Dec 10, 2007 — It's International Human Rights week, the 59th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. And this year, the U.S. must face a hard fact: America's workers rank lower on measure after measure than workers in many other industrialized nations, according to a new study by the London School of Economics. We have less paid leave, less vacation and we work even more hours than workers in Japan. Instead of setting the standards, we are falling behind.

Do these offenses actually add up to a violation of human rights? The answer is yes. In fact, one reason we rank last among developed nations on so many fronts is that we rank last in the percentage of workers who are covered by union contracts. America's workers are routinely denied a basic human right explicitly recognized by the UN Declaration - the freedom to improve their lives by joining and forming unions.

America's working men and women say they want to be part of unions. In fact, about 60 million people say they would join a union today if they could. And it's no surprise. Union members earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers and have better health and pension benefits. A union card is every worker's ticket into the middle class.

The truth is that workers want to form unions but they rarely get the chance. We've seen it over and over again. Workers are illegally harassed, discriminated against and fired, and yet there are no real penalties for the employers who commit these violations of workers' rights.


America's labor laws are weak, and riddled with loopholes so big that employers just climb right through them.

That's because workers are forced to rely on the most anti-worker labor board in decades. The Bush-appointed labor board has taken every opportunity to roll back workers' rights and make it harder for workers to form unions to bargain better wages, health care and working conditions.

Our system has to be changed. The Employee Free Choice Act would do just that, taking the choice about unions out of employers' hands and giving it back to workers. It sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives and garnered a majority of support in the U.S. Senate, before Bush and his allies blocked a vote.

America is supposed to stand for freedom and democracy. How did we wind up at the bottom of the heap? Let's start now to change it. Let's give workers to freedom to make their own choice about whether to form a union.