Understanding Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Adopted by the United National General Assembly in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is widely recognized as the gold standard among progressive activists.  It consists of a resolution containing 30 different articles that outline what the UN coined “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” Click here for a complete listing.  Of particular interest to trade unionists is Article 23:

  • Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and protection against unemployment.
  • Everyone, without discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable enumeration [wages] ensuring for himself and his family, an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • Everyone has the right to form and to join trade union for the protection of his interests.

    What is the Difference between Human Rights and Civil Rights?

    Not much!  Many people think of civil rights as rights that are obtained by law, whereas human rights are inherent across the entire world and apply to all humans, regardless of where they live.  Civil rights include the rights to free speech, to own property, to make and enforce contracts, to receive due process, and to worship one’s religion.  It may be easiest to think of human rights as something inherent in every person while civil rights are victories obtained through legislative or policy pathways.

    Movements to Protect Human Rights

    It’s nearly impossible to list the many social movements to protect human rights, but if we were to name the countries where there is a current and heightened interest in stopping atrocities against select groups, the shortlist would include places such as Burma / Myanmar, Darfur / Sudan, Syria, Chechnya, Palestine, Iraq, Tibet / China, and Afghanistan.  If we look at human rights through the lens of Article 23 of the UDHR; then the treatment of trade union leaders in Colombia would top the list of abuses; in 2009, over 34 leaders had been assassinated.  In the words of Jose Diogene Orjuela Garcia, Organizing Director of the Colombian CUT union federation, “We want to have a country where union rights and human rights are respected.  If you add up all the acts of violence [against union members] there have been more than 10,000 in the past 20 years.”

    Notable Human Rights Leaders:

    CWA’s Mission to Protect Human Rights

    CWA’s Human Rights Program encompasses both the civil rights and women’s programs.  By joining forces, we are better equipped to provide leadership and support to the many CWA activists who work for the rights of underrepresented groups.