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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

U.S. Sovereignty Dead: U.S. States' Anti-Union Laws Nullified by International Law?

In The past several weeks a Law was passed in Wisconsin that limits the negotiating power of the public sector unions, but that law has been temporally put on hold by a Judge. Undeterred by this development, several other state legislatures are in the process of crafting and passing similar laws in their states.

But it could all be for nothing.

According to a letter from Amnesty International, any laws passed in the U.S. to curb the power of ANY union or the formation there of, is a breach of international law:

"Amnesty International has urged several US states to abandon planned legislation that would drastically restrict workers' rights.

States including Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee have proposed bills severely limiting the collective bargaining rights of trade union members. A similar bill was passed in Wisconsin on Friday.

"State governors must withdraw support for these measures which, if adopted, would violate international law," said Shane Enright, Amnesty International’s trade union adviser.

“The US has an obligation to uphold the rights of American workers - including the specific right to organize and bargain collectively."

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a bill on Friday that undermines the ability of unions in the public sector to protect workers. The legislation also takes away nearly all collective bargaining rights for most public employees, limiting their negotiation rights only to wages.

As well as restricting collective bargaining rights, union activists say legislators in as many as 37 states have introduced hundreds of anti-union bills. Some affect negotiation of healthcare benefits, restrict freedom of association, place caps on the minimum wage and deprive workers of the right to strike.

Similar measures being promoted in Congress would affect federal public employees.

"The Wisconsin bill is symbolic of a wider attack on unions in the USA, where workers and are facing an onslaught from the authorities," said Shane Enright.

"Many employees are already struggling because of the economic crisis and these laws will undermine fundamental human rights and labour rights protections, which are sorely needed to ensure that employees do not bear the brunt of the crisis. It will also jeopardize the delivery of vital public services that these employees deliver."

“This is also a struggle for migrant workers’ rights, for education and health rights, for wage security, for workplace health and safety. We are seeing communities insisting on social justice, economic rights and personal liberties against powerful vested interests. Fundamental human rights are at stake, and we stand in solidarity with the US labour movement in this struggle.”

Under international law, all workers have a human right to organize and to bargain collectively.

These rights are an essential foundation to the realisation of other rights, and are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, as well as conventions adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

As a state party to the ICCPR and a signatory to the ICESCR, the USA has an obligation to respect the human rights under these instruments and treaties.

As a member of the ILO, the USA also has a commitment, through the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, to respect, promote and realize the fundamental rights set out in the organization’s core conventions.

Moves to limit such rights in the USA are also at odds with commitments made under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) as well as numerous subsequent trade agreements negotiated and ratified over the last 15 years."

Some of you may ask how is this possible? How can a treaty nullify the state's right to pass a law that restrict public sector unions?

When a treaty is ratified it becomes the law of the land. Until that treaty is declared null and void by the Supreme Court because that treaty is found to be in conflict with the Constitution of the United States, it can be enforced.

For example, the ILO, or International Labor Organization, was created under the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This treaty was signed by the United States and therefore is bound by the agreements in that treaty.

According to the ILO website, Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining is an integral part of a free and open society:

"The right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their own choosing is an integral part of a free and open society. In many cases, these organizations have played a significant role in their countries’ democratic transformation. From advising governments on labour legislation to providing education and training for trade unions and employer groups, the ILO is regularly engaged in promoting freedom of association. The ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association was set up in 1951 to examine violations of workers’ and employers’ organizing rights. The committee is tripartite and handles complaints in ILO Member States whether or not they have ratified freedom of association conventions. Through the Committee on Freedom of Association and other supervisory mechanisms, the ILO has frequently defended rights of trade unions and employers’ organizations."

So it would appear that the ILO does not differentiate between public and private sector unions when it comes to the 'right' of collective bargaining.

So if any state passes a law limiting the collective bargaining rights of any public sector union, it appears that they would be able to petition international organizations, like the ILO, to have the law declared illegal, in this case, under the treaty of Versailles.

The worst part is the ILO is just one international labor organization that the U.S. has an agreement with.

As the letter from Amnesty International states, there are no less than 3 or 4 other agreements that protect the right to collective bargaining. That is not even counting the NAALC, also known as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

I am NOT a lawyer, but from my layman's perspective it would appear that ANY law passed by ANY state that limits Collective Bargaining of ANY union, Public or Private, can be declared null and void since it may break international law.

This is not a far fetched concept since President Obama has had a regular habit of embracing 'Transnational law' over the Constitution of the United States when it suits his needs.

If this doesn't mean U.S. Sovereignty is Dead...

I don't know what does.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Time changes a lot of things,including agreements.