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Unfair Advantage: Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards

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[Excerpt] Human Rights Watch selected case studies for this report on workers’ freedom of association in the United States with several objectives in mind. One was to include a range of sectors - services, industry, transport, agriculture, high tech – to assess the scope of the problem across the economy, rather than to focus on a single sector. Another objective was geographic diversity, to analyze the issues in different parts of the country. The cases studied here arose in cities, suburbs and rural areas around the United States. Another important goal was to look at the range of workers seeking to exercise their right to freedom of association - high skill and low skill, blue collar and white collar, resident and migrant, women and men, of different racial, ethnic and national origins. Many of the cases involved the most vulnerable parts of the labor force. These include migrant farmworkers, sweatshop workers, household domestic workers, undocumented immigrants, and welfare-to-work employees. But the report also examines the rights of U.S. workers with many years of employment at stable, profitable employers. These include packaging factory workers, steel workers, shipyard workers, food processing workers, nursing home workers, and computer programmers. The cases studied here offer a cross-section of workers’ attempts to form and join trade unions, to bargain collectively, and to strike. The cases reflect violations and obstacles workers met in the exercise of these rights. In many cases, workers’ voices recount their experiences. Human Rights Watch also made written requests for responses and comments from employers identified in the report. Most of them declined. Of those who did respond, most did not want to be identified by name. In several cases, the names of individual managers are known to Human Rights Watch, but they are omitted so as not to profile them unduly in a human rights report with wide distribution to the public. This report is intended to illuminate systemic problems in U.S. labor law and practice, not conduct of individuals.

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workers’ rights; freedom of association; unions; organizing; labor law; enforcement; United States; labor movement


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Required Publisher Statement: Copyright held by Human Rights Watch. Reprinted with permission.

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