Workers Have A Right To Organize

Protesters join forces to kill Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's bill during a rally at the Capital Building on February 18, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images)

Amnesty International USA is deeply concerned by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. If enacted, the Governor’s proposal would undermine the ability of unions in the public sector to protect workers, including by limiting workers’ ability to object to work conditions.

Under international law, all workers have a human right to organize and to bargain collectively. These rights are an essential foundation to the realization of other rights, and are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as well as conventions adopted by the International Labor Organization.

Amnesty stands in solidarity with those seeking to defend collective bargaining rights anywhere these rights are threatened, and we urge Governor Walker and Wisconsin legislators to protect workers’ rights by rejecting any attempt to limit collective bargaining. We further call on the Governor to respect the right to peaceful protest and ensure that protesters are not intimidated or subjected to unnecessary or excessive force.

Egypt: Sweeping Reform Needed to Protect Workers' Rights

Egypt workers were on the move this weekend, with significant ramifications we hope for the future of human rights in that country.

Just weeks after a court order forced the government to implement a new council intended to ensure workers receive a living wage, workers across the country went on strike and showed again that after years of muzzling civil society, the government has failed to stop opposition voices.

More must be done.  It’s not enough that the government enforce minimum wage laws.  The government must also, Amnesty International says, lift restrictions on the creation and functioning of independent workers’ unions.

A Little Justice Goes A Long Way from 2maystrike on Vimeo.

“The authorities must mark International Workers’ Day by announcing sweeping legal and institutional reforms to promote and protect labor rights, including by allowing for workers to organize freely and form unions,” said Amnesty International in a statement this week.

“Setting up and enforcing a system to ensure a fair minimum wage, one which ensures that all workers and their families are guaranteed decent living conditions, is a necessary first step to realizing labor rights, as provided by the Egyptian Constitution, the Egyptian Labor Law and in accordance with Egypt’s international obligations.”

Egyptian authorities have in recent years attempted to orchestrate all union activity. Even in recent weeks, the Mubarak regime has thwarted efforts to create a Pension Holders Union independent of the government.

After decades of this kind of dance between government and workers, two things stand out: Egyptian workers are capable of standing up for their rights, and when they do, the government will offer concessions.  What reform that has come to Egypt in the past 40 years has come from the work of activists in Egypt.

You can read Egyptian voices discussing the weekend protests on Twitter here. Several videos from Egyptians supporting the protests can be found on Vimeo here.