World Human Rights Day

We all deserve to have our most basic human rights met – particularly the right to have fair wages, the right to have access to health care, the right to work in a safe environment free from harm, and the right to vote, among others. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a human right “is defined as a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person.”

Unions and human rights go hand in hand. The right to collectively organize for improved working conditions is a fundamental human right, and unions fight to advance this human right by achieving a better quality of living for all workers and their families.  Representation by a union means a fair Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which in turn guarantees fair wages, benefits and additional rights on the job. Furthermore, unions like the IAM pride themselves in providing opportunities and services for its members beyond those contained in the CBA. The IAM not only provides services like Disaster Relief, Free College, and other member educational services, but it also walks the strike lines with its members when corporations do not want to recognize human rights.

Sadly, these rights are not always guaranteed in our workplaces, especially now that unions and their ability to represent their members are under increasing attacks from corporations and politicians who support their profits-over-people. Unions often find themselves fighting in Right-to-Work (RTW) states where the laws on the books undermine protections for workers by weakening unions’ abilities to fight for these basic human rights. Data shows that in RTW states, employees are paid less on average than those without a CBA in non-RTW states. Even workers who are not covered by any union contract but who are employed in an area where there is a union presence tend to make better wages and benefits, as employers face the pressure to match union standards for wages and benefits.

A recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Economic News Release showed that Union workers are paid more than their non-union counterparts. “Unions are fundamental to creating all of the reforms needed for a world where we can celebrate our basic and nonnegotiable rights and freedoms like the right to education, a decent living, health care and the right to live free from any form of discrimination.” (BLS).

According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, “Wages in RTW states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as state macroeconomic indicators. This translates into RTW being associated with $1,558 lower annual wages for a typical full-time, full-year worker.” (Gould and Kimball).

The evidence is clear: union representation advances human rights, and we must be ever vigilant and ever aware of the efforts to undermine those rights through anti-union attacks.



United Nations:

Gould, Elise and Kimball, Will, EPI, “Right to Work “ States Still Have Lower Wages (4/22/15) retrieved from

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Union Members Summary (1/22/2020), Retrieved from:

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