U.S. in Violation of International Human Rights Agreement
By Mel Fabrikant Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 04:20 PM EDT
A report by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), along with other labor and human rights organizations, finds that the United States is in violation of U.S. workers' international human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In particular, farmworkers are being denied access to fair labor rights, such as the right to freedom of association that includes the right to organize, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by their employers.
"The RFK Center calls on the U.S. government to stop the ongoing discrimination against farmworkers and provide them with the same basic labor rights that other workers have," said RFK Partners for Human Rights Director Santiago A. Canton.
The report on workers' rights is part of a larger submission by the U.S. Human Rights Network that will guide the United Nations Human Rights Committee when it reviews the United States' compliance with its international obligations this October in Geneva.
Farmworkers are expressly excluded from the federal law that protects the right of nearly every other U.S. worker to collective bargaining - as required by the ICCPR - and are also excluded from similar state laws in roughly 40 states. These workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation on the job due to the instability of their working conditions, the seasonal nature of their work, and the dangerous labor they perform. They work long hours in physically demanding jobs without access to overtime pay or time off, and can lose their jobs for attempting to organize a union.
Excluding farmworkers disproportionately affects migrant workers and persons of color. There are today an estimated two million workers in the fields and farms of the United States, and approximately three-fourths are Mexican-born and up to two-thirds are migrants.
The report's recommendations include that the United States should:
• Guarantee protection and full remedies in their labor laws to all workers;
• Comply with the decisions of intergovernmental organizations and regional bodies regarding migrant workers;
• Ensure all rights and remedies are available on an equal basis to all workers regardless of migration status;
• Pass legislation with strong worker protections, including comprehensive immigration reform, to guard against the unfair treatment of workers with unstable immigration status; and
• Investigate reports of human rights violations from migrant workers and all low-wage workers to ensure workers who claim to have been abused or exploited have full access to all the rights and remedies available under domestic and international law.
Other workers, such as public sector workers and domestic workers are also excluded from many basic labor protections. Like farmworkers, as many as 2.5 million domestic workers, for example, are entirely excluded from the protection of minimum wage and overtime laws.
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center - www.rfkcenter.org) was founded in 1968 by Robert Kennedy's family and friends as a living memorial to carry forward his vision of a more just and peaceful world. The RFK Center is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit charitable organization.