rights and living standards, issued a statement on Labor Day September 5th. "Families across the United States are gathering together today to celebrate Labor Day -- a time honored tradition that we've set aside for over a century -- and remember the contributions of workers," she said.

"The recognition of working people -- be it in May or September -- through a holiday and tradition devoted to no particular gender, individual, battle, group, or saint is . . . unique. It is a holiday we all share.

"It has only been six months since the world witnessed the remarkable transformations taking place in the Middle East," Special Representative Shailor continued. "The self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, who was concerned about not being able to feed his family, has resonated with workers everywhere. Workers, in countries as different from one another as one could imagine, are speaking up for decent wages, social justice and a political and economic voice in their daily lives. Clearly, dignity at work is a universal aspiration."

The U.S. State Department’s Office of International Labor Affairs strengthens respect for labor rights and advances workplace democracy in the global economy. The Office of International Labor Affairs initiates programs to further U.S. foreign policy goals related to human rights, democracy promotion, trade, and sustainable growth. The Office's efforts to promote worker rights focus on internationally recognized labor rights relating to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, and the elimination of forced labor, child labor, and discrimination. In carrying out its work, the Office of International Labor Affairs collaborates with Non-Government Organizations, trade unions, companies, international organizations, and other U.S. federal agencies.

"As workers take advantage of greater political space and start to speak up for better wages, equality, job stability, and the right to form their own independent organizations," Special Representative Shailor concluded, "our labor office at the State Department will support the 'voice of the street' and work to strengthen respect for labor rights as human rights in our policies and programs."

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