Protecting Labor Rights in the Global Market Place

Posted by Barbara Shailor
September 2, 2013
Commuters Walk to Work

For over a century, we've set aside a day to honor the contributions of workers. The cookouts, shopping sales, and parades are end of summer American rituals.  But the significance of Labor Day -- advocating for the dignity of work -- is, and always will be an American value.

Promoting labor rights and improving working conditions is a smart economic investment -- essential to driving growth, ensuring its benefits are broadly shared, and delivering decent jobs for the American people.

Protecting the dignity of workers everywhere is also the right investment.  The goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth.  That means ensuring all workers enjoy certain universal labor rights, including the freedom to associate and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, and prohibitions against the worst forms of child labor and forced labor, and employment discrimination.

Much of the world is still experiencing high unemployment, a lack of opportunities for youths, discrimination towards women, disabled persons, and LGBT individuals, and the growth of disenfranchised migrant workers and refugees.  This exacerbates already volatile situations in many countries.

By combating the root causes of poverty and helping countries provide a prospect for decent work we can better hope to achieve our foreign policy goals: stability, security, democracy, and prosperity for all.  We cannot build a stable, global economy when hundreds of millions of workers and families find themselves on the wrong side of globalization.

Secretary Kerry captured the importance of protecting rights in the global market place in his address at the University of Virginia, where he said:

"I'm here because our lives as Americans are more intertwined than ever before with the lives of people in parts of the world that we may have never visited. In the global challenges of diplomacy, development, economic security, environmental security, you will feel our success or failure just as strongly as those people in those other countries that you'll never meet...it also gives us many more rivals determined to create jobs and opportunities for their own people, a voracious marketplace that sometimes forgets morality and values."

The history of the labor movement in the United States -- and of workers everywhere -- is the story of courageous men and women who persevered and risked their lives to bring dignity to their work.

Today, we celebrate the sacrifices and successes of workers everywhere, and commit to doing everything we can to advance labor rights in the global economy.

About the Author: Barbara Shailor serves as Special Representative for International Labor Affairs.

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