Unfair Advantage: Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards

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We are not shy about reporting human rights abuses around the globe. We are much more reluctant to recognize them at home. This book exposes the violations of human rights witnessed daily in workplaces across our country. Based on detailed case studies in a variety of sectors, it reveals an "unfair advantage" in U.S. law and practice that allows employers to fire or otherwise punish thousands of workers as they seek to exercise their rights of association and to exclude millions more from laws that protect their ...
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Overview

We are not shy about reporting human rights abuses around the globe. We are much more reluctant to recognize them at home. This book exposes the violations of human rights witnessed daily in workplaces across our country. Based on detailed case studies in a variety of sectors, it reveals an "unfair advantage" in U.S. law and practice that allows employers to fire or otherwise punish thousands of workers as they seek to exercise their rights of association and to exclude millions more from laws that protect their rights to bargain and to organize.Unfair Advantage approaches workers' use of organizing, collective bargaining, and strikes as an exercise of basic rights where workers are autonomous actors, not objects of unions' or employers' institutional interests. Both historical experience and a review of current conditions around the world indicate that strong, independent, democratic trade unions are vital for societies where human rights are respected. In Lance Compa's view, human rights cannot flourish where workers' rights are not enforced. While researching workers' exercise of these rights in different industries, occupations, and regions of the United States, Human Rights Watch found that freedom of association is under severe, often buckling pressure when workers in the United States try to exercise it. Cornell University Press is making this valuable report, originally published in August 2000, available again as a paperback with a new introduction and conclusion that bring the story up-to-date.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Unfair Advantage has a wealth of information and is written in a clear and highly readable way. Compa efficiently presents the relevant international labour rights conventions and principles, and his overview of U.S. case labour law is particularly useful. The case examples vividly illustrate how these shortcomings play themselves out in real situations. The importance of re-framing freedom of association as a basic human right may have been the driving force for broader dissemination of the original report in book form, but Compa's other analytic and descriptive contributions also justify its re-issue. Unfair Advantage is a valuable addition to the literature for both the specialist and the general reader."—Lawrence S. Root, University of Michigan, Relations industrielles / Industrial Relations, vol. 60 no. 2, 2005

"This second edition of Unfair Advantage not only permits a renewed dissemination of the important work carried out by Lance Compa and Human Rights Watch to uncover many unknown nooks and crannies of U.S. labor law and practice, but also advances the debate on workers' rights as human rights. It opens areas to public exposure and discussion that have all too often been the exclusive domain of little-heard specialists."—Karen Curtis, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 1-2006

"The original release of Unfair Advantage played a pivotal role in building an understanding that labor rights are fundamentally grounded in human rights. Applying this essential framework, the report brilliantly described how U.S. labor law falls short in critical respects in meeting international labor rights standards. It's a report that is even more timely today than when it was originally released."—Fred Feinstein, University of Maryland School of Public Policy, former General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board

"The reissuing of Unfair Advantage calls us to reconsider the rights of workers to legally organize and acknowledge that matter as a human rights Issue. The moral and ethical implications of this shift in emphasis require labor, management, governmental agencies, and religious leaders to a new understanding regarding workers' rights."—Jesse R. DeWitt, Bishop of the United Methodist Church and President, International Labor Rights Fund

"Unfair Advantage is a landmark publication that has become a 'must read' for anyone concerned about workers' rights. This seminal report examines of one of the least known but most significant current threats to American democracy-the pervasive violation of workers' human and civil rights in the American workplace. Unfair Advantage has become a valuable resource for workers' rights and other social justice advocates who work to promote union organization and collective bargaining as a standard of social advancement abroad and in the United States."—David Bonior, Chair, American Rights at Work

"Lance Compa brings a scholar's breadth, a practitioner's depth and an advocate's passion to this careful research. The case-study method is well suited to examine the complex mix of legal and economic issues involved in labor relations. Compa's book shows that even in developed countries, good labor laws and vigilant enforcement are needed to ensure a level playing field in workplace relations and the rapid, effective settlement of disputes. Such labor rule of law contributes to sustained economic growth, to democratic stability, and to the full enjoyment of human rights by the weak as well as the strong."—Sandra Polaski, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Director, Trade, Equity and Development Project

"When, at long last, U.S. workers regain the basic human right to form unions for a voice on the job, Unfair Advantage will be remembered as a turning point. It marks the moment when the global human rights movement began to focus on the massive violation of workers' freedom of association in the U.S. The fairness and care of its research make its stories of workers' struggles powerful, and the power and breadth of its stories make its conclusion irrefutable: American workers have effectively lost the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively, and it will take major reform for the U.S. to come into compliance with the basic requirements of international law."—Andy Levin, Director, Voice@Work Campaign, AFL-CIO

"The American labor movement's campaign to improve job conditions was once in the vanguard of the human rights movement, but it has been hobbled and marginalized for decades. Unfair Advantage expertly traces the erosion of the right to unionize in America through court rulings and laws that allow replacement hires for strikers, curb organizing in the workplace, ban secondary boycotts, and swell the ranks of millions of workers excluded from basic U.S. labor law protection—agricultural workers, domestic workers, independent contractors, 'supervisors' in title only, and undocumented immigrants. Lance Compa's analysis points out new ways for human rights activists and workplace organizers to unite in their common cause. Perhaps most importantly, Compa points to new tools they can use—the labor rights provisions of international trade agreements that were written to protect workers overseas, but can also be used as moral and legal levers to improve American workplaces and the rights of U.S. unions to organize."—Peter Spielmann, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801489648
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2004
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Table of Contents

I Summary 6
II Findings and recommendations 17
III Workers' freedom of association under international human rights law 40
IV Freedom of association under U.S. labor law 51
V Case studies of violations of workers' freedom of association 71
VI Legal obstacles to U.S. workers' exercise of freedom of association 171
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