human-rights

Posted: September 1, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

 

Laura Clawson of Daily Kos helps us plan our holiday cook outs by presenting food that is produced by union labor. Her shopping list includes many large brand names, which should be easy to find. I would add to this list that we should try to shop at stores that have union employees - not an easy task.

 

Common Dreams features John Nichols of the Nation who links labor rights to human rights. What is he talking about? Primarily that workers should be allowed the protection common in any democracy: freedom of speech and association. Representative Keith Ellison and John Lewis are sponsoring the Employee Empowerment Act to help workers organize without retaliation. The problem in our current political culture is that this bill has no immediate chance of being debated much less passed into law.

 

Non-union workers at Market Basket won a battle when their strikes led to the reinstatement of a CEO they respect. However, this victory does not lead to any secure future for the workers. If the CEO they fought for decides to turn on them, they have no recourse in the form of a contract or collective rights. As Kate Aronoff notes, it is a victory, especially in demonstrating the power of any group of workers when they can join together to demand better working conditions.

 

Finally, Al Jazeera America’s Gregg Levine considers the holiday in light of the Pullman Strike and the recent Market Basket labor victory. He reminds us the President Grover Cleveland first declared Labor Day a holiday during the Pullman Strike. As he concludes, politicians once feared the American working class. Maybe the time is coming when labor will again have that power.

 

Have a happy Labor Day. Take a minute to think about what we have as working people, what we have lost, and – most importantly – what we should fight for in the future.

Posted: September 24, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Lately I’ve been blogging about the disparity of wealth in the U.S.  However, it’s a worldwide problem that had its best framing from an unusual source:  Pope Francis.  Since taking over from Pope Benedict, Francis has surprised many of us by speaking out in defense of poor and working people.  This past Sunday, he put the problem in theological terms.

Speaking to unemployed miners in Sardina, the Pope put aside prepared remarks and spoke his heart.  He said, “If there is no work, there is no dignity.”  He challenged a world economic system that replaced God with an idol: money.  The Pope then prayed to God to “give us work and teach us to fight for work.”  Those words are powerful, especially in a world were workers are treated more and more as disposable commodities.

At what point is too much wealth too much and too much poverty too much?  Pope Francis sees a world of haves and have not, and he is calling for change.  May his voice – and his prayers – be heard.

Posted: January 21, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

We often think of Rev. Martin Luther King simply as a champion of civil rights and racial equality.  In today’s Daily Kos, Laura Clawson reminds us that King’s struggle also focused economic justice and working people.  She points out that 10% of working families today are living in poverty.  King put the workers’ plight in these words:  “If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it.”

King used the word we, a word often invoked in the president’s speech today.  Let’s hope that this country can come together, and work together, to see that we all rise up – together.