U.S. workers are under attack, says new U.N. report
A recent U.N. report exposes the serious structural weaknesses in U.S. labour law that prevent workers in the United States from exercising their most basic human and workplace freedoms.
During a mission to the United States in 2016, Maina Kiai, former U.N. special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, documented the obstacles that working people confront when they exercise their freedom to form a union.
Kiai wrote that the U.S. “legal framework legalises practices that severely infringe workers’ rights to associate. It also provides few incentives for employers to respect workers’ rights.” The AFL-CIO, the U.S.’s largest labour federation, highlighted several egregious intimidation tactics in the report routinely used by employers:
When facing a union organising drive, 75 per cent of employers hire consultants specialising in “union avoidance.” These consultants openly boast of their success in suppressing unionisation. This is a $4 billion industry dedicated to taking away people’s freedom to join a union using strategies of fear, intimidation, and misinformation.
Employers also routinely cross the line and engage in unlawful tactics to prevent freedom of association. They do so because they can—with little or no consequence.
Employers who fire people for engaging in concerted action or threaten to shut down the workplace if working people decide to stand together rarely face consequences, and when they do, the remedies are long delayed and notoriously weak.
Disturbingly, Kai found that many government officials collude with corporate CEOs to dismantle the power of existing unions and keep new ones from forming. The special rapporteur was alarmed to learn that Mississippi and other states openly court companies by promoting the ability to exploit working people and the lack of ability to organize.
“This report shows why there is a new urgency in standing with our U.S. brothers and sisters. Trump has proven to be a serial anti-worker President, and there is little prospect of there being any improvement in his actions,” said Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union.
Kiai spent more than two weeks in several U.S. cities researching workers’ rights, meeting with Nissan workers in Canton, Miss.; United Steelworkers (USW) members at Novelis in New York, and Asarco in Arizona; Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU/UFCW)-member carwash workers in New York City; UNITE HERE hotel workers in New York and Arizona; and AFT-member teachers in Louisiana.
Earlier in the month, the ITUC uncovered similar “systemic violation of rights” in the United States, and globally, found that violence and repression is on the rise. For example, the number of countries in which workers are exposed to physical violence and threats increased by 10 per cent (from 52 to 59 countries), and 60 per cent of countries exclude workers from the right to organise.