Feb 19, 2012

World Day of Social Justice: A focus on labor rights

We’re continuing our series on important social justice issues today by focusing on labor rights. Labor rights pertain to the interactions between workers and their employers in work spaces and are widely accepted as universal, regardless of level of economic development in a country or cultural values. In the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23 reads:

Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Hours: In the 19th century, movements focused on establishing limits on hours in work places. Today, a working week is widely considered to be 40 hours or less, and extra hours are payable overtime.

Safe working conditions: Advocates emphasize established standards and regulations for work places across the world – sweatshops (a term for any working environment considered unacceptably dangerous) remain a major concern for labor rights issues.

Minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily, or monthly compensation that employers may legally pay to workers. Today, more than 90% of the countries in the world have legislation regarding a minimum wage.

Living wage is the minimum hourly income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs (for an extended period of time or for a lifetime). In contrast to the minimum wage, the living wage focuses more on the needs of worker units, social security benefits and cost of living.

Child labor: According to the World Bank, the incidence of child labor in the world has decreased from 25% to 10% between 1960 and 2003. However, child labor is still very common in some parts of the world especially in factory work, mining, prostitution, agriculture and more.

Equal treatment is considered a worker’s right – discrimination based on gender, origin, appearance, religion, or sexual orientation is illegal in many countries.

//In the news:

Not all jobs are created equal: Jonathan Tasini argues that the “serious discussion we need to have about American jobs… takes into account not just the quantity but also the quality.”

Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Spain on Sunday against reforms to the labour market they fear will destroy workers’ rights and spending cuts they say are destroying the welfare state.

//Stand-out organizations fighting for labor rights:

International: The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the United Nations agency responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards.

In the U.S.: The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is a voluntary federation of 57 national and international labor unions across the United States.

//How does GlobeMed play into all this?

This year, GlobeMed at Boston College will raise $5000 dollars in support of two income generation projects for their partner, CCC-UNSCH, in the communities of Huamanguilla, Peru and Yanama, Peru.  In Huamanguilla, they will be providing animals and seeds to bolster the agricultural endeavors of the elderly in that community, who often live alone and must support themselves.  In Yanama, they will be providing wool and other supplies for the older adults living there to make clothing and jewelry to sell. Through these income generation projects, the older adults of the Ayacucho region will be better able to take care of themselves and their grandchildren, whose parents must often leave in order to find work.

Written by Jill Shah



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