Skip to main content
The International Labor Organization identifies four fundamental rights at work:
- The right to associate with a union & the recognition of collective bargaining
- The elimination of forced or compulsory labor
- The abolition of child labor
- The elimination of employment discrimination.
The ILO pursues many other issues like hour limits, workplace safety, living wage legislation, sustainability, and rights for migrant and undocumented workers, but how do things stand with regard to the four fundamental rights in America?
Unions & Collective Bargaining
Right to Work Legislation
Right to Work Laws prohibit union security agreements. These agreements are meant to address the free rider problem because without them the incentive is to not pay the costs of membership but still benefit from the collective bargaining activities of the union which cost money.
Types of Security Agreements:
- Closed Shop: The employer can only hire union members and if an employee resigns from the union they must be dismissed.
- Union Shop: The employer can hire anyone they like but the employee must join the union within a fixed period of time and if the leave the union they are dismissed.
- Agency Shop/Fair Share: the employer can hire whomever they like and the employee can choose whether to join the union or pay an agency fee to the union.
Idaho Right to Work Laws
Idaho is the only state in the Pacific Northwest with a right to work law.
The Wagner Act/The National Labor Relations Act (1935)
The Wagner Act established the NLRB to protect the rights of workers to pursue union activities. It allowed any of the union security agreements.
Labor Management Relations Act of 1947
Also called the Taft-Hartley Act, this act (passed over Truman's veto) outlawed the closed shop security agreement and authorized states to make their own laws regarding security agreements.
Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, Inc.
Question: Can collective bargaining contracts require membership for employment without articulating what it means to be "in good standing?"
Abood v. Detroit Board of Education
In Abood, the court decided that as long as agency fees were used for collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment they did not violate the first amendment rights of non-union employees.
Janus v. AFSCME
Question:Should the Court’s decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education be overturned so that public employees who do not belong to a union cannot be required to pay a fee to cover the union’s costs to negotiate a contract that applies to all public employees, including those who are not union members?
Forced & Compulsory Labor
The Thirteenth Amendment:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The Marshal Project: Prison Labor
The Marshal Project seeks to create and sustain awareness of issues in the US Criminal Justice System. These curated links engage with the issues of underpaid and compulsory labor in US prisons and how prisoners have engaged in activism around the issue.
Employment & Discrimination
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit."
Government Sources by Subject: Women in the Labor Force
Among other resources, this guide includes a link to the ILO's reports on gender equality and statistics on women in the labor force in the US.
Griggs v. Duke Power Company
Question: Did Duke Power Company's intradepartmental transfer policy, requiring a high school education and the achievement of minimum scores on two separate aptitude tests, violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act?
McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Green
(1) Is a complainant in an employment discrimination suit limited to those charges for which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause?
(2) If so, must the complainant present a prima facie case for racial discrimination?
This case established the basic framework used to analyze a claim of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.
Question: Does the prohibition against sex discrimination, set out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, apply to same-sex sexual harassment?
Toyota Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams
Question: Did the Court of Appeals use the proper standard in determining whether an employee was disabled under the ADA due to carpel tunnel syndrome by showing that her manual disability involved a class of manual activities affecting the ability to perform tasks at work?
This case further refined the definition of a qualified individual with a disability by addressing the issue of what constitutes a substantial limitation.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
In 1970, President Nixon singed the Occupational Health and Safety Act which in part created OSHA. Under this law, employers must provide their workers with a workplace free from serious hazards and on-the-job training to inform workers of potential hazards, test regularly for potential hazards, and keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA covers most private sector employees and some public sector employees either directly through federal OSHA or through a state plan.
Washington State Labor Law Resources