The suppression of labor rights is one of five ways in which China has become more repressive, according to the 2016 report of the bipartisan U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), released Thursday morning.
The findings coincide with a new report from the United Nations which states that rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are essential to “the realization of both democracy and dignity, since they enable people to voice and represent their interests, to hold governments accountable and to empower human agency.”
The new global economic order has had a profound impact on workers’ ability to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the report adds:
Labor’s traditional tools for asserting rights – trade unions, strikes, collective bargaining and so on – have been significantly weakened across the globe. The majority of the world’s workers find themselves excluded from national legal protective frameworks, while some are not even defined as “workers.” This situation has left vast swathes of the world’s labor force unable to exercise their fundamental rights to associate or assemble, and without access to remedies when their rights are violated.
Moreover, labor’s traditional tools for asserting rights – trade unions, strikes, collective bargaining and so on – have been significantly weakened across the globe, effectively allowing the global supply chain to override sovereign democracy, the report continues:
Without assembly and association rights, workers have little leverage to change the conditions that entrench poverty, fuel inequality and limit democracy…. States’ failure to enforce laws and regulations has strongly contributed to the inability of workers to exercise their assembly and association rights. Without any realistic legal or democratic political recourse, workers are condemned to a new poverty.
“The report sends a strong, clear message that labor rights are worker human rights and are central to sustainable development, democracy, human rights and fair economies–and that they are under attack globally,” said Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director of the Washington-based Solidarity Center. “[Special Rapporteur Maina] Kiai’s report emphasizes the many different ways workers are disenfranchised from their rights and what the global community (governments, employers, and civil society) needs to do about it.”
On October 21, following the official presentation of the report, human rights activists, trade unionists, representatives of UN agencies and other members of civil society will gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss the report with Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai. The event is co-sponsored by the Solidarity Center, a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.