Protect Workers’ Rights!


Date published: Thu, 11 May 23

May 1 was International Workers’ Day, a holiday not often celebrated in the US. Although the US does recognize Labor Day in late summer, the holiday does not commemorate adequately what workers’ rights are supposed to be – oftentimes, you will find workers working longer hours to account for the three-day weekend Labor Day provides. 

The history behind International Workers’ Day starts at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which created millions of jobs in factories. The harsh conditions in factories, unfair treatment by heads of companies, and long hours caused the working class to take a stand for their rights. Workers around the world petitioned in their various homelands to sanction workers’ rights. These petitions created the basis for the 8-hour, 5-day workweek. Although there were large strides to start the protection of workers’ rights, workers are ever-exploited contemporarily. 

On a scale from 1 (the best with irregular violations of workers’ rights) to 5 (no guarantee of workers’ rights at all), the US ranks at a 4, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. The ITUC system describes countries in 4 as “Workers in countries with the rating of 4 have reported systematic violations. The government and/or companies are engaged in serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers putting fundamental rights under continuous threat.”

Violations in the US relate to a culture that prioritizes capitalist framework – the boss retains the money, the power, the control over employees. Income inequality has grown immensely in the US, leading to CEOs to earn at least 399 times as much as typical workers. Not only does substantial disparity exist, it is seen as an aspiration for the average person. Forever clutching to dreams of becoming the 1%, the average American parrots rhetoric that oppresses them. 

Workers rights in the US are not just tied to the corporate or factory spheres; there are pressing humanitarian crises that exist. Child labor in the US is on the rise. An investigation by the NYTimes revealed that unaccompanied migrant children are working in hazardous conditions in agriculture. Human Rights Watch reports, “The US Department of Labor has seen a sharp increase in child labor violations in recent years. It recently found over 100 children working dangerous, overnight shifts in meatpacking facilities. In late February, the Biden administration committed to step up child labor enforcement efforts.”

May starts with an international day to recognize workers’ rights. We can understand this as imperative to our society, to protect workers. When workers are protected, families are protected, generations of people are protected, and society can flourish. 

You can take action by calling on your representatives to support legislation that will hold CEOs accountable for oppressive work environments, and to support workers rights in your state and counties.