Standing for Workers’ Rights: Good for Americans and Good for the World

3 minutes read time
A man holds a sign at a parade that says "standing up for labor is American."
A crowd marches down the street during the annual Labor Day Parade in New York City, New York.

Standing for Workers’ Rights: Good for Americans and Good for the World

This Monday, Americans celebrate Labor Day and the vital contributions of working men and women to American society.  Thanks to the tireless activism of American workers and labor organizations, the minimum wage, the eight-hour workday, restrictions on child labor, and many other labor protections are now enshrined in U.S. law. These achievements help workers pursue the American dream. As Secretary Tillerson has highlighted, “the essence of America is… an idea that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.”

Workers all over the world seek the same thing – the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families and achieve success through honest work.  In today’s globalized world, workers at home and abroad are increasingly linked through multinational supply chains and international trade.  Many of the products we buy, sell, and use every day are produced by workers from all over the world, and American-made products are in turn available to consumers around the globe.

When the U.S. government advocates for decent conditions for workers everywhere, we improve these workers’ well-being and we help level the playing field for American workers and businesses.  When producers overseas deny workers basic rights, it harms American producers that play by the rules and treat workers fairly.  We also safeguard American values by ensuring that goods purchased by American consumers are not made with child labor or forced labor or by workers who are exploited in other ways.

In the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, we look out for workers at home and abroad by promoting internationally-recognized labor rights, such as freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labor and child labor, and freedom from employment discrimination.  We help enforce labor provisions in U.S. trade agreements, champion labor issues in bilateral and multilateral fora, support programming that advances labor rights, and encourage dialogue among labor, civil society, business, and government stakeholders.  Our efforts are amplified by dedicated and effective Labor Officers and other staff in U.S. missions around the world.

Today we join together to celebrate the role of working people in building and sustaining the American Dream.  Acknowledging the expanding connections between American workers and workers abroad, we also recognize the vital contributions of workers around the globe.  By standing for workers’ rights, we are standing for prosperity, democracy, and stability, for the United States and for the people of all nations.  Happy Labor Day.

About the author: Scott Busby serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Editor's note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.